An actor and a director

July 27, 2007 12:00 am | Updated July 20, 2011 12:00 pm IST


Living in the commercial heart of Indian cinema, Dolly Jena is carving an alternative identity.

I always felt that the Oriya society had a patriarchal attitude towards girls that would never let me achieve anything in life

An actress and a filmmaker, Mumbai-based Bijaya Jena is known as Dolly Jena in Orissa. She is rarely remembered by the industry here as she shifted her base to Bollywood more than two decades back.

Yet, in the national and international cinema circuit she has left a distinct signature with two acclaimed feature films – Tara that bagged the National Award for the best Oriya film in 1992 besides being invited to the Paris Women’s International film festival and Cairo film festival. Aabhaas , her other film in Hindi, was entered in several international film festivals and earned rave reviews.

She has also been invited to Iran as a jury member of an international film festival. An alumna of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, she was in Orissa recently in connection with the making of a movie on the popular novel Danapani by the Jnanapeeth winner writer late Gopinath Mohanty.

What prompted you to join FTII?

I was neither a film buff nor did I want to be an actress. But my desire to go away from Orissa landed me up there. I always felt that the Oriya society had a patriarchal attitude towards girls that would never let me achieve anything in life and I always wished to excel in my field – whatever it might be.

How did the FTII shape your career?

I developed a love for the composite medium of cinema. I not only learnt acting but also began to understand other aspects of filmmaking. The training and exposure to the best of world cinema helped me to tour film festivals in Russia and Iran. It also enabled me to understand the psychological profile of a character required for an intelligent actress.

How was your debut as an actress?

Like many others at the institute, I had no compulsion to act and earn. So I decided to wait for good offers when I passed out of the institute. Once I met filmmaker Kamal Amrohi who was then making Razia Sultan . At first glance he told me, “I love your beautiful eyes so much that I am going to conceive a character for you in my film.” So I was offered the character of Laila. But, unfortunately the film flopped though Kamal told me that my role was the only saving grace in the film. Then I met a number of eminent parallel filmmakers to do some serious roles as I was against the kind of offers from the commercial cinema but I was doubly shocked to see that they too had their coteries and obsessions with particular actresses. I got disillusioned.

Did you not try your luck with the Oriya film industry?

Well, for five years I was here. I acted in five films - Bata Abata, Asara Akasa, Jaga Balia, Hakim Babu , and Heera Neela . But as I was settled in Mumbai and got married there, it was not feasible for me to concentrate here. Besides, there were hardly any offers of my-kind-of-roles.

So you turned to direction?

Yes, the flop of Razia Sultana and my disillusionment with the so-called art filmmakers finally made me a filmmaker.

Then I made Tara and Aabhaas and both the films clicked. But you seem to be silent for long. I stayed away from filmmaking for a few years to pay due attention to my daughter.

But I have not been silent at all. For the past several years I have been working upon two scripts - Danapani , an excellent work that has to be translated into the celluloid and a period film based in Goa in the Portuguese period.

It is the story of a strongwoman, a Portuguese girl who is trapped in a series of tragedies in life but never seeks sympathy from others for her survival. The plot has an exciting love story between the girl and a British journalist.

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