Akshaya Mohanty – The Cult
A dramatic story teller without frills, only Akshaya Mohanty, the maverick can open his story with these lines, “ଯିଏ ଭୁଲିଯାଏ ସେ ସେମିକା, ଯିଏ ଭୁସଲନା ସେ ସେମିକାର ୋନ ଭଉଣୀ”. His openness excited conservative Odia society since the 60’s. He brought out the hidden ଚଗଲାମୀ in Odisha.
With his friends he started a magazine called ଙ୍ଞଲତin the 60’s (’64). This unconventional name was coined because these letters are used rarely in Odia writing and are considered “unusable” or “uncommon” or ଅେଚଳିତ (as he referred). And since his early writings were not published by the then mainstream magazines, he thought his wares were “unacceptable” and this was his sweet rebuff. A rebel, he was restless to break out of any mould.
Always ahead of his times, Akshaya babu was a dreamer indulging himself with rather super confident concepts, be it in music or stories to end the stupor of the reader or the listeners. He was in a hurry to break the convention. Not only snap the siesta but to also make them addict to his usage of words making day-to-day Odia even easier and less orthodox. He made ମଣି, ପଡିଯିବିକି, ଫୁସଲଇ ରାଣୀ, ଚମକୁଛ. He made Odia life easy, naughty and lighter.
The father of modern Odia music or ଲଘୁେଂଗୀତ, Akshaya Mohanty changed the diction of Odisha and Odisha youth in the seventies like nobody else. His influence on the youth was magnetic. He was the homegrown style icon, who swayed the youth much more magically than any Hindi or Bengali cultural influences. This was a syndrome on which not much has been written about. This trend fired the imagination of at least two generations of ‘traditional’ Odias. There was fresh breeze of romance and light hearted, innocent pranks. The college campuses became alive. Creating out -of- the-box music or literature was complimented by his rock star persona which gave ‘Odia’ a new identity. They no longer shied away from Odia folk music which was presented to them in a new package and praxis.
While experimenting with folk music and lyrics, Akshaya, the “father of Odia modern music” created romance in the air. I have stopped everything many times just to listen to ‘Thik To’ri Pari Jhia Tia’ or “Chandra Malli Hase” which were urbane, peppy and yet very Odia. This combination made his music always fresh, trendy and outward looking. He dared to challenge the boundaries, even at the cost of being accused of “crossing the line”. In a way he was a great impressionist. I remember his saying proudly that he can never sing while playing the harmonium in a staid, standing position looking only in one direction (as the traditionalists did). He was an interactive artist. He could feel the audience, the listener. Real imitates reel.
The first maligned hero କଳଙ୍କିତ ନାୟକ who never lived under a mask or pretensions. Loves and lovers were loudly acknowledged, lifestyle openly pursued and if there were eyebrows raised they were given brusque replies. Often the thoughts of Beatles, Jim Morrison, Bob Marley and Elvis come to my mind when I think of his spontaneity and energy. One of them, at a very small and incestuous surrounding. No one gets out of here alive. Akshaya has been spurned, loathed, ridiculed and there lay his candid life severely exposed.
Akshaya Mohanty has written over 4,000 songs, sung over 8,000 songs and composed music in 106 feature films. His literary works also include 100 short stories, out of which 70 were published, 12 novels out of which four were published and an autobiography. His writings were crisp, direct, bold and most of them read almost autobiographical, though he has often said that he created an aura around his characters to make them more endearing. Master story teller, his use of Odia language in a modern form was brilliant. ବ୍ରହ୍ମଜ୍ଞାନ ବନାମ ସଗାସେ ପାନ , ସବେରୁ ା, ବାମପନ୍ଥୀ, କେକ, ଗାର are some of his masterpieces.
Since the 60’s he has observed people, spent time with and written about them (based on lives of rickshaw pullers, vendors near liquor shops in Cuttack) and had the audacity to create his own style and panache. In music I often found an uncanny similarity between the combinations of Pancham-Gulzar-Asha and Akshaya-Devdas –Trupti or Akshaya-Parthasarathy-Geeta. The style, the courage, the freshness very contagious. On being asked to write a few lines on the 1000 years of Cuttack city, he had penned impromptu, “କେକ, ପୂଣୟବାନ ଓ ପୁଣୟବତୀଙ୍କ ନକକ”. Original and unrepentant and guileless. That’s the ‘ଦଣ୍ଡା ବାଳୁଙ୍ଗା’ for you. The genius, the magnanimous, the erudite, romantic Akshaya Mohanty, it’s not the same without you. A famous litterateur of Odisha had once said that the Odia story readers can be divided into two parts – one who have read Akshaya Mohanty and the other who haven’t. You are a magician, a cult.
Disclaimer: The writer is a columnist based in New Delhi. The views are personal.