Back with a bang

Back with a bang

With the recent death of Suchitra Sen, the iconic romantic heroine of Bengali films, Bengali cine-goers moaned about the long-gone Golden Age of Bengali commercial films.

But, has it become a cliché to say that the days of Bengali movies are a thing of the past?

The recent scenario does not prove so.

True, the hub of Bengali movies, Tollygunge, was down in the dumps for a few decades.

Most of the movies churned out were either pathetic remakes or simply pathetic.

And this, despite Prosenjit Chatterjee, son of past matinee idol Biswajit, being reinstated as the only successor to the legendary Uttam Kumar.

But today, a new crop of good filmmakers willing to experiment and take risks have entered the arena with fresh ideas and enterprise.

Commercial Bengali movies had hit a nadir, till filmmakers like late Rituparno Ghosh and Satyajit Ray’s son Sandip Ray injected creativity with movies that made you sit up.

Ghosh’s Chokher Bali (2003) with Aishwaraya Rai, in fact, was one of the biggest grossers of that time and is said to have been a turning point in introducing the corporate culture in Bengali movies.

Box-office success

Gautam Ghosh’s National Award winner Moner Manush and Aparna Sen’s latest Goynar Baksho have also been big grossers in the recent times.

However, directors like Ghosh and Sen were seen as essentially targeting a niche audience.

Joining the brigade now are filmmakers of a new genre, who are not only making movies that interest the intelligentsia, but are also keeping a keen eye on the box-office.

Ichhe, by Shiboprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Ray, is about a mother who is obsessed with her son’s academic progress and has everything mapped out for his career that has some disastrous consequences.

Aniruddha Roy Choudhury is yet another filmmaker who has barged into the scene with movies like Anuranon and thereafter his National Award winner Antaheen in 2010, with the contemporary theme of love in the virtual world.

His third movie, Aparajita Tumi, set in America, roped in the NRI crowd as well, thus injecting fresh business prospects for the industry.

When debutante director Srijit Mukherji’s Autograph (2010), on a matinee idol’s obsession to remain at the top turned out to be a resounding success, Tollygunge had a new language, which brought in the people to the hall in droves.

A veteran award-winning ad filmmaker and a debutante director Anik Dutta took the box-office by storm with his maiden venture Bhooter Bhobishyot (2012), imaginatively mixing the past (with ghosts) and present.

Dutta feels that even the present crop of Bengali commercial filmmakers are luring back the audience.

“Movies like Paglu and Awaara are also hits in the city and are attractive because of their exotic foreign locales, till now only seen in Hindi movies, combined with good music and excellent photography,” he says, but confesses that he never imagined his film to set the cash registers ringing the way it did.

A different take

Once the home of so-called ‘parallel cinema’, Bengali cinema has witnessed a few new directors adding to that reputation.

Kaushik Ganguly’s wonderful Shabdo is perhaps the first film made on Foley artistes, the sound wizards who make a film come alive; the biopic Meghe Dhaka Tara by Kamaleshwar Mukherjee is based on experimental filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, whose eponymous film title Mukherjee has adopted.

As the connoisseurs wait for the commercial release of Ganguly’s new film Apur Panchali, which takes off from Satyajit Ray’s path-breaking Pather Panchali and looks at the central character, child actor Apu as today, the excitement only reflects the rejuvenation Tollywood is experiencing.

Unlike in the past, Bengali movies are also stretching their geographical boundaries. In the current hit Chander Pahar, Kamaleshwar Mukherjee is taking a complete new path from the Ghatak biopic.

Based on an adventure story written in 1937 by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, the film is shot in South Africa, with artistes and technicians joining in from there.

Together with an emerging marketing strategy to appeal to the  audience everywhere, Tollywood is looking up again, indeed.

Another golden age? Who knows?

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