By Subhransu Panda, Bhubaneswar
From Odia film world to the world movies, once upon a time, they all were the center of attraction. On the silver screen, they were the dazzling stars. His style of delivering dialogue made girls mad. Her sexy body and naughty look offered youth sleepless nights. They all were kings and queens of the most glamorous cinema world. People were eagerly waiting to get an opportunity to read their private lives or to see their beautiful photograph in magazines. They were the talk of the town.
At the peak of their stardom, they decided to quite; not only silver screen but the whole material world and took rebirth as a monk or Sannyasa. The world of Light, Camera and Action became meaningless for them. They left behind everything; their love, their sophisticated life, thousands of fans, family, bank balance, bungalow and off course their celebrity status.
They left cinema for monastery or commune. They became monks. Now they are simple saints, leading a minimalist life.
From Ollywood to Hollywood, Odisha story finds few examples of erstwhile stars turned saffron-clad monks.
Ollywood Swami Nitya Chaitanya (Sriram Panda)
He was the debonair man and Big B of Ollywood. He was the Gautam Buddha of Odia cinema. He left family and luxury all of a sudden to become a monk.
In the 70s and 80s, Sriram Panda was the Numero Uno actor in Odia cinema industry. He was the tallest hero of his time. In 1972 Sriram started his career as the lead role in Nitai Palit directed Dharitri. Afterward, he has never looked back.Dharitri. Afterward, he has never looked back.
In 20 years of his glorious stardom, till 1994, he has successfully acted in 44 movies including Jajabar, Nagaphas, Samaya, Sindura Bindu, Manasi, Hisab Nikas, sapan Banika, Badhu Nirupama, Jor Jar Mulak Tar and Mahua etc. In the 80s this young sensation was the poster boy for Cavender’s cigarette advertisements. During acting, he married his costar Tripura Mishra and fathered two sons.
In 1988 he tried his luck as Director, Producer and Dialogue writer in his movie Kurukshetra, which was turned into a flop one. Later he faced a few domestic and social dilemmas which led him to sainthood. In 1994, when Sriram was at the peak of his career he left Odia movie world and moved to Munger (Bihar) to become a saint. He took refuge at Bihar School of Yoga and became a monk with a new name; Swami Nitya Chaitanya. Now Swami Nitya Chaitanya is one of the leading figures in the world of Yoga and spiritualism in India.
Swami Nitya Chaitanya recalls his time of transformation, “I was being shown as a model for the Cavendar’s cigarette then and I was ashamed of learning later on that my image lured many others into smoking. I felt guilty of misleading society and to atone for this sin I resorted to spiritualism. I became a sanyasi to change people through yoga and spiritual practices.”
Bollywood Gyalten Samsen (Barkha Madan)
Just recall the song ‘O Janam, O Janam’ from 1996 movie Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi. It was her debut one. Barkha Madan (born 1974) is a former Indian model, film actress and film producer who has also appeared in television serials and hosted some TV shows. Impressed by Buddhist ideologies, in November 2012 she had her ordination to become a Buddhist nun and changed her name to Ven. Gyalten Samten.
A Miss India finalist in the year 1984, Barkha had a very successful stint as a model before entering the cinema. With critical acclaim and regular offers, anyone would agree that Barkha had carved her niche in show business. Though many offers came to her following her impressive performance in Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi, Barkha preferred to remain selective. She made her entry in foreign films with the Indo-Dutch movie Driving Miss Palmen. It was Ram Gopal Varma’s 2003 horror film Bhoot which proved to be a turning point in Barkha’s career. The movie became an instant hit. She played the role of a ghost in the movie, earning praise for her performance.
She started a production and distribution company named Golden Gate LLC, to promote talented independent filmmakers. It produced two critically acclaimed films, Soch Lo(2010) andSurkhaab(2012), with her in the lead.
She found herself drawn to Buddhism – a feeling she had first had as a child, on a visit to a monastery in Sikkim. In 2002 drawn by the happiness on the Dalai Lama’s face, she approached Lama Zopa Rinpoche asking if she too could become a nun. Rinpoche however, was not convinced.
The following decade saw her setting up her own production company and producing two films: Soch Lo and Surkhaab. The latter, shot on a shoe-string budget, has received much appreciation, awards and accolades from the U.S and Canada.
“Everything was going well but I felt something was missing,” she reminisces.
In 2012, again she approached a monastery in Kathmandu asking to join the Buddhist order. She changed her name to Gyalten Samsen as a nun. Now she leads a minimalist life with other monks in the monastery.
Bollywood Swami Vinod Bharati (Vinod Khanna)
Vinod Khanna’s story was something different from other monks who left the cinema. Khanna became a full-time monk in 80s and again came back to his old den of stardom.
One of the most famous figures in Bollywood, the then dream boy Khanna started his career in 1968. He a one among the few who transformed themselves from villain character to leading hero in Hindi movies. Till 2015 he has acted in 144 movies. Now a politician Khanna became a follower of OSHO Rajneesh in his 70s. The 70s was his golden decade in Bollywood. He married Gitanjali in 1971.
One fine morning, in 1982, leaving behind Bollywood astonished he left India to Join OSHO as a full-time Sannayas in Rajneeshpuram, USA. He wore the saffron robe and worked and OSHO’s domestic help and gardener in the USA city for 4 years.
As the Rajneeshpuram city fell down, in 1986 Vinod Khanna came back India with OSHO. He got divorced from Gitanjali. Though till date he is an OSHO follower, he left the commune and left the Sannayas life and joined the silver screen again in the 90s. in 1990 he married Kavita and started a new life as a family man and actor. Now he is a BJP parliamentarian from Gurdaspur.
Hollywood Mother Dolores (Doleres Hart)
Once upon a time she was the Hollywood queen. Within a short span of her career, from 1957 to 1963, she had reached the peak of her success. Within these 6 years, she had acted in 10 Hollywood movies playing opposite leading stars like Stephen Boyd, Montgomery Clift, George Hamilton and Robert Wagner.
In 1964, when she was only 24 and was engaged to a famous Los Angeles Architect Don Robinson, Hart stunned Hollywood by announcing that she would be giving up silver screen to take refuge of the Church.
Now she is a famous figure in the religious world. She is known as Mother Doleres. A documentary film about Hart’s life, God is the Bigger Elvis, was nominated for the 2012 Academy Award. Hart attended 2012 Academy Awards for the Documentary; her last red carpet Oscar appearance was in 1959.
She has an autobiography, The Ear of The Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows, in which Hart told her life story from her birth in Chicago to become Catholic, from Hollywood adventures to holy life.
Subhransu Panda is an Author and Journalist and can be reached at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / 9338655845