Why HBFF? – An experience

— Basundhara Ghosh

hbffexp_1What does one miss when he/she leaves his/her hometown? A lot of things actually…starting from home, family, friends, familiar food, favourite hangouts…the list is endless. But the change in language is probably the first thing that unsettles someone who has shifted base within a multi-lingual country such as India. And this holds especially true for Bengalis who take immense pride in the richness of their mother-tongue and are also perceived to be not great speakers of the National language.

So after spending three decades of my life in the Kolkata cocoon, when I shifted to Hyderabad in March 2015, my pretty good oratory/reading skills in Hindi notwithstanding, I felt like an alien. It was love that brought me to this city as my fiancé (now husband) is settled here since 2009. But my greater love for everything Bengali and the major missings that started happening made me constantly blame him for wreaking the so called havoc in my life by uprooting me from where I truly belong. It was (and still is) so frustrating to not being able to read the names of films on posters of Telugu movies. Why cannot they mention it in English as well?! One just should not torture a film loving Bengali like that! It is plain felony. It does not matter that most of us do not know the language, but at least we can read the names on the multiple posters that we are sure to see every day while going to work or otherwise.

In despair, I began to miss the Bengali film posters, even the cringe worthy likes of the 90’s such as ‘Beder Meye Jyotsna’ and ‘Baba Keno Chakor’! I started to mentally name the Telugu flicks with Bengali titles and it is still a time pass of sorts during my daily commute. So when I chanced upon the advertisement of Hyderabad Bengali Film Festival on Facebook last year, it was like a mirage, which actually turned out to be an oasis in the desert! I was overjoyed to finally find an outlet for the pent up exasperation of 3-4 months. However, as it turned out, that exhilaration was just the tip of the iceberg as looking back I can say that going to the HBFF2015 has been one of the best decisions of my ‘social’ life.

My equally film-loving Bengali husband and I decided to watch all the 8 films in two days. At the venue, Prasad Film Laboratories Pvt. Ltd, we were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a Nandan-esque atmosphere of the Kolkata International Film Festival, albeit in a smaller scale. But the warmth and excitement was no less, in fact it was more, given that the festival was only in its second edition and the place was full of eager Bengali volunteers and viewers. The earnestness and efficiency of the organizers in managing a smooth event could best be compared with those of the Kolkata ‘barowari Durga Pujo’ committee members who want to make sure no one misses out on Mahashtamir Anjali and Bhog! Even before the first film was screened, I was glad we went.

When in a foreign land, every Bengali you meet is like bumping into a long lost friend. Thanks to Facebook page of "Bengalis in Hyderabad", many people like me who were still then not officially part of the association, but had interacted virtually were thrilled to meet in person. And you may not be talking to your neighbor when in Bengal, but when in a Bengali gathering away from home, people do not think twice before striking up a conversation. I was on the giving as well as receiving end of it, and thoroughly enjoyed conversing with so many people in the sweetest language that I know.

‘Adda’ is ‘bongo jiboner ongo’! What may be frowned upon as idle chatter by other communities is actually intellectual stimulation for Bengalis. So while in between the shows there were interactive sessions between the films’ attending cast & crew and viewers, at times it felt like the para Bijoya Sammilani.

And when a place is swarming with film-loving Bengalis, can food be far behind? Asambhab! At HBFF, ‘rath dekha kola becha’, rather ‘khawa’ , both happens with equal indulgence.

Apprehension is quite justified. But some risks are worth it. At the least, you will go back after watching a carefully curated list of films, some even prior to their screenings in Bengal itself. At the most, you will start off a beautiful relationship with other fellow Bengalis who are by choice or compulsion staying away from a long list of things they love. The "Bengalis in Hyderabad" lives up to the Bengali adage of ‘baro mashe tero parbon’ with a wide gamut of events and activities, which has something for everyone.

I cannot wait for 1st July. This year I intend to be there right from the inauguration to the closing ceremony and everything in between. Oh, and of course there will be many photographers waiting to capture the wonderful moments.


11249639_10153019976200163_4277401532819052999_nBasundhara is a Business Operations Analyst in a leading MNC in Hyderabad. However, she has a rich background in media industry. She has been into acting, anchoring, production and direction for various media houses in Kolkata. She has a brief sting with Shree Venkatesh Films and acted in a 2013 movie, Rupkotha Noy. Educated in communication & journalism, she loves to write and a serious movie buff. Salman Khan is her favourite and can still fight for a ticket in first-day-first-show.