The Disgrace that Bengali Cinema Has Become…

Of late, there has been much hue and cry over the allegation of the Bengalis not visiting theatre halls to watch Bengali movies. Very often we have seen so called or even self-proclaimed stalwarts of the present Bengali film industry making appearances on social media, news channels and other avenues to give vent to their frustration. Whenever there has been a collision of their own movies with those of big Bollywood honchos like SRK, they have accused the Bollywood industry of ruining the prospects of the Bengali film industry, of eating up the larger pie by reserving most of the multiplex screens . Surprisingly, whenever they did not have any release of their own, they were the ones to visit the theatre halls to take a selfie with the big cutouts of the likes of SRK or Ranbir Kapoor or Salman Khan just to allude some publicity or to stay afloat. Their zeal to be clicked beside any Bollywood celebrity in any state event is something not to be missed as well. Such hypocrisy, I believe has been the cardinal reason for the downfall of the industry which once used to be a pioneer in the annals of filmmaking in India, owing to the craftsmanship of the doyens like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Tarun Majumdar, Tapan Sinha or even Rituparno Ghosh. Such downfall of the industry from the pinnacle of excellence is not accidental.

Lack of creativity in the sphere of art often dampens the prospect of the revival of a dying industry. One may counter this argument with the example of recent commercial turnaround of Bollywood. They may argue, do hugely successful movies like Pathan, Jawan, Gadar II or animal have anything to do with creativity? The answer is not affirmative, obviously. But, can anyone deny the fact that Bollywood has produced some of the finest movies of its history in the recent past, especially after the Covid pandemic? Don’t names like Sardar Udham, Bheed, Joram, 12th Fail( I found it a bit tacky though and not fully heartfelt), Gangubaai Kathiawadi impregnate similar conviction in you, too? Even well-made movies like ’83, Vadh, Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hain, Kathal, Qala, Salaam Venky either failed to raise much hype or bombed at the Box Office. Did the producers then start shouting from the rooftop to urge the audience to pay attention to their movies? Has any other industry suffered like Bollywood in the clasp of venomous propaganda like #BoycottBollywood? Did it stop making good movies because people chose over-the-top South Indian movies to their own products? How come then Jawan smashed all the records ever registered in the history of Bollywood in terms of commercial success in 2023? How come an actor like SRK who has perhaps been the biggest target of the ‘Conspiracy’ could overcome every obstacle and turn the tide in his favour despite all the odds? Do we have that mental frame to negate the hindrances on our path and turn the odds to our side? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The answer…

When I was watching Aparajito, I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe the good days are here again. But unnecessary political controversy over the movie ruined the chances of the movie being watched by more and more people, something that it truly deserved( Personally I have rated it as the best Bengali movie since Unishey April). Even the maker of the movie started behaving erratically in front of the media. Instead of promoting his own movie, he became a pawn of political imbroglio. ‘Eye for an eye’ took away the soul of Aparajito. Other Tollywood products since then have failed to even rouse my interest a bit. I am not a lingo-jingoist and have no reason to boast of the products of my land if they lack the merit. Yes, I have thoroughly enjoyed Jawan and laughed at overhyped yet nonsense Tolly products like Bagha Jatin, Dashom Avataar, Mitin Mashi. I did not expect to watch ‘Oppenheimer’ when I was watching Jawan and my expectation was overfilled. But seeing the hullabaloo of the Tollywood stars over the Bengali movies I named and some other and pitting it against my experience of watching those, I was dumbfounded. I believe some self-deprecating humour is what this ailing industry needs at the moment. Laugh at your own products, dump then in the bin boxes, think afresh and then try something new. A little piece of advice from this charlatan moviemaniac.

Over indulgence in political tug of war of the state and outside, unnecessarily inviting trouble for their movies by sidelining with any political agenda or even changing colours with the wind have exacerbated the crisis. Many of the big stars of the state have been tactful in eschewing any political allegiance. But even that has failed to raise the standard of the selection of the products they have marketed with so much zeal. The only saving grace at the darkest hour could have been an honest intention from the producers or the directors had they decided to embark on a mission of enchanting audiences by originality of the contents they were making. But they are far from being capable of delivering quality products for the mass or the class to enjoy. If one of the biggest directors of the state has done nothing original but copying from international movies ( Mostly Latin American though, cleverly bypassing the bandwagon, signature style eh!) , remaking old Bengali movies, can we still be jubilant about the industry or hopeful about its future? He along with others are imbecile to such an extent that they firmly believe usage of excessive dose of foul language in the movies will make the movies look cool and younger generation will flock to the halls and whistle at those scenes and they will start minting money by those below par products. Idiotic, isn’t it? When was the last time we watched an original Bengali screenplay with the honest intention of entertaining a full house of audience? When was the last time we watched a director working on an impressive story or screenplay without having parochial mindset in the hindsight? We are so much obsessed with cussing, we have forgot that Bernardo Bertolucci often criticized for promoting profanity in his films especially the much controversial Last Tango in Paris with Marlon Brando had offered cerebral gems like The Last Emperor or The Conformist. We have been obsessed by Bertoluccisque profanity but we have shied away from his creative brilliance. We have been fascinated by Tarantino’s gore but we have been oblivious of his maverick style of filmmaking. We have been praying for SRK’s massive stardom but we have been ignorant of the hardship he faced. Today we, the Bengalis, in terms of films are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites hiding our heads in sand and dreaming of overnight success ready to adorn our throne we already lost to the world far superior in cerebration, creation and celebration. Unless we start working on good scripts with honest intentions and not just seeing the box office buzzing, the days ahead could be even bleaker.

News Reporter

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