Bijay Mohanty: An Actor Who Kept ‘Odisha First’

Bijay Mohanty – a name that has ruled over the heart of Odia cinema lovers for close to four decades is no more. The veteran actor breathed his last on July 20, after a prolonged illness.

An actor par excellence, his acting prowess is beyond words. In his four-decade-long career, he acted in over 300 Odia movies, 40 Bengali and even a few movies down South. For an artist of his calibre, he brought life into whatever role he essayed – be it the revolutionary youth that he portrayed in his first movie ‘Chilika Teerey’ (1977) or the role of a doting father in ‘Bou’ (1998).

But, what makes him a special actor is his love for his state and his endeavour to keep Odia cinema his priority. A graduate from the prestigious National School of Drama in Delhi, he chose to return to his home state and work here. Years later, his batchmate and renowned actor Naseeruddin Shah would recollect, “Those were fun days. We were in the prime of our youth and we had lots of merriment. Bijay is a jovial character with a great sense of humour.”

Bijay Mohanty had also spoken about his decision to relocate to Odisha and had revealed in a local magazine that he refused to accompany Nasseruddin and Om Puri, another batchmate, to Mumbai.

“I declined their offer to accompany them since I had no money to live there. Six months later, I got a letter from NSD to join its repertory company for one year,” he had said.

Mohanty did accept the offer of NSD and participated in several plays, but returned to Odisha a year later and started directing plays before making his film debut.

For the budding actors, he was a role model. In 1977, the year he made his film debut, he joined the Drama department of the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya as a professor.

He also joined politics briefly and contested unsuccessfully on a Congress ticket from Bhubaneswar Lok Sabha constituency in 2014, but quit the field soon after.

When his health started deteriorating, he underwent surgery in a private hospital in Hyderabad. He stayed in Hyderabad for close to two weeks after suffering from a heart attack but expressed his desire to return to Odisha. With the help of local politicians, he was brought back to Bhubaneswar last month. As fate would have it, Bijay Mohanty breathed his last in Odisha – the place where his journey had started.

As the state mourns the loss of a great actor, Bijay Mohanty’s demise marks the end of an era of the Odia film industry.

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