While pursuing post graduation in journalism and mass communication from Delhi, Surya Shankar Dash worked with eight different advertising companies, but wasn’t happy. Later, when he worked with documentary filmmakers such as Nila Madhab Panda (who made I am Kalam) in Mumbai, he still wasn’t satisfied. When even Mumbai didn’t win Dash’s heart due to its ‘indifferent work culture’, it was followed by him joining Sahara News. But for the Orissa-based activist director, his real destination was yet to be explored.
Dash, who was in Chandigarh for the special screening of thirteen of his selected films at an event called Sunday With a Filmmaker, organised by Chandigarh Creative Cinema Circle, shares his roller coaster ride. “At the end of 2004, I noticed a terrible war of injustice against the people by the government. In an aim to use cinema as a weapon, I quit my job as a producer at Sahara News and moved to Orissa, taking along a camera and crew. However, my savings finished in the initial six months and I couldn’t afford to hire anyone else.
Single handedly, I simply kept shooting from 2005 to 2007, without releasing any of my works. When in 2007 I got married to Gunjan, I started editing on her laptop which happened to be a good one, and released my first film, The Lament of Niyamraja on DVD,” shares he.
Ever since, the 33-year-old’s lens has become a tool to expose the reality behind the sham ideas of development and creation of happy regime built upon the blood bed of tribals and villagers, says he. As a result, Dash’s films cover the struggle of tribals and villagers in Orissa, whose fertile lands have been forcibly acquired by the government and then sold to mining firms in the name of development and industrialisation.
The activist adds, “There have been times when I received threats, my camera was snatched away and I was pushed around. But ultimately, the police also softened its stand and realised that I’m not going to give up.”
Dash, who believes that a large part of media is only ‘show business’, confesses to leaving his camera behind in the early days, in order to help people. But the filmmaker, who always intended to learn from life and not a film school, seems to have learnt his lessons. “Now, I don’t interfere in things happening around and simply lock them in my camera. I don’t feel shy in saying that I indulge in propaganda for the sake of the people, since it’s my land, my river and my issues,” Dash says.
All his films being in local languages, they are also usually screened in the
villages. Smiles Dash, “My films are easily accessible, very raw and desi — but not boring. I want the aam aadmi to know what is happening with other common people. I don’t want to beat my own drum, but sometimes, people want to watch them all over again.”
The activist-filmmaker, who says he is influenced by world cinema, shares that his films are not always based on the stories of a few helpless people, but also tell the tales of those brave
few who are ready to forsake their lives in order to preserve their culture.
“I have had tears in my eyes and at times even got totally shattered, but those people never broke,” he signs off.