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Millennium Post

Swinging Tollywood

‘Movies have the power of portraying new sensibilities, where the division of cinema is blurred and magic is created on the screen’ – Sandip Ray (son of director Satyajit Ray).

The words ‘Lights! Camera! Action!’ transports us into the black and white era where stalwarts like Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Soumitra Chatterjee ruled the screens. Directors like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen never failed to give intellectual stimulation to the audience through their unique stories.

That era has passed and Bengali cinema has been redefined after a spate of exceedingly mediocre movies. Filmmakers like Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen, late Rituparno Ghosh, Subrata Sen and Srijit Mukherjee have given Tollywood a new lease of life on the 70mm by showcasing stories with a fresh angle. Foreign locations, elaborate song and dance routines, and stylised sequences seems to be the trend now.

Aparna Sen, one of the finest actress and director of the industry, says, ‘Glitz and glamour is shifting focus from the storyline of the movie and leaving behind very little impression. Although glam value has become an important factor for commercial movies, they won’t have the same response in the urban areas. The presentation of the movie matters at the end of the day and not the subjects. Even though commercial movies are more appealing to the youth, a distinct genre of movies is also getting a favourable response. You can’t make a movie just for the sake of making a movie; it has to sell a story. Certain contemporary films are getting a lot of recognition but they still don’t get much reaction from the rural side. Double language versions of many films are prevalent but in terms of overall acceptance it’s still hard. Most importantly people should go to the theatres to enjoy the movie properly instead of downloading them from pirated sources.’

While the world of Bollywood has become the face of Indian cinema for various reasons including box office figures and circulation, there was much more to Indian cinema than just Bollywood which has failed to make a mark, feel some of the leading lights of Bengali cinema.

‘A consortium must be created with help from leading industrial houses to help Bengali cinema survive competition from Bollywood. It also needs better and more theatres, a responsible and proactive producers’ body apart from the audience support. There’s hardly any planning that goes into the vital aspects of marketing and distributing a Bengali film. Unlike in the past, a film doesn’t start attracting audience from the second or third weeks. The initial collections must be good,’ feels superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee.

National Award winner for Jatishwar, director Srijit Mukherjee stresses on the importance of expanding the market for Bengali films. Bangladesh, he said, could be roped as a territory. ‘Rather than always going for foreign location for songs, let’s try and make good Bengali films together in the state itself. This can help expand our audience-base which will be mutually beneficial. Contemporary Bengali cinema should ideally cover the entire range from deadpan humour to boisterous fun,’ he added.

‘Bengali cinema got a new direction in 2010,’ adds Srijit Mukherjee. ‘It moved from content-oriented to form-oriented narrative. Not only the story but also the stylish way in which it unfolds now matters.’ Citing the success of Shukno Lanka, Autograph, Moner Manush and Arekti Premer Galpo, he says, ‘The audience has now come to a point where layered films are accepted.’
There’s more than a whiff of change blowing through Tollygunge. The class’ cinema is drawing the masses and the mainstream has fortunately acquired some class and Bollywood may finally have some competition from the East. Despite big banner releases featuring Khans and Kumars, Kolkatans are queuing up for Bhooter Bhobishyot, Jatishwar, Moner Manush, Gorasthaney Sabdhan, Arekti Premer Galpo, Autograph.....even movies like Proloy, Chander Pahar or Challenge.

Raj Chakraborty, the director of movies like  Proloy, Challenge, Prem Amar, says, ‘I make movies for the youth primarily because I can connect to them more. My mantra is entertainment; I showcase the entire package in my films from fighting sequences to foot-tapping songs. My crew members are also young and they help me with fresh ideas and different angles.’
Sensitive content projected with the right sensibilities can be the norm in mainstream too if originality scores over the xerox copies of Tamil or Telugu hits. For now, when an inspired Raj Chakraborty remakes Gamyam into Dui Prithibi featuring stars like Jeet and Dev, he essentially revisits world classics like Easy Rider and Motorcycle Diaries.

Director of Ramdhanu, Shiboprasad Mukherjee says, ‘After Ray we could only come down. Now we’re moving to a form-based cinema. That is far more challenging. And that is also making Bengali cinema more global. Earlier we felt proud when Buddhadeb Dasgupta won an award at Toronto. Now we feel proud when we walk out of a local theatre. This will shape Bengali cinema of the future.’
Bengali cinema has broken out of its regional straight jacket to carve a global identity. By creating a pan–Indian identity, Bengali cinema is slowly moving forward by rejecting conventional formulae and giving a new, peppy touch to each film. Perhaps now we can safely say that Tollywood is gradually evolving without the moral dependence on the yesteryears and there is much more to come.
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