Kalira Atita enters Oscar’s race; “I wanted to create an emotional story,” says Director Nilamadhab Panda

Kalira Atita is a story of the struggle between man and sea, that highlights the issue of seawater regression due to climate change in Odisha. Directed by Dr. Nilamadhab Panda, the film is among the 3 Indian films out of the 336 feature films that are in the running for an Oscar nomination this year.

However, director Nilamdhab states that he never saw this coming, “it was a difficult shoot, we didn’t know if we would have anything in the end. We didn’t think it would reach to this level”.

Having grown up in a humble village, Dr. Panda was always a storyteller, narrating to other children as he grew up, and when the television arrived in India, he saw the immense power of story which led him into the world of filmmaking.

But Kalira Atita wasn’t Nilamadhab’s first foray into exploring the story of seawater regression. The director has also been working on a documentary on the same for over 10 years now. But believed that it was also important to create a story with a strong element of “drama” for all viewers to connect to. “I wanted to create a strong, interesting, and emotional story” he further states.

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The film’s inspiration comes from Nilamadhab’s life, from what the director has seen, lived, and experienced. “Each of my films is based on the contemporary and social world around me”, he says. The journey for this film began when Nilamadhab saw a photo of a hand pump drowned in the sea, depicting the horrifying reality of sea regression.

He took his team to the affected areas to shoot, without a screenplay or story in mind. Not to mention the entire film was shot without makeup, sets, and lights. “ I wanted it to look as close to reality as possible”, he says.

When asked about local sentiments while shooting, the director states he came across so many people who had experienced grave loss, “they were emotional about the land they had lost”, he says. It was then he had decided to create a story that focused solely on the loss of one man to create a strong impact on the general audience, a sole character becoming the key factor of creating drama.

The director has advocated for climate change before, both in his films and outside and Kalira Atita is a prime example of the same. The film is a form of artiste activism that is rarely seen in Indian cinema today. Kalira Atita has made its entry in Oscar’s race in the general category for best picture, Best Actor, and Best Director among others.

(Contributed by Nikhita H.)

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