How A Classic Odia Film About Joint Families Was Restored For An International Premiere

Maya Miriga by FHF

The modern urban lifestyle today that's centred around work schedules and chilling on the weekends is a sign of our times - vastly different from what households looked like in the previous century if you consider a similar socio-economic demographic. Joint families, once a cornerstone of Indian society, embodied a bygone era where life revolved around shared spaces and interlinked lives. The sense of belonging was undeniable, a community that offered security and a sense of purpose. Yet, within this close-knit unit lurked tensions, a simmering pot of aspirations and frustrations waiting to boil over. This dichotomy of togetherness and individual yearning was a constant negotiation. Grandparents doted on grandchildren, while daughters-in-law silently harboured dreams of independence. The eldest son, burdened with responsibility, yearned for a life less dictated by family duty. It was a system rich in tradition but vulnerable to the winds of change. This is the world Nirad Mohapatra brings to life in his film, Maya Miriga.

Maya Miriga poster
Maya MirigaYouTube

This 1984 Odia film tells the story of the Mishra family, led by Raj Kishore Babu (Bansidhar Satpathy), a school headmaster nearing retirement. Living in a joint family in Odisha's Puri, Raj Kishore strives to provide the best education for his four sons and a daughter, hoping it will improve their lives. The film explores the complexities of a joint family system. With his eldest son Tuku (Binod Mishra) married and his other sons at various stages in life, Raj Kishore grapples with changing dynamics and unfulfilled aspirations. The arrival of Tutu's new bride, with her modern outlook and lavish dowry, disrupts the established order, forcing a reevaluation of roles and responsibilities within the family.

Film Reel of Maya Miriga (1984)
Maya Miriga being restoredFilm Heritage Foundation

Maya Miriga was tragically lost for years. The Film Heritage Foundation found 12 reels of the 16mm original camera negative in a very poor condition abandoned in a warehouse. The FHF's restoration efforts were a monumental task that took over 3 years. The reels suffered from vinegar syndrome, broken perforations, and colour fading. "We knew that the film repair was going to be a daunting task for our conservators and that it would not be possible to scan the negative in India. Our conservators undertook the painstaking manual repair of the film over several months before we could send the negative to L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna for scanning", shares FHF.

The film will be premiering on Thursday, June 27, 2024 at 11 am at the Jolly Cinema during the Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna.

Maya Miriga restored by FHF
Maya Miriga restoredFHF

Maya Miriga is an ode to the Indian joint family system - a requiem that is both hopeful and unsettling. The film exposes the sacrifices made to uphold the facade of a happy family, questioning its sustainability in a changing world. Mohapatra's masterful direction avoids simplistic portrayals, leaving viewers to empathise with the characters' struggles and motivations. The film stands out for its realistic portrayal of life in an Odia household, all of which is captured by a screenplay that blends documentary and drama; portraying the essence of a particular era.

Maya Miriga poster by FHF
Maya Miriga posterFHF

Maya Miriga is a lost gem that acts as a dual metaphor for both the loss of an era that joint families represented and a film language in Odia cinema lost with Nirad's disappearance from the filmmaking scene after such a remarkable debut, as also lamented by film critic Maithili Rao. His only feature, the film was critically acclaimed and went on to win many accolades - placed second in that year's Indian Panorama awards for Best National Film, selected for the Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival, adjudged the Best Third World Film at the International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg and a special jury award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Its restoration By FHF is a significant event for Indian's cinematic history that is built upon the narratives and artistry crafted by regional film directors allowing a new generation to experience this powerful and timeless film, ensuring its legacy lives on.

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