A Ticket To (P)Ollywood

By Ananya Mohapatra

With elections looming, there is renewed interest in the great political theatre of Odisha. For a while now, the spotlight has been on Odia film actors – past and present- currying favour with political parties in the state in their bid to ”serve the people”. With Odia films losing mass appeal and business at the box office running dry, politics seems to be the next best option for the glitterati of the filmy variety in the state.cartoon 2

Sure, it has brought a dose of glitz and glamour to the otherwise grimy world of politics. But all this glare from flashing cameras seems to have eclipsed an important fact. Film stars stealing the limelight – and possibly tickets to contest elections – from seasoned politicians are certainly causing some heartburn among the latter.

We have watched actors playing politicians on screen. What if the roles were reversed? Maybe some of our netas who lose out on the race for tickets could try their hand at the performing arts. It’s much better than cooling one’s heels for the next five years anyway. After all, “All the world is a stage” as the Bard reminds us. Of course, the transition from real to reel can’t be smooth. But interested politicians can count on their years in public life to get a head start.

For starters, they needn’t worry about onstage jitters like a novice. With their success in politics, they have already proved their knack for showmanship and a natural flair for histrionics. Some might not even have to worry about bagging offers. Their shady friends looking for a safe means of money-laundering can turn producers and invest their income from dubious sources in films. It would be a win-win for both the movie business and them. Being the cynosure of all eyes on camera and on film sets can’t hurt their conceited egos either.

If they are any good, they have to worry about acting only on camera and maybe even win a few brand endorsements in the process to complement their new-found stardom.

Ananya Mohapatra

Acting on screen isn’t much different from acting off it – except for maybe the pancake makeup and the need to memorise dialogues. But there is only so much makeup one can apply. With Ollywood taking much of its ”inspiration” from Bollywood, no one wants to watch a lead actor with a paunch or a receding hairline. Sweating at the gym and staving off dessert cravings with fruit will have to be the de rigueur. Unless they are willing to play minor, avuncular roles that is.

Also, in films, they have to say what the writers want. And they can’t risk spooking their audience by mouthing threats if the film gets panned. This isn’t exactly politics. Sops like air-conditioning and free popcorn won’t cut much ice with the cine-goer paying for good entertainment.

A ticket lost in politics can pave the way for a glorious second innings in another art form demanding theatrical skills. Trawling for election tickets will be a relic of the past if one can learn the tricks of the stage. But what if a politico, who jumped neck-deep into the acting pool, starts sinking? Let’s just hope that Ollywood has enough wood to keep the neta afloat till the next elections.

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