When content is the star

— Ratnottama Sengupta

Corporate Slide6The 1st Hyderabad Bengali Film Festival was, like every other first, a learning experience for the hosts as much as the guests. So this year, from the word go, we knew precisely what and who we wanted to bring to you. The 2nd edition of HBFF is, consequently, bigger in many ways.

In 2014, you had seen ApurPanchali, Jatiswar, Jodi Love Dile Na Prane, Meghe Dhaka Tara, Nayantarar Din Ratri, Phoring, Rupkatha Noy, and Take One. Films by many of those directors – Koushik Ganguly, Sekhar Das, Sudeshna Roy, Abhijit Guha and Mainak Bhaumik – are here again. What is more, many more of the directors, producers, and actors – Churni Ganguly, Bauddhayan Mukherji, Ravi Sharma and Navratan Jhawar, to name a few - are amidst you, encouraged by reports of your enthusiastic participation and looking forward to the energy of your vociferous support.

Like last year, we bring to you one film that has not yet released to the paying public in Bengal. Additionally, Nirbashito has in its cap the National Award for the Best Bengali Film. Chhotoder Chhobi also picked up a Silver Lotus for the Best Film on a Social Issue. It is rare indeed for a husband (Koushik Ganguly) and wife (Churni Ganguly in her directorial debut) to independently win awards. But for an aficionado, the most rewarding part is that both the films that are so different from each other, uniquely focus on experiences of two sections of individuals who are integral to our society and yet so distant from our consciousness.

Come to think of it, it’s like peeping through the two ends of a telescope. One end magnifies and brings distant objects within our field of vision; the other end transforms larger-than-life presences into ‘normal’ beings. Like the two ends of a parenthesis, these two films bring the stories of lives in exile, and lives of social outsiders – midgets, in this case - within the realm of our empathy.

Likewise, Jogajog and Kadambari bring to us the national Bard, through one story authored by him, and another scripted around him. Both offer us a dissection of the upper crust that Tagore knew so intimately as both the films take a critical look at marriages Indian style – why they work, and when they don’t – through two strong willed, intellectually accomplished women who lived and loved way ahead of their times.

It may not be a coincidence that two other films in HBFF 2015 – Bitnun and Family Album - also dwell upon the institution, only to discover the transformations marriage is being subjected to in the contemporary context. Though structured as comedies, they make us ponder over faultlines like extramarital affairs, or help us understand that, when in love, sex is just another gender.

Finally, Nirbaak and Teen Kahon are linked not only through their content but also their structure. Both are in the hyperlink format, and both take us on a merry-go-round of emotions as they explore that kaleidoscopic experience called Love. One explores love beyond not only gender but even beyond human existence, between animate and inanimate too. The other makes us question – is that Love, or Obsession?

At the end of these three days, you will be as equipped as the eminent speakers who will discuss the future of Cinema when its Content is the Star.

 

  • RatnottamaSengupta has written this note as the Curator of the festival in 2015.