Kolkata, Feb 19 A potent mix of sleek production, inspiration from literary works, sex and high quality music are behind a resurgent commercial Bengali cinema, which is again giving tough competition to Bollywood films in West Bengal.
“Bengali cinema has been going through an excellent phase for the last two-three years. But there is no place for complacency and we need to build up and improve on it,” filmmaker Sandip Ray told IANS.
His latest film “Royal Bengal Rahasya”, based on the detective series Feluda created by his father Satyajit Ray, has been a blockbuster hit.
The year 2008-09 was the year of renaissance of the Bengali film industry as the new genre of talented directors with their fresh ideas and challenging attitudes changed the tide of the industry.
Movies like “Antaheen”, “Kalbela”, “Autograph”, “Aparajita Tumi”, “Abohoman”, “Moner Manush”, “Arekti Premer Golpo”, “Chalo Lets Go”, and “Mahanagar@Kolkata” created a rage among the urban audience, with cinema halls running houseful shows and the industry receiving accolades from all sections.
According to FICCI report, the box Bengali films have started to collect as high as Rs5-Rs6 crore, a significant increase from the past half decade. From an average of 40-50 films in 2006, now it’s producing 100 films a year.
It is certainly a positive sign for Bengali cinema, which had in the past captured the attention of movie buffs nationally and internationally thanks to masterpieces churned out by the likes of Oscar awardee Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha and Mrinal Sen but faded in the last couple of decades.
Actors like Uttam Kumar, Utpal Dutt, Suchitra Sen, Bikash Roy, who had held the audience in a thrall with their strong acting and screen presence, either retired or died, leaving a vacuum.
The middle class, chief patrons of Bengali cinema, gradually lost interest in the age-old and decaying theatres.
To make matters worse, golden voices like Kishore Kumar, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay and Sandhya Mukhopadhyay who had churned out a great many popular numbers under the guidance of genius composers like Salil Chowdhury, fell silent.
The golden era of Bengal cinema from the 1950s to the early 1980s gave way to an age of decadence that saw movies with cheap sentimentalism trying to woo spectators from the rural belts.
Movies like “Charulata” and “Apu” triology, “Meghe Dhaka Tara” and “Bhuvan Shome” seemed like relics from the past.
As a result, the industry soon lost out to the growing popularity of Bollywood films. The movie theatres, which used to have a thriving business in Bengali films, started screening only Hindi movies as the urban audience lost their interest in Bengali movies, mostly copied from Tamil or Hindi movies.
However, directors like Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Gautam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh, with their artistic, much thought out and serious content, have maintained the significance of parallel cinema.
National award-winning director Aniruddha Roy Choudhury, one of the main architects of the resurgence of Bengali cinema, feels the new generation wants new ideas.
“Actually we have to look at life anew. We new directors have come with new ideas, new types of expression as the audience wants something new,” three-film-old Roy Choudhury told IANS. His first two films “Antaheen” and “Anuranan” had bagged national awards and his recently released “Aparajita Tumi” is running to full houses.
Another renowned director, Kaushik Ganguly, concurs.
“The reason behind this resurgence is the knowledge that directors will no longer be allowed to indulge in a single kind or genre of movies,” Ganguly, who has worked on comic drama, transgendered identity and artist’s unrealistic expectations, told IANS.
Apart from new ideas, the two things which are attracting viewers are rich literary content and melodious music.
Singer Anupam Ray feels credit should go to the new directors who have taken up the challenge of trying something different.
Literature since the days of the golden era of Bengali cinema has been a part and parcel of it. Directors have repeatedly quenched their thirst for good stories with the literary masterpieces by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhayay and Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay.
In this resurgence of Bengali cinema too, the importance of literature can be gauged from the fact that “Noukadubi”, “Moner Mansuh”, “Aparajita Tumi” and “Kagojer Bou” are based on novels.
“It feels great that literature is playing an important role in the resurgence of Bengali cinema. Good literature has always been a part of Bengali cinema,” said Mukhopadhyay.
But producers feel good screenplay, new directors and promotion of a film are the three main reasons behind the movie’s success.
On an average in the last two years, about 70-80 Bengali films were produced each year.