Musamoni never received schooling, and her early marriage brought her early widowhood. Her anguish overflows as she sits down to narrate folklore and departure songs of the brides of patriarchy in the east of India. This first-ever documentary in Baleswari-Odia is based on the anguish-soaked oral history of Musamoni in India’s Balasore.
“Nani Ma” was released on October 3, 2022, on the fifth death anniversary of Musamoni Panigrahi, fondly known as Nani Ma. The film not only captures the oral history created and preserved by many women but also becomes the first-ever documentary made entirely in the Northern/Baleswari dialect of Odia. Born in the 1920s in the pre-independent coastal village of Bishnupur in the Balasore district, Nani Ma never got to go beyond the first few days of school. Her early marriage brought an early widowhood. The folklore and songs she narrates in this film are soaked with the melancholy of deep suffering that she went through most of her childhood and youth. The narrative shift can also be seen as she found solace later in life in the Mahima Dharma, the people’s religion led by Adivasi and Dalit leaders of Odisha. In her songs and stories, the gods have all the worldly suffering just like humans, and the demons are rational beings.
The film also captures in detail the 1920s register of the western variant of the Baleswari-Odia, making the documentation unique as the dialect is hardly documented in audiovisual media. Additionally, two noted academic researchers, Damayanti Beshra and Panchanan Mohanty and author Laxmikant Tripathy dissect through oral commentary the culture of women’s resistance, the unique and diverse linguistic features of Baleswari-Odia, and its chronological development, respectively.
|Name in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)||/nani ma/|
|Title in ISO 15919||/nāni mā/|
|Cast||Musamoni Panigrahi: Central character of the film and the key narrator.
Damayanti Beshra, PhD: One of the three narrators of the film who paints a picture of the rural Mayurbhanj district (a former independent princely state) and the role of women in creating a sub-genre of literary culture.
Laxmikanta Tripathy, PhD: Second narrator of the film who gives an account of the Baleswari-Odia dialect and the linguistic diversity of the Balasore district.
Panchanan Mohanty, PhD: Third narrator of the film who shares the sociolinguistic state of Baleswari-Odia.
|Country of production||India|
|Country of Origin||India|
|Filming location(s)||Balasore, Odisha, India|
|Year of Production||2022|
|Release Dates||3 October 2022 (India)|
|Duration/running time||40 minutes / 00:40:00 (hh:mm:ss)|
|Distribution Company||O Foundation (OFDN)|
|Production Company||O Foundation (OFDN)|
|Keywords||Odia, Baleswaria, language, oral history|
|Permanent media archive|
|Logline||The matriarch born in pre-independent rural India narrates songs and stories wrapped in harsh colonial rule. But will there ever be closure?|
|Copyright||2022 © Subhashish Panigrahi. CC-BY-SA 4.0|
|Archival and bibliographic info|
Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR)
|Internet Archive||https://archive.org/details/nani-maDVD Label of Nani Ma (2022 Documentary). © 2022. Subhashish Panigrahi. CC BY-SA 4.0.|
|Film type||Documentary Feature|
|Frame Rate||24 fps|
|Captions||English (Closed Caption), English (Open Caption)|
Musamoni Panigrahi was born in the early 1920s in a small village called Bishnupur in the Balasore district of Odisha, India. She never got formal schooling beyond a few first classes, which brought only physical violence from the teacher, and she then discontinued schooling. She got married early as a pre-teen and lost her husband early too. Tragic change of events in life moved her to take spiritual lessons from a teacher of the Mahima Dharma, a socio-religious system that the Adivasi (indigenous) and Dalit (a heterogenous group forced systemically into hereditary menial jobs and are otherwise oppressed heavily) leaders started as a revolt against Brahminical supremacy in the Hindu society. Her worldview and her renditions of folk literature reflect the transformation she underwent after becoming a part of Mahima Dharma. She was opposed to burning a body after death as it is done in Hinduism and wished her body after death to be left for eagles to scavenge or be buried, as it is done in Mahima Dharma. Her children, however, went against her last wish and cremated her body with the Hindu system.
Damayanti Beshra, PhD is a professor of Odia language and literature and is a bilingual author. She is a native speaker of the Santali language, and her research and writing reflect the life of the Santal people, particularly in the Mayurbhanj area, where Odia is a dominant language. She received Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award. Beshra shares the account of women, with the specific context of Santal women, in the Balasore-Mayurbhanj area, creating a subculture within the folk literature that was reflective of their own pain, suffering and social oppression.
Panchanan Mohanty, PhD is a professor of applied linguistics. Born in Soro, Balasore district of Odisha, his research is very grounded around the role of folk culture and literature in shaping sociolinguistics. His commentary in this film also highlights the same in the context of oral history through folklore and folk songs narrated in this film.
Laxmikanta Tripathy, PhD, D Litt. is a noted author for crafting fiction from complex sociolinguistics in the Balasore district. He has spent over five decades researching this area and decoding it through academic writing for subject experts and popular literature for common people. His input in this film reflects the important role that many women and others, who did not receive a formal education, played in creating folk literature of the Balasore-Mayurbhanj-Bhadrak area.
- Panigrahi, S. 2022. Building a Public Domain Voice Database for Odia. Companion Proceedings of the Web Conference 2022 (New York, NY, USA, Apr. 2022), 1331–1338, https://doi.org/10.1145/3487553.3524931.