Gour Prasad Ghose...a veteran actor, director and producer of Odiya Film Industry, is a name to reckon with. He was the first romantic actor and was a pioneer in this industry who initiated a lot of changes/trends and paved the way for the future generation of Odiya cinema.
Gour Prasad Ghose or Rai Gour, as he was initially known, was an eminent personality in the film fraternity. He started his career as a struggling actor and with sheer determination and effort went on to become a renowned actor as well as a distinguished producer and director. He also was the distributor for his own production. His films were highly successful and popular and were milestones in the Odiya film industry. All his films were significant for portraying social and cultural dimensions. He never compromised artistic values for commercial success. Along with his wife Parbati Ghose he achieved both box office success and artistic accolades. Throughout his career he nurtured many newcomers and introduced noted stage and radio artistes in every sphere of film making.
Gour Ghose was born into an affluent Bengali family. His family migrated to Orissa from Bardhaman via Calcutta. Father...Late Atul Krishna Ghose was one of the first few graduates of Orissa and quite proficient in English Literature, often quoting from the works of Shakespeare. Working under the British Government he made immense contributions towards the development of Orissa, often taking anti government stance for the betterment of the people. He was associated with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s family who happened to be his neighbors. Mother...Sudhanshubala hailed from an extremely educated Bengali family of doctors and engineers from Danapur, Bihar. The family home was situated at Ganga Mandir, Cuttack, which was adjacent to the property donated to the Brahmo Samaj by them.
Rai Gour’s acting career started with plays in Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. During his college days he was associated with the cultural endeavors of the Praja Socialist Party (a National Political Party) which organized plays for the freedom movement and social awareness. The party office was adjacent to his house which made it convenient. Through these plays he became associated with some noted personalities such as Ashok Mehta, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jai Prakash Narayan, Banka Bihari Das, Surendra Nath Dwivedi, Biswanath Pandit, Gobinda Das, Shanti Das, Sudha Das, Kulomoni Mahapatro, Shyamali Lahiri, Nishamoni Kunthia, Baikuntha Nath Mohanty(Bai Bhai), Manoranjan Das, Pradipta K. Das and many others.
In 1947, Jana Sanskruti Sangha(Peoples Cultural Organisation), staged a play “August Na”(9th August) written by Manoranjan Das, who went on to become one of the most famous playwrights of Orissa. Rai Gour was cast as a primary character. This play was the first major turning point in his career which opened new vistas to pursue his passion.
Soon after, Orissa Theatre staged the popular work of Kabichandra Kalicharan Patnaik, titled “Bhata” (Rice), in which Rai Gour again played a significant role. The resounding success of this play, sparked Rai Gour and his colleagues Nitai Palit and Gobinda Tej to transform it into a movie. However the project never saw the light of day. Undeterred by this setback, the trio, along with a few others, ambitiously went on to form a group called the United Artists. They were successful in staging quite a few plays. Some of them such as “Mamata” in Odiya and “Do Aansoo” in Hindi had Rai Gour in the lead. This was another stepping stone for him as an actor.
Subsequently he veered into cinema. His foray in movies began in “Sri Jagannath” as Shaktidhar, under the banner Rupa Bharati Ltd., in 1949. Renowned stage artistes, namely, Ram Chandra Mania, Khagendra Nath Mitra, Kartik Kumar Ghosh and Samuel Sahu also began their film careers with this movie. The lead actors were Gopal Ghosh and Gloria Raut. Incidentally Chapala Naik (Parbati Ghose) was also introduced as a child artiste (NilaMadhava) by the noted singer Dhiren Das.
Thus began his long and fulfilling journey as an artiste. Being ambitious to achieve further, he met Dr.Harekrushna Mahtab, the then CM of Orissa and armed with his recommendation he set out to try his luck in the Bombay Film Industry. In Bombay he was fortunate enough to join Prithvi Theatres and work with the likes of Shammi Kapoor, Sudesh Kumar and others. At the same time he was able to work as PA to Nalini Jayant (popular leading actress of the time) and also worked as the 3rd Asst.Director to the then famous director, Gyan Mukherjee. His various work surroundings led him to meet the likes of Ruma Guha Thakurta and her mother Sati Devi. However his meeting with the noted leading actress Snehlata Pradhan, ex wife of actor Kishore Sahu, was another major turning point in his career. She was instrumental in getting him a break in the Hindi movie “Sadma” in 1951.This movie was directed by Akul and produced by Asiatic Productions. Following this movie he got the platform to meet with the then famous actor Mahipal, who had just completed the Hindi film “Makhi Choos”, directed by Ramchandra Thakur, popularly known as Thakur Bhai. This meeting later had great significance in his illustrious career. Along with Mahipal, he courageously aspired to produce the Odiya version of “Makhi Choos” retaining Thakur Bhai as the director. The translation to Odiya of this project was entrusted to Manoranjan Das. Unfortunately this venture did not materialize!
At this juncture luck prevailed and he was offered the lead role in an Odiya film "Amari Gaan Jhua”(Our Village Girl), by Naren Mitra the owner of Capital Cinema, Cuttack, under the banner Utkal Chitra Pratisthan. Incidentally, Rai Gour was also offered the lead in the Bengali version of this movie … "Pon Rokhya”. The screenplay and direction for both versions was by Binoy Banerjee. Dialogues and lyrics of the Odiya version was by Manoranjan Das and Kishorekabi Shyam Sundar Das respectively. Manoranjan Das was also the astt.director. The lead for the Odiya version was Rai Gour, Gopal Ghosh and Chapala Naik and the Bengali version had Chitra Mondal and Sadhan Sarkar with Rai Gour. “Amari Gaanjhua” was the first Odiya film to have a social theme(Child Marriage). The success of this movie established his career as a lead actor. In 1954, he was offered his second lead in “Kedar Gouri”, produced by Choudhury Balaram Das (Radha Pictures). Rai Gour now became Gour Prasad. “Kedar Gouri” had the first Odiya, Manoranjan Das as co director with Nityananda (Nitai) Palit.
Gour Prasad Ghose’s defining moment came in 1956 when he turned producer with "Bhai Bhai”. There was no stopping him now. He then voraciously proceeded to churn out successful and award winning movies... “Maa” in 1959, "Laxmi” in 1962, “Kaa” in 1965,"Stree” in 1968 and “Sansaar” in 1971.
His foray into television commenced due to his well deserved break from movies after 1971. This seemed the perfect time to experiment and expand his repertoire as television by now was gaining popularity. He produced and directed few telefilms in Odiya like “Samadhan” and “Hawker”. Tasting success in the regional medium he initiated to take a giant leap into National television.
In 1985, he presented “Prashna”, the first Hindi telefilm on national network from Orissa. The entire cast and crew was from Orissa. The story dealt with the social evils of dowry. His daughter Ratri was introduced as the lead artiste.
“Prashna” was well appreciated by Doordarshan. Gour Ghose was entrusted with his second Hindi telefilm “Sopan”(1987) on adivasi labour exploitation. The lead was once again played by his daughter with all artistes and technicians from Orissa. Since his inception in the cine world Gour Prasad always produced films with strong social messages of the time. He continued this tradition in television and his third Hindi telefilm “Yashodara”(1991) again for the National network dealt with the abuse of drugs in our society. This was the third opportunity for his daughter to play the lead.
Soon after, unfortunately his health took a negative turn. His zeal and passion however could not be suppressed. 1992 saw Gour Prasad Ghose produce a documentary in English for the Film’s Division titled “Contribution of Orissa in Freedom Movement”. He embarked upon this project with utmost diligence and showed his mettle in depicting the vivid details of the struggles and sacrifices of the freedom fighters. Appreciating his work the Film’s Division proffered to make a film based on the life of Bhakta SalaBeg (a devout muslim devotee of Lord Jagannath). However in 1993 he was taken ill with cancer leading to a delay in this project. The following year was spent in his treatment in India and the U.S.A. Soon after his return from U.S.A, he was taken serious which finally led to his demise on 9th December 1994. SalaBeg’s story never started. The Films Division however were gracious enough to offer his wife the opportunity to make this film, which she humbly agreed to, and completed in 1996.