The arrest of a cine comedian in Odisha for allegedly seeking sexual favours from an aspiring actress has turned the spotlight on the Odiya film industry that is normally not associated with either cinematic excellence or box-office success.
Tatwa Kishore Satpahty, popularly known as Pappu Pom Pom, was arrested by the police on Thursday from the town of Nimpada after a massive manhunt and intense speculation over the “sleazy side” of the local film fraternity.
Though best known for regaling audiences with his onscreen ribaldry, Pom Pom, 30, has invited much public scorn and anger after a complaint was lodged against him last week for attempting to sexually assault a girl.
The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of chief minister Naveen Patnaik has also been embarrassed by the scandal since Pom Pom happened to be a part-time politician who unsuccessfully contested the last assembly elections as a BJD candidate. Patnaik has since expelled Pom Pom to minimise the damage to the party.
But more skeletons are tumbling out of the Odiya film cupboard and they directly or indirectly have links to the ruling party.
Prompted by the allegation against Pom Pom, another television actress has gone public and accused several producers and directors of making indecent proposals during her casting. She has filed a police complaint and all the accused persons have sought anticipatory bail.
In power since 2000, BJD men have come to dominate all spheres of public life in the state, including the film industry. The Odisha Film Development Corporation is headed by BJD leader Munna Khan and every scandal has the potential to hurt the ruling party because of its entrenched ties.
More worrisome for the BJD are the alleged ties of several cine star-turned-politicians with a ponzi firm, Oscar, that allegedly cheated investors of about Rs 230 crores. Anubhav Mohanty, a Rajya Sabha MP, and Siddhant Mahapatra, a member of the Lok Sabha, are in the eye of a political storm for “promoting” the dubious firm by acting in films financed by it.
“It is indeed a crisis moment for the industry. We are too shaken up by the developments,” points out Kuna Tripathy of Odisha Cine Artistes Association. Some say the spate of scandals provide a rare opportunity to clean up an industry that has a Rs 40 crore per annum turnover.
“Many of them (producers and directors) pinch our bottom, everything is passed in the name of shooting,” says actress Leena Das. No wonder the credibility of the industry has hit rock bottom following the recent revelations.