What Makes Padma Award For Odisha’s Versatile Akshaya Mohanty Overdue

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Akshaya Mohanty is one of the best-known music composers, litterateur and promoter of Odisha who continues to straddle the Odia social life for more than six decades.

A household name in the state due to his unprecedented innovations in music and writing, his influence on Odia language and culture has bridged the generational gap. A dramatic storyteller without frills, his openness brought about rare transparency in conservative Odia society in 1960s.

He started a literary magazine called ‘Yangjnalat’ in 1964. He coined this unconventional name because these letters are used rarely in Odia. He revolutionised Odia outlook through his writings, music (both filmy and non-filmy) and his columns.

Akshaya introduced modern songs through his non-film albums in Odisha and is regarded as the father of modern Odia music. Not only were those commercial hits but also spawned new trends in Odia thinking. His writings in daily columns changed popular literature and influenced the day-to-day life.

Akshaya Mohanty changed the diction of Odisha in the seventies and his influence on the youths was magnetic. Creating out-of- the-box music or literature was his signature style and he promoted many young talents under his tutelage. An institution in himself, he restyled Odia folk music in a new package and praxis for the first time.

Akshaya has written over 4,000 songs, sung over 8,000 songs and composed music in more than 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 style of writing was transformational –  crisp, direct and bold. A master storyteller, his use of Odia language in a modern form was brilliant. ‘Brahmagyana Banam Gote Pan’, ‘Besura’, ‘Bamapanthi’, ‘Kataka’ and ‘Gara’ are some of his masterpieces and remain iconic till date.

He has written on the lives of rickshaw pullers, vendors, shopkeepers from his experience with them and had the confidence to create his own style and panache. It is a common saying among Odia litterateurs that the Odia story readers can be divided into two parts – one who have read Akshaya Mohanty and the other who haven’t.

He was conferred Jayadeva Award, the highest state award in movies, Odisha state award for best playback singer (seven times), Odisha state award for the best composer (twice), many awards from Orissa Cinecritic Association, state institutions and district associations.

Akshaya Mohanty, without exaggeration, is the most influential Odia culture influencer of this century. He has taken Odia music and literature to the households in the state and globally as an identity of the Odia diaspora.

The following aspects are some of the deep-running impacts of Akshaya Mohanty’s work spanning over 5 decades in Odisha culture:

  • The popularity of his music helped the film industry get sustainability with commercial success. His music was the highlight of movies and gave box office success.
  • He helped establish the Odia music industry by giving it an identity, a mass appeal and an unprecedented contemporariness.
  • His ballads in Odia, the first of their kind in the language, like Kanchi Abhijana, Randipua Ananta, and Konaraka Gatha have kept alive popular legends.
  • His works inspired generations of Odisha youth to take up music and literature as a dedicated career.
  • His prolific writings – a repertoire of stories and poems, plays, ballads, transformed Odia thinking and introduced a genre of ingenuous, culturally sensitive, and yet popular Odia literature.
  • A cult figure of Odisha, Akshaya is the pride of Cuttack, one of the oldest cultural cities of India.

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