Published: 04th August 2018
Why Navy officer Amiya Patra went from riding the sea to seeing through a camera's lens
The former defence man talks about his journey of discovery, how he left the service and how his movies have evolved over time
It was in 2012 that Amiya Patra made the toughest decision he'd ever made — to quit the Navy and pursue his lifelong dream of making movies. Why? Because, as they say, the heart wants what it wants. "It was a challenge because this is an industry that is not very welcoming when it comes to outsiders," believes Patra. Though he has directed his fair share of short films, like Susu Donor, which was awarded by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) of India and Gudiya, which has done the rounds at international film festivals, he is now working on his first feature film.
Patra is also writing and will soon be directing a film he is working on with the German government. It is about nutrition, hygiene and women's health
Apart from giving him discipline and integrity, the Navy instilled in Patra several values that he is still grateful for. It also enabled him to meet some of the most interesting people and it is about one of these people that he will be making his first feature — Commander Abhilash Tomy K C, the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe. "It is a story that, hopefully, will make India proud," says Patra, who was in Naval Aviation. When he met hit filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani last year and narrated the story to him, even he deemed it exciting. As of now, Patra is at the scriptwriting stage of this story of 'a man and a boat'. "But whenever I mention that phrase, people start comparing it to Life of Pi," laughs Patra, who is also planning to collaborate with an international production house for this movie.
In the ten years of my service in the Navy, so many stories have inspired me and I think the world should hear them too
Amiya Patra, Filmmaker
And though Patra quit the Navy only later, there were signs all along that filmmaking is the path he was destined to tread (or so we feel!). We were further convinced when Patra told us about how, while pursuing his engineering degree in C V Raman College of Engineering, Bhubaneswar, he had been accepted into the National School of Drama, but did not take it up. Then in 2007, he sent his movie to the Passion for Cinema contest, a one-minute film contest started by ace Bollywood directors Anurag Kashyap and Sudhir Mishra. This earned him critical acclaim. He was also posted in Kochi and he took the chance to acquaint himself with the Malayalam film industry as well. There, he was given the chance to work on the pre-production of Major Ravi's movie Kandahar. "This opportunity excited me so much and I realised that it was time to make movies," says the upcoming filmmaker, who was born in Gunupur town in the district of Rayagada.
Films like Gravity and Titanic can't be enjoyed on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, which is why he feels that certain movies will always be eligible for the 70 mm experience
Patra had the chance to work in the Odia film industry as well and also worked with Tigmanshu Dhulia from the Hindi film industry. Now that's solid work experience! And he has certainly come a long way since his Navy days. He laughs when we tell him this and says, "You know, once a soldier, always a soldier. So even now I call myself a creative soldier for taking a path-breaking career turn, against all odds," concludes Patra. We salute your spirit, Officer Patra!
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