A Man of Action
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Surya Shankar Dash is biased. He is a propagandist beating his drum and blowing his trumpet and braving the blows all along. Yes, he is an activist, driven to defend his people, his land and his rivers from the reckless onslaught of corporate giants and ignorant politicians who are displacing lives and livelihood in the name of development.
An advertising professional turned documentary filmmaker, Orissa-based Dash has made 35 long and six short documentaries and was in Chandigarh for the screening of some of his films at Lajpat Rai Bhawan, Sector 15, in association with Chandigarh Creative Cinema Film Circle. "My films are people's voices, made for them and by them," says Dash, who first realised the power of camera when he was sent to film the Bonda tribes of Orissa. "A simple tribal clan, they are one of the oldest settlers in India, who carry with them a rich culture and tradition. But what I saw was an exploitation of the villagers and their women, land and environment," says Dash, who found out that this tribe was displaced six times to accommodate hydro-power projects and factories. As a result, they had no source of income and men turned to alcohol.
"I had to do something concrete and consistent," says he.
Dash gave up the world of advertising and his luxuries, and packed off to Orissa with wife Gunjan, a textile designer. It was 2004, and it was a big step for Dash and what followed was struggle, pain, depression and threats. In his films, Dash panned his camera on the common man, the adivasis of Orissa and on the "structural and systematic exploitation of the state's flora and fauna and its people". There were times when he was roughed up, his camera was grabbed, he was pushed around and threatened by cops, but he carried on. "I still have to be careful not to be seen with a Maoist," he says, adding how it's the spirit and long tradition of resistance of the people of Orissa to the so-called development projects that fuels Dash's passion.
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