The Making of Sree Jagannath (1950)

Jagannath is the Lord of every Odias for centuries & it has been an integral part of Odia cultural traditions. During the initial decades of film making in India, mythological films were attracting audiences & Odisha was no way different. There have been numerous Odia films, titles & characters based on Jagannath starting with Lalita (1949), followed by Sree Jagannath (1950). Interestingly, both these movies were based on same story. Thereafter, Shri Shri Mahalaxmi Puja, directed by Biswanath Nayak was made in 1959, story revolving around Goddess Laxmi leaving Lord Jagannath’s house. Sriya Chandaluni (1959) was an unsuccessful attempt to make an mythological movie based on Poet Balaram Das’s Laxmi Purana, but could not be made. Shri Shri Patita Pabana (1962) by Sukumar Ganguly, Another movie with same title of Shri Jagannath was made in 1979, directed by Bijay Bhaskar.

Sree Jagannath
Odia movies on Jagannath culture

The tale of Bhakta Salabega, the Muslim devotee of Lord Jagannath, was created in celluloid with Uttam Mohanty in lead & directed by Radha Panda. Other mythological films like Bandhu Mohanty, Sakhi Gopinath, Nila Madhaba, Manika, Raghu Arakhita etc were made, not to mention the numerous movies, trend starting from Jaga Balia (1985), made with title revolving around Jaga, Kalia, Kala Thakura, Jagannath, Chaka Akhi etc. A nice concept movie ‘Nila Saila’ , based on Surendra Mohanty’s novel of the same title, was tried by director Akhasya Mohanty (Kashyap) in 1981, but it never saw the day. No prominent films on Jagannath culture were made till Sabyasachi Mohapatra’s magnum opus Jai Jagannath (originally planned for Sriya Chandaluni title) in 2007. The film was released in 15 different languages & became a box office hit.

Sree Jagannath
Commercial Odia movies with titles revolving around Jagannath

As mentioned above, Jagannath culture became the storyline for the third Odia movie – Sree Jagannath which was released in 1950. The story was based on ‘Deulatola’ (temple making) by Balaram Das, one of the Panchasakhas from medieval Odisha and dramatist Ashwin Kumar Ghosh’s Bengali drama “Purir Mandir” & its Odia version “Sri Mandira” respectively.

The Story Behind The Production of Sree Jagannath :-
Production house Rupa Bharati Public Ltd was incorporated in the year 1947. Significantly, Rupa Bharati became the second public limited company in India in cinema making. Before it, ‘General Pictures Corporation’ was incorporated in 1929 at Madras with the efforts by Producer N Narayanan. This company had produced some silent & talkies, but was closed down in 1933. General Pictures Corporation had started the tradition of making movies under joint venture. In 1947, Odisha’s Rupa Bharati Ltd became the second company to be incorporated in this field. Company’s Managing director, Surendra Kumar Das was the Branch Head of National Insurance Corporation at Puri. He & his friend Ajay Kumar Ghosh, Jagamohan Nandi, Subodh Biswas, Kartik Kumar Ghosh, Gopal Chandra Ghosh, Dhananjay Lenka, Narendra Kishore Das etc decided to make an Odia movie. Each of them was big shots in Odia theatre world. By that time, only one Odia movie was released – Sita Bibaha (1936). On Surendra Das’s advice, a company was floated & shares sold to produce a movie. Each share had a face value of Rs 10 and those who had purchased at least 1000 shares, became the part of Board of Members. Initially the company was named ‘Art enterprises which was later on changed to ‘Rupa Bharati Ltd which was suggested by Poet Ananta Pattnaik. Rupa Bharati’s directors were Ajay Kumar Ghosh, Jagamohan Nandi, Dhananjay Lenka , Raghunath Ray, Choudhury Balabhadra Prasad Das, Narendra Kishore Das, Jugal Panigrahi etc. Later on Ajay Kumar Ghosh withdrew his name as Director & he was replaced by Dayanidhi Mishra. Company’s Managing Director was Surendra Kumar Das. After registration, its shares were sold which were valued at around Rupees Four Lakh. Among the major share buyers were Samaj newspaper’s Co-Editor Sriharsha Mishra, Poet Nikunja Kishore Das, Novelist Upendra Kumar Das, Subodh Biswas, Jadumani Mangaraj, Raghu Ray – Utkal Cinema’s owner from Brahmapur. On suggestion by Sriharsa Mishra, Jugal Kishore Panigrahi of Paralakhemundi and Brahmapur’s dramatist Satya Narayan Panda, both purchased shares worth Rupees Three Lakhs. Those artists who have purchased shares were given preference as actors in the movie. The Company was incorporated in August 1947 with registered office at Cuttack’s Odia Bazaar.

By the time, Rupa Bharati arranged capital and got ready for film shooting, Great Eastern Movietone from Dhenkanal had already started the production of ‘Lalita’ with the same story line. Hence, the directors of Rupa Bharati halted the production of Sree Jagannath & started concentrating on another story line. It was decided to try on Dramatist Ashwini Kumar Ghosh’s “Lakhya Heera” story and even Gopal Chhotray started making the screenplay for it too. When Govt published competitive bidding for documentary of various govt projects like construction of Hirakud Dam (1948), laying of new capital’s foundation stone and inauguration of Central Rice Research Institute (Bidyadharpur) from eligible parties, Rupa Bharati did it. Soon after 11 more documentaries were handled by it. Hence, full fledged movie making was adjourned for the time being. Later on in 1949, ‘Lakhya Hira’ drama’s story was renamed as “Sati” for movie production under Rupa Bharati. In the meantime, Lalita movie got released, but was not well received by the moviegoers. Finally, on advice from Director Chittaranjan Mitra, it was decided by Rupa Bharati’s production team to go with the original story planned for Sree Jagannath. The movie was made with a budget of Rs 3.50 lakhs.

Sree Jagannath got success at the box office commercially. It was expected that movies shall be made annually by this company. But, after the release of Sree Jagannath, there was internal competition among the share holders to manage the company. Share holders from Ganjam district were the highest, so they made argument to takeover the management. Some applied for writ petition at High Court. High Court in its order said to close down the general meeting of the public limited company. The case ran for years together and finally there was understanding between the shareholders, but ultimately Rupa Bharati winded up. Rupa Bharati didn’t just made cinemas, but had also created a mobile cinema company “Bharati Cinema” for screening of its released movies through moving vehicles where there was no facility for permanent cinema theatres. Rupa Bharati, in order to keep the artists engaged after a movie is made, created “Rupashree Theatres”. A public company who had the guts to keep artist under its payroll, after making 22 documentary movies and one hit Odia movie, ultimately died a silent death due to its internal issues.

From Gopal Chhotray’s Words

Various artists involed in making of Sree Jagannath

Surendra Kumar Das alias Suri Babu had contacted theatre screenplay writer Gopal Chhotray to write the screenplay for Sree Jagannath. While sitting with Suri Babu at his Odia Bazaar office, Suri Babu had given the book Deulatola by Balaram Das to Gopal Babu & had told to at least write four to five scenes from it. Once, Gopal Babu was told to accompany Suri Babu him on a hand driven rickshaw to Gouri Shankar Park where he was asked to quote his price for the screenplay. Gopal Babu had once earned his highest charges of Rupees Four Hundred only for writing story for drama “Pheri Aa” for Annapurna Theatres, hence quoted the same. Immediately Rupees Four Hundred was handed over to him with a lighter comment that it was decided to pay Rupees Twelve Hundred, not Four Hundred.

Interview with Surendra Kumar Das
Surendra Kumar Das was working with an insurance company along with his friend Bijay Ketan Mangaraj. Bijay once told that Odisha Theatres has winded up and the artists are staying in a common mess in dire straits. It was decided to visit the mess & on seeing the status, Surendra thought of a permanent solution. A public limited company thought struck his mind which if made would be the first public limited company in Odisha to promote cinemas. That company would produce operas & this artist will get some salaries. After consultations with friends, it was decided to issue public shares at the face value of Rs 10 each to build a public limited company – Rupa Bharati Ltd. But we were interested not for dramas, but for cinemas. It led to the making of Sree Jagannath. There’s always a permanent space for cinema stories based on mythology & from it we got interested for a mythological movie. Everything was decided – Kartik Babu to take care of production. While they were discussing on which topic to make movie, Kartika Babu advised to go for a move based on Ashwini Kumar Ghosh’s book titled “Deula Tola”. But the book was in heavy language & the need for toning it down was felt. Rupa Bharati’s Manager Nanda Kumar Mahanta recommended the name of Gopal Chhotray to transform the book into a more simple form for common masses to understand. Surendra Kumar Das assisted Gopal Chhotray in writing the script after office hours. Surendra Das has penned the lyrics for three songs of Sree Jagannath. “Tume leutila nahi” song has mixed lyrics in three languages – Hindi, Bengali & Odia. The intention was that all film goers from all provinces can understand it.

Songs Featured in Sree Jagannath:
Sree Jagannath movie’s soundtrack released in EP record by HMV, has 10 songs to its credit.  Apart from critics columns & film release ad in newspapers, songs booklet were a major way of publicity of movies during that period & Sree Jagannath’s booklet was also released which was distributed outside cinema theatres and at touring vehicle’s destinations for mobile cinemas. The songs of Sree Jagannath are –

Sree Jagannath
Sree Jagannath’s EP Record released by HMV

1. Nila sindhu teere (Singer-Banikantha Nimai Charan Harichandan, Lyrics-Nikunja Kishore Das, Music-Ranjit Ray)
2. Chakadola kimpa dakaa (Singer-Banikantha Nimai Charan Harichandan, Lyrics-Binayak Mishra, Music-Ranjit Ray)
3. Tume leutila nahi (Singer-Kalyani Das, Lyrics-Surendra Kumar Das, Music-Balakrushna Dash)
4. Jaya jatra pathe heba jaya (Singer-Chhabi Ray, Lyrics-Ashwini Kumar Ghosh, Music-Ranjit Ray)
5. Piyasi re nira khoju (Singer-Chhabi Ray, Lyrics-Kabimanjula Krushna Prasad Basu, Music-Balakrushna Dash)
6. Rupa ra haate (Singer-Ashwini Ghosh, Kartika Ghosh, Jagannath Das & Suryamani Dei, Lyrics-Kabimanjula Krushna Prasad Basu, Music-Ranjit Ray)
7. Aaj bane mausum (Lyrics-Surendra Kumar Das, Music-Ranjit Ray, Singer-Kalyani Das)
8. Pahad phaate, padam phute (Singer-Ashwini Ghosh, Kartika Ghosh, Jagannath Das, Suryamani Dei & others, Lyrics- Kabimanjula Krushna Prasad Basu, Music-Ranjit Ray)
9. Jaya jita para sangara bhite (Singer-various, Lyrics-Binayak Mishra, Music-Traditional)
10. Kathatiye kahun (Singer-Kalyani Das, Lyrics-Surendra Kumar Das, Music-Ranjit Ray)

“Camera Looks Like Jagannath’s Eyes” says actress Gloria
Gloria Rout, the lead actress of Sree Jagannath, was studying at school, by the time she was approached for acting in the movie by the producers. She had a dream of acting in theatre but never had thought of getting any chance for acting in movies. When her parents were approached, her father was a bit skeptical since girls were never considered to step outside the house, but her mother supported with the word that since its an Odia movie, let her go forward. She was signed contract with the company for six month with an amount of Rs 12000/-. She along with the film unit went to Kolkata for the shooting. For the first time, she got exposed to film studio and saw the big cinema theatre. And on seeing the film cameras which is quite bigger than the normal box cameras, she uttered one line out of curiosity – “Wow! How big is this camera, just like Jagannath’s big round eyes !

Samuel Sahu’s Horse Riding
Samuel Sahu (Babi) who played the role of Galumadhaba in his debut movie Sree Jagannath, had no formal training in horse riding. Since, there was a scene involving horse riding, he was given training on a particular horse. But when the actual shooting scene commenced, he was given another horse. He was wearing royal costume with sword hanging & shield on back which was making a tinkling sound. And, the horse didn’t allow him to ride on its back. The technicians at location commented that Babi Babu probably didn’t learn horse riding, but donkey riding. He felt very bad & told to take the horse to the nearest cashew tree so that he can climb the tree branch & sit on the horseback easily. The try was successful & all applauded it.

It Happenned This Way:

Songs booklet image of Sree Jagannath

# Sree Jagannath’s outdoor shooting was done at Naraj (Cuttack) which was the first time for an Odia movie. For this, sound van was hired from Radha Films, Kolkata through water way at a rental of Rs 8000/-. And Rs 30000/- was spend on the outdoor shooting and for it horses were hired from Kolkata Race Course.
# Sree Jagannath movie had trailer made for pre-release marketing of the movie with a budget of Rs 30000/-.
# Narasingha Nanda was initially nominated for the role of King Indradyumna, but was later replaced by Khagen Nath Mitra, since he was not up to the mark.
# During the mahurat, Odisha’s erstwhile Prime Minister, Sri Harekrushna Mahatab, was invited (at that time during pre-independence, chief ministers were called prime ministers)
# Sree Jagannath movie was dubbed into Telugu language for greater audience reach & it became a hit too.
# Sree Jagannath’s song recording was done at Radha Studio. At that time, musicians used to be seated around one mike and singers were allotted another mike while recording.
# Nikunja Kishore Das & Binayak Mishra, although penned the lyrics for Sree Jagannath, but didn’t give the permission to be featured in the film’s credits.
# Ranjit Ray, the music director of Sre Jagannath also made a friendly appearance in the movie.
# The role of the disguised by in Sree Jagannath was carried out by Chapala, a girl. Later on, she became famous as Prabati Ghosh.
# The character of Gundicha played by Sitadebi had influence of Bengali pronunciation, but was somehow managed.
# The role of bhakta in Sree Jagannath was carried out by Nimai Charan Harichandan and he sung two songs too.
# Before actual shooting of Sree Jagannath, at least two months of rehearsal was carried out.
# Sree Jagannath’s indoor shooting was carried out at Radha Studio.
# Sree Jagannath’s censorship was approved by the Asst Commissioner of Police at Lal Bazaar Police Station. Until 1951, film censor board members were not made and all certification job was carried out by police department. Sri Harekrushna Mahtab, the PM of Odisha, had issued an DO letter to the PM of Bengal, Sri Bidhan Chandra Roy, for issuing the censorship certificate of Sree Jagannath.
# At the time of Sree Jagannath’s release, there were only 26 cinema theatres in whole Odisha. Hence, the touring cinema concept was introduced by Rupa Bharati under the brand name Bharati Cinema, to show the cinema on touring basis on moving vehicles.

Sree Jagannath’s Characterwise Starcast & Credits

Actors Gour Ghose & Gopal Ghosh

Indradyumna – Khagen Mitra
Bidyapati – Gopal Ghosh
Biswabasu – Ramachandra Mania
Nila – Chapala Nayak (Parbati Ghose)
Nila Madhab – Kartika Kumar Ghosh
Galumadhaba – Samuel Sahoo (Babi)
Galumadhab’s Friend – Sheikh Yakub
Sardar – Ranjit Ray
Shaktidhar – Ray Gour Ghosh
Bhakta – Nimai Charan Harichandan
Utkal Doot – Bholanath Das
Abanti Mantri – Bimbadhar Mohapatra
Panda – Madhusudan Dutt
Bhadralok – Baidyanath Mishra
Bhadralok’s Wife – Bisnupriya Dei
Biswakarma – Niranjan Satpathy
Maharani Gundicha – Sita Debi
Lalita – Gloria Rout
Maina – Sabitri Choudhury
Sakhi – Anoria Rout & Janaki Choudhury
Purohit – Daitrai Pandab
Sabaris – Harapriya Dei, Sureka Dei, Sibani, Geeta, Laxmi, Rkha, Champa
Sabaras – Rajkishore, Pankaj Das, Iswar, Shambhu, Amar, Bibhor
Paricharikas – Bidyutlata Das, Laxmipriya
Dance – Miss Rose

Sree Jagannath was made under the corporate banner of Rupa Bharati Public Ltd with indoor outdoor shootings handled by Radha Films Ltd (Kolkata) & post processing carried out at Bengal Film Laboratories Ltd. It finally saw its day light on 2nd February 1950 when it was finally released in a star- studded premier show at Capital Cinema, Cuttack. Rest is part of history now. With the advancement of technology & change in audiences taste & preferences, mythological/devotional movies have taken a back seat. New filmmakers should adopt & try modern technologies & animation to continue the tradition of making films surrounding the Lord like that made in South film industry. The only noticeable effort was the state government’s initiative to portray the uniqueness of Jagannath culture during Nabakalebara, titled “God’s Own People” directed by Nila Madhab Panda.

©2012-2019 All Rights Reserved.
Photos:, OdiaMelody’s YouTube page & random Google Images
Source:- Sedina’ra Cinema: Sree Jagannath by Surya Deo for “Sisir” bi-monthly magazine (Jun-Jul 2016)
References:  *’s YouTube page for songs link
* Odia Chalachitrara Agyanta Adhyaya by Bhim Singh
* Special thanks to Odia cinema research journalist Surya Deo Bhai for his guidance

Odia Melody
OdiaMelody YouTube page

About Tarani Trotter

I'm Taranisen Pattnaik, originally from Aska (Ganjam). I grew up in the capital city of Odisha – Bhubaneswar. An MBA by qualification, an Accountant by profession, but a freelancer by interest with phillumeny (matchbox collection) as my hobby. I like going to places, meeting new people & capturing the moments through my camera which helps me in my storytelling.

View all posts by Tarani Trotter →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *