Directors Who Make the Cut. A Look at the New Brigade of Directors who are Changing the Cinemascope in Bengal

— Soumalya Chakraborty

There’s formula and then there’s perspective. As someone interested in presenting a visual treat to millions of spectators through cinema, this fork in the road is bound to appear sooner or later. Directors over the ages have largely fallen into one of these categories-go the tried and tested way or choose to paint the canvas with their unique shades which might be in striking contrast to what every other brick in the wall is doused with.

A look at Bengali cinema will clearly reveal these paths leading away, adorned with cinematic milestones embedded beside them. While the path spawning out of an expanded formula sees a milestone every now and then, the unconventional one has a few miles of travelling involved before you arrive at the next one. However, in recent times, the gap has lessened to an extent with the advent of a new crop of directors who are not afraid of picking up a theme and presenting it an a different light, much to the delight of connoisseurs who’ve been crying themseleves hoarse over lack of experimentation in Bengali cinema.

Moving beyond the golden triangle

Post the golden period of Satyajit Ray, MrinalSen and Rittwik Gahtak, the industry had been shying away from adapting to anything beyond mass demands. In the nineties, a cross current was introduced by directors like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghosh whose work not only made the audience sit up and take notice but cast performers such as Prosenjit Chatterjee and Debashree Roy in a completely new mould. Shedding their typical, oft repeated onscreen mannerisms, the heretofore mass actors had to reinvent themselves to bring a wide range of characters to life. Actors such as Prosenjit excelled and carved a new niche for himself beyond his usual fan following, making his presence more substantial in the Bengali film industry.

The first wave of change: Aparna Sen, Rituparno and Goutam

Aparna Sen, Rituparno and Goutam Ghosh’s work brought to light themes such as the struggles of a traditional bengali family trying to hold itself together against the backdrop of a festival (Utsab), a Schizophrenic ex-journalist who creates a fantasy world to escape the horrors in her life (15 Park Avenue), the musings of a poet going blind (Dekha) and so on. These works were inspiring a new brigade of directors in the making throughout the nineties who were ready to step in with their offerings as the millenium dawned.

 Charting new frontiers in the new millenium

The 2000s and the current decade is witness to the creation of some memorable works by these new directors such as Anjan Dutta, Atanu Ghosh, Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, Sekhar Das, Srijit Mukherjee, Koushik Ganguly, Qaushiq Mukherjee (Q) and Kamaleswar Mukherjee. Situations portrayed range from the musings of just a character to well detailed periodic films. Each director has his/her unique approach to telling a story, shaping vessels spanning about a couple of hours and pouring thoughts in them in orders of their own. The vessel is then ornamented by cinematography particular to visions and labeled for the film lover to appreciate.

 In a nutshell

This resurgence of Bengali cinema with its new-age narrative, exploration of character, detailed depiction of elements and their use to highlight moods and situations have come under scrutiny and been largely praised by critics and viewers from other parts of India and the world-participating in and often being the opening or closing acts of several international flm festivals. It is this recognition that’s making Hollywood production house Columbia Tristar take an active interest in funding Bengali cinema. For moviegoers though, it’s exciting times as more directors rise and shine and with that, spread the popularity of Bengali cinema far and w.