Bhubaneswar: As Odia film industry faces multiple challenges, including declining viewership in recent years, many regional cine stars of Odisha are increasingly becoming more active in politics than films. Ahead of the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State, many regional film stars are taking a plunge into politics.

Four top actors — outgoing Kendrapara MP Anubhav Mohanty, former Berhampur MP Sidhant Mohapatra, former Korei MLA Akash Das Nayak and Arindam Roy — quit the ruling Biju Janata Dal and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the past few weeks. One of the most popular actresses Varsha Priyadarshini, who has had a series of hits in Odia and Bengali films in the past two decades, joined the BJD on Thursday. Her name was announced as the party candidate for Barachana Assembly seat the next day.

New avatar

Varsha, who has acted in nearly 40 films since her debut in 2001, had starred in Nimki with the tagline Nimpur Ru Naveen Niwas (From Nimpur to Naveen Niwas). The film was released before the 2019 elections. She had campaigned for BJD candidates in the past elections before the Orissa High Court granted her separation from her star-turned politician husband Anubhav in December last year.

Anubhav, Sidhant, Akash and Arindam joined the BJP after they lost hope of getting the BJD ticket to contest the coming polls. The saffron party has fielded Sidhant from Digapahandi Assembly seat, one of the segments under the Berhampur Lok Sabha seat that he represented between 2009 and 2019. Akash is the BJP nominee from Korei Assembly seat, which he represented from 2014 to 2019.

Other prominent actors in the BJD’s fold at present include sitting Rajya Sabha Member Munna Khan, and Kuna Tripathy, Chairman of Odisha Film Development Corporation. Another major star Manoj Mishra, who acts in Odia and Hindi films, is the Congress nominee from the Balangir parliamentary seat for coming polls. He had joined the Congress recently.

Odisha politics is not new to film stars. Yesteryears’ superstar Prashanta Nanda, whose tenure as a Rajya Sabha Member of the BJD ended earlier this year, has been in politics since 2000 elections. He had successfully contested Assembly elections from the BJP and the erstwhile Nationalist Congress Party before joining the BJD. He was also a Minister in the Naveen Patnaik Government.

Election drama

Odisha witnessed an increasing trend of film stars joining politics since the 2009 elections. Late actor Bijay Mohanty and actress Aparajita Mohanty had unsuccessfully contested from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack Lok Sabha seats in 2014 elections on Congress tickets. Aparajita also fought and lost from Bhubaneswar North Assembly seat in 2019 polls as a BJP nominee. Veteran actress Mahasweta Ray joined the BJP in 2018, but did not contest elections in 2019.

Further, actress Pinky Pradhan and comedian Papu Pom Pom had joined the BJP and BJD, respectively, ahead of 2014 polls. While Papu unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections in 2014, Pinky failed to win in 2019 elections. More Odia actors are likely to join the election fray in the coming days.