Bangla cinema – “The Golden Era” is back

— Sharmishtha Deb

Blog_sharmiI might not be a typical Bangla cinema audience as I am what they call is a “Probashi Bangali” but my immense love for Cinema and my Bengali roots are responsible for my inclination towards Bangla cinema.

I love it when I watch an insightful movie with an unprecedented story line; or an absolute thought provoking movie or a comedy flick that tickles my funny bone without making me feel brainless. I am proud to say that I get to watch movies of such different genres, coming from the Bangla film industry in this day and age.

The Bangla film industry of-late is giving us movies like Bakita Byaktigato, Nirbashito, Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona, Antaheen, Bhooter Bhabisyat; but the fact of the matter is that ‘the’ parallel cinema movement had started way back in the 1950s as an alternative to the mainstream commercial cinema. The elements that are unique to this genre and what appeals to me is its realism, naturalism blended with symbolic elements, experimental concept and a clear niche appeal.

It all started in the early 1950s and we owe a lot to Satyajit Ray – primarily for being instrumental in driving the parallel cinema movement in Bengal and for creating epic and timeless works of art like Pather Panchali and Jalsaghar amongst his other prominent movies. There were other directors who went hand in hand in driving this movement - Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and other stalwarts. This wonderful period in Bangla cinema, often referred to as “The Golden era” gave us timeless classical gems like Pather Panchali, Kabuliwala, Jalsaghar, The Apu Trilogy, Ajantrik and many more.

Then came a time in the 1980s, 90s and the early 2000s, when as a parallel cinema audience, I was left with negligible choices, primarily owing to commercialization of the films. Bangla cinema had slipped into a pit of populist crowd-pullers, explicitly infamous for its typical song and dance numbers.

Fortunately, the industry has finally emerged now after hitting an all-time low in the last two decades with respect to content – driven movies. I feel lucky to belong to a generation that is witnessing the second golden era of Bangla cinema characterized by hard-hitting storylines, thought-provoking concepts, realistic dialogues and soul-stirring characters. Here are my top 3 favorites:

  • Apur Pachali – This is an untold story of an unusual journey – partly real and partly fictitious but extremely relatable and heart-rending. It gives you a different perspective to look at movies. We often don’t think about the journey of the actors who vanish after playing iconic characters in movies; one such iconic character is Satyajit Ray’s Apu. Director Kaushik Ganguly does a commendable job of taking us through the journey of a celebrated reel character (Apu), vis-à-vis the forgotten real person (Subir Banerjee). A child artist who earns fame at a very tender age and ironically, lives a mere normal life that comprises of struggles, heartbreaks, unfulfilled dreams and a lot of questions – questions about his identity, about his fate, about his loneliness and an unfortunate and uncalled for pain.One of the best dialogues in the film is delivered by Subir Banerjee which was immensely heart wrenching for me - “Baad to dilen, kintu baad gelam koi?”; wherein Subir meant that though Ray never gave him another chance to enact Apu’s character in the 2nd and 3rd part of the Apu Trilogy, but the character never really left him; the struggles of ill-fated Apu stuck to Subir’s life forever.This is one of those movies that stay with you long after you leave the theater and you tend to get into a conversation with yourself in regards to the irony of life. A must watch for all cinema lovers!
  • Bhooter Bhabishyat (2012) – It fills my heart with immense joy when I watch a movie with an innovative story-line and one such mega creative film is Bhooter Bhabishyat. It touches upon a concept that screams out “novelty”. This wacky story revolves around a group of ghosts who dwell in a 250 year old Calcutta mansion owing to the destruction of their individual habitats.The humor element is associated with everything in the plot starting from the quirky interview sessions that the owners of Choudharibaari hold to select the ghosts who can live there to the pun-filled dialogues weaved into the otherwise uproarious yet meaningful plot.This film deserves a standing ovation for being absolutely ‘original’ and a classic masterpiece of all time.
  • Nirbaak - Nirbaak is undoubtedly a sui generis film that beautifully portrays four different stories - that of a dog, a tree, a corpse and a narcissist, connected by one common element - “love”. A man who is in love with himself. A dog who is possessive about her owner and refuses to share him with his fiancée. The alluring fantasies of a tree for a woman who sits under it on a bench. A guard of a hospital morgue who experiences a love encounter with the dead body of a beautiful woman.This movie is thought provoking, unpretentious, and powerful in its approach and makes you question the reality and practicality of life.         However, this film is not meant for everyone. People who truly love cinema will find it extremely riveting and will definitely be intrigued by Srijit Mukherji’s creative thoughts and brilliant execution.

Let’s hope this era of meaningful Bangla cinema is here to stay. Let’s celebrate the return of “The Golden Era”!

 11224304_10153633044637848_8712064995761460420_o (1)Sharmistha is a marketing professional based in Hyderabad. In spite of being passionate about her full time work i.e. marketing, branding and social media, she also has a huge inclination towards Music. In her free time, she loves to travel, sing and dream. Sharmi, as she's known in the music circle, is crazy about making music and is an independent vocalist in Hyderabad. Follow her work here.