ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Pandemic of Hunger: Testing Times in Bhoka

Odia film Bhoka highlights the fissures in a fractured society, exploring the struggle for survival in a pandemic of hunger.

The authors would like to thank Ranjan Das, Rajib Mohanty and Sugeeta Roy Choudhury for their suggestions on this article.


The COVID-19 pandemic has halted economies and movement across the globe. The struggle for life during peak lockdowns and the shutdown of economic activities have been agonising. Odisha was no exception, witnessing a human tragedy which soon snowballed into a hunger pandemic as the wheels of the economy came to a grinding halt. Bhoka (Starvation), an acclaimed Odia film of 2021 written by Ranjan Das and directed by Rajib Mohanty, candidly portrays the plight of a couple struggling for survival in the backdrop of COVID-19.

The film is inspired by real events in 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, in Bari village of Jajpur district. The plot revolves around the lives of a happily married couple—Kartika and Hema—in a joint family. Kartika is the only earning member of the family, working at a local mill in the village, while his wife Hema’s life revolves around the family—from waking the kids up, sending them to school to taking care of the in-laws and running the household. The film shows how the rural economy of Odisha used to be able to sustain itself at the subsistence level before the pandemic. The economy of Bari village was built to be resilient to minor shocks. In the absence of a formal social security system, the village acted as a finely balanced institution, taking care of minor disturbances.

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Updated On : 3rd Feb, 2023
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