I filmed at real locations across Odisha for The Jengaburu series: Nila Madhab Panda
Bhubaneswar: National award-winning filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda’s first web series, a climate fiction thriller, The Jengaburu Curse, is a story that discusses exploitation of natural resources and rights of tribals on their land. As he wanted this story to be as authentic in every aspect, hence the series was extensively filmed in Odisha. A tribal language was created for the series and he worked with a mix of professional and non-actors for the project. Nila points out that while recent years have seen several stories from northern states on streaming platforms, however, no such stories have come out from his home state. Hence with The Jengaburu Curse he also is trying to put the rich culture, heritage and beauty of Odisha in spotlight.
During the filming of The Jengaburu Curse, Nila also met with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with the project’s cast and crew. Nila says that the CM was impressed to find out that they were not just filming in Bhubaneswar, Konark and Raghurajpur but their crew of 200 people also had Keonjhar schedule.
Nila elaborates,”Odisha is largely a tribal state with 62 tribes and these tribes have their traditions and culture. I tried to explore a bit of tribal culture in the series. There is so much culture and ethos of the state – such as Gotipua dance, Odissi, jatra culture that I have built into the main story. For instance, we filmed at Lingaraj temple, which is one the iconic temples of the state. Temples are symbols of Odisha’s culture. We have shot at real locations, be it a university, airport or bus stand.”
Nila says that he decided to keep it multilingual because authenticity is crucial for storytelling. He shares, “A tribal character speaking in Odia or in Hindi would not have made any sense. So we created a tribal language – Bondria by mixing multiple tribal languages and Odia.”
He adds,”Odisha’s mountains, rivers and historic architecture have not been captured to this extent before. While we have had several series where the stories are based in UP, Bihar and north India but not from Odisha. In fact, this is the first major web series from Odisha. Through this series, I not only want to showcase the beauty and culture of the state to Indians but also to a global audience. “
Nila says that he chose several tribals to play characters in the series, adding,”I’ve cast many non-actors and it was challenging, but after long discussions with them it became easier.” Several Odia actors have also been cast in the series along with British actors and he feels this international collaboration was crucial in terms of storytelling as well because the story travels to several countries.
Be it the haunting tale of a remote hamlet hit by a drought in Kadvi Hawa or the plight of a man who returns to his village only to find that it has been swallowed by a cyclone in Kalira Atita (Yesterday’s Past), Nila Madhab Panda’s films have always skillfully tackled pressing issues.