Bangla New Wave I: The Urbanite

Tollywood of East is back in the game. After a drought of almost three decades that started in the 70s and continued till the mid 2ks, the Bangla film industry has found an identity once more. This new-found identity may not be as emphatic as the era of Ray, Ghatak or Sen, but it is an identity nonetheless.

In this section I will concentrate on the films that have been made over the last 8-10 years keeping in mind the young and middle-aged urban multiplex hopping populace by and large. Not that there have been no aberration to this rule but on a generic basis, films were/are being made by and large for ‘the Urbanite’.

Ajnan Dutt: As far as I can see Anjan Dutt is the progenitor of the genre. Starting with The Bong Connection in 2006 Mr. Dutt went on to make a series of films on the same lines at least sensibility-wise with little variation. Bong Connection told the story of two twenty-somethings of Bengali origin and the culture shocks that await them when one comes to India from the US to find his roots and the other goes to the US for better prospects.

Dutt went on to make Chalo Let’s Go, a travelogue set in the Darjeeling Hills (Dutt’s ‘second home’); Bow Barracks Forever which told the story of a small community of Anglo-Indians trying to keep their identity intact in the face of realty boom; Madly Bangalee, a tale of four young friends from varied backgrounds bitten by the Bangla Rock bug; Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbona, an aging musician’s turbulent relation with his young prodigy and the most recent semi-autobiographical Dutta vs. Dutta.

This last film gives one an insight of Dutt’s cinematic portrayals viz. alienation and identity crisis. His characters who belong to different social strata are mostly disjointed and flawed and more often than not eccentric. I cannot say I am a huge fan of his films but they definitely have a refreshing perspective and never try to be moralistic. Dutt also successfully revived Bengal’s other great detective: Byomkesh Bakshi.

Kaushik Ganguly: Out of all the directors who I intend to mention here, Kaushik Ganguly is indeed my clear favourite. Not as hyped as Dutt, Ganguly continues to make likeable movies any average Kolkattan or for that matter any city-dweller can relate to across all ages. Laptop connects the lives of a few individuals in a tale of fate and human relations, Rang Milanti is a contemporary take on ‘swayamvar’ as I see it, Jackpot is a sweet romance (perhaps taking a cue from Muskaan starring Revathy) set in the backdrop of reality TV.

Ganguly has also offered more serious films such Arekti Premer Golpo (about transgender identity), Shunyo E Buke (the comfort level a woman has with her physicality and how it affects a relation) and the more recent Shabdo (about a foley artist’s decreasing grip on reality). Sadly I am yet to watch all three.

Mainak Bhaumik: He could well be Dutt’s heir. With a Bengali sense of wit and quirk he makes very relatable films for the Westernised young Bengali. Starting with Aamra that was shot with a handheld camera Mainak came up with Bedroom after a six-year long hiatus in 2012 and followed it up with Maach, Mishti & More and Ami Aar Girlfriends (touted as Bangla’s first chick flick) in quick succession. Apart from Bedroom, I have thus far enjoyed his films for the confusions, vulnerability and the distinct South Kolkata flavor!

Srijit Mukherji: Not a great fan of this man. But keeping personal bias aside, one must give him credit for his three-film old career as director. His best undoubtedly is the taut thriller 22 e Srabon followed by Hemlock Society and Autograph. Honestly, I expected Hemlock Society to be a more mature film but then it did not disappoint me entirely either. Yet again keeping the Urbanite in mind, the film depicts the frustrations of a girl who seemingly has it all and yet wants to end her life over trifle reasons till she meets ostensibly more pained people and learns a lesson in life. Autograph was a remake of the ray classic Nayak and if one doesn’t compare it with the master’s work, it does pass off as a fairly good film.

Sandip Ray: Perhaps it is a little debatable to include him here but then hell! This is my list. Not only has he kept the legend of Felu Da alive and kicking, he has also made a few other films worth a mention. Most memorable among his other efforts has to be Nishijapon. It deftly brings to celluloid the inherently selfish and animalistic instinct of all human beings. Other films to his credit include Hit List and the long forgotten Phatik Chand which I wish to see some day.

Aniruddha Roy-Chowdhury: Much like Srijit, he too is effectively three-film old in the industry. But all his films which are tender human dramas are rather universal in their appeal although the characters most definitely are representatives of the upper-class sophisticates living in the city. Antaheen, Anuronon and Aparajita Tumi despite being slow paced and a little too polished appeals to the quiet and contemplative viewer.

Others: In the last few years quite a few films have been made by new directors. Notable among these are Cross Connection, Chaplin, Bhooter Bhabishyat, Icche, Egaro, Muktodhara, Hawa Bodol, Nobel Chor, Teen Yari Kotha and many more. Some I have seen, some I have not. All these films represent the ‘New Wave’ in an emphatic manner. They touch upon social, individual and political issues in a satirical, metaphorical or poignant manner. In spite of veteran filmmaker Adoor GopalaKrishnan’s verdict of Bangla films not really being up to expectations, I am of the opinion that a new era has indeed been ushered in and is here to stay.

In the next chapter of Bangla New Wave intend to cover films which are parallel and akin to Art House cinema.

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