Documentary on Kotpad handloom fabrics releases on OTT platform
Gobardhan Panika, a master weaver, who has been honoured with a Padma Shri for his contribution to the art of weaving says the online streaming of the film can attract more international buyers for this unique textile design
Bhubaneswar: Documentary film Kotpad Weaving: the Story of a Race against Time, made in 2018 by Biswanath Rath, is the first Odia non-fiction which is currently streaming in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking territories of Amazon Prime. The feature tells the rich and fascinating story of a unique, timeless textile tradition practiced in the tribal region of Koraput district in Odisha. It also highlights the plight of Kotpad weavers, mostly from Mirgan community, who have been spinning an amazing fabric adorned with nature-inspired tribal motifs. Needless to say, the craft and its artisans have never got the recognition and patronage they deserve.
Even as the film, released a couple of years back, had bagged a few awards at several international film festivals, it didn’t have much of an impact on the living condition of the weavers. But this time, after the film’s streaming on OTT platform, the artisans are quite optimistic about a revival in their fortunes.
Kapilash and Sudha, a weaver couple from Kotpad, says, “There is little awareness among people about the unique weaving technique of this fabric. In fact, at many textile expos we often have to explain the customers about the intricacies of Kotpad designs. But with the online streaming of the documentary film, we will certainly get global exposure. Who knows, it may attract international buyers also.”
Gobardhan Panika, a master weaver of Kotpad handloom, who has been honored with a Padma Shri for his contribution to the art of weaving, credits his wife for whatever he has achieved. “Kotpad dyeing is a long process and is entirely organic, manual and labour intensive. These days, I am getting more calls from the buyers who have watched the documentary film online. At the moment, I am sensing that the fate of artisans will take a turn for the better,” says an excited Panika.
Although Kotpad handloom fabrics got the GI tag back in 2005, it has not been in demand the way it should have been, says Sweta Singh, a city-based designer. “The design needs global promotion ahead of fabrics such as linen, viscose and other popular textile material. The artisans are leading a pitiable life in Koraput which is why it is time the state government should promote the craft aggressively to help out the tribal weaver community,” adds Singh.
On the other hand, filmmaker Rath who has been instrumental in highlighting the plight of the weavers, recalls, “I came to know about Kotpad handloom only in October 2016. It touched me and I decided to make a bid to revive this near-extinct tradition through my film. Kotpad Weaving … is a humble attempt to recognize the weavers’ issues and suggest a few possible solutions. I am overwhelmed that Amazon Prime is now streaming my documentary for the global audience. I am quite hopeful of a change in fate of the weavers.”
Chaitali Shome, OP