From classic to contemporary: the main modern Bengali directors
Tollywood explores untold stories about a new generation of Calcuttans
September 18, 2021
The revival of the Bengali film industry after the 1990s saw a plethora of critically acclaimed films that won several national awards, with contemporary directors often focusing on solving sensitive or rarely exposed issues in West Bengal society. , but with universal appeal.
Bengali films may have established themselves globally for the first time when Satyajit Ray’s film Pather Panchali (1955) was critically acclaimed and won several awards, both local and international, including the prestigious award for best human document at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. The feat inspired entries and victories from other Bengali directors over the years. years, such as Mrinal Sen. However, the Bengali film industry in India, also known as “Tollywood”, is often seen as a regional success only, with its success fading. since the end of the Golden Age in the 1970s.
Since the 1990s, however, the industry has seen an impressive revival, with acclaimed directors leading the way like Rituparno Ghosh, who has dominated Bengali cinema with hits like National Award-winning. Unishe April (1994), until his death in 2013. Contemporary and modern Bengali directors have also made strides in the Indian film industry. Some have enjoyed huge artistic and commercial success entering Bollywood, like that of Ayan Mukerji Wake up Sid (2009) and Shoojit Sircar with the hit movie Piku (2015).
Many young Bengali directors have focused on throwing cinematic spotlights on cities like Kolkata and telling simple, relatable family or relationship stories that allow a wider audience to be exposed to the unique nuances of Bengali cinema, proving that although often focusing on regional tales, they are universal in their appeal.
One of the most prolific and renowned directors in Bengali cinema today, Srijit Mukherji, made his first feature film, Autograph, in 2010, a tribute to Satyajit Ray’s 1966 film. Nayak. It has been featured at international events like the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the London Indian Film Festival and has won 41 awards. Seven-time National Film Award winner, Mukherji’s films range from quirky realism to commercial cauldrons. Some of his best work has been in the thriller genre, like Chotushkone (2014), which tells the story of four directors linked by an unknown producer, coming together to make short stories about death, and Baishe Shrabon (2011), on journalists and police chasing a vengeful psychopath who uses verses from Bengali poems. Jaatishwar (2014), a musical drama and perhaps the most critically acclaimed film of his career, for example, tells the story of 19eBengali poet of the century Anthony Firingee, appears distinctly in parallel time zones.
Mukherji’s talent most often lies in his unconventional, content-driven storytelling and unique storylines. Also known for his exceptional writing, one of his most recent projects has been a foray into OTT with another nod to Ray, a Netflix web series of the same name. Ray (2021) examines Satyajit Ray’s legendary tales through a contemporary lens, weaving dark elements of Mukheriji’s signature throughout the stories.
Perhaps best known for his films that address crucial but controversial questions around human sexuality, Kaushik Ganguly is another multi-award winning Bengali director. His 2017 film Nagakirtan starred popular Bengali actor Riddhi Sen as a trans woman from Bengal, whose romance with a Pied Piper is tested by the cruel disapproval of society. The musical score that immediately caught the attention of viewers was praised and the film was praised by critics for expertly portraying the life of intersex Indians in a country where the subject is rarely discussed in mainstream cinema. , praising the “sensitive and empathetic commentary on deeply rooted cis-normativity society,” and won a Special Jury Prize at the 65th National Film Awards.
After completing his film training at Cornell University in the United States, Suman Ghosh directed his first feature film, Podokkhep (No Steps) in 2008. The film, which won 2 national awards, stars Soumitra Chatterjee and Nandita Das as an elderly father and daughter, who navigate the changing dynamics and unusual bond of their relationship.
Ghosh broke more barriers with his 2012 lead actor Mithun Chakraborty, Noble Chor, which had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival and the London Film Festival. The film, which stands out in this list as a comedy, tells a fictional tale of the Nobel Medal stolen from Rabrindranath Tagore, entertaining audiences with the hilarious antics of a poor farmer, Bhanu, who meets crooks and other characters. strange people who struggle to exploit it. It offers a skillfully interwoven juxtaposition with the realism of contemporary India and the grim reality of a man with a simple dream of being able to give his son a better future and improve his lot in life.
Aditya Vikram Sengupta
Aditya Vikram Sengupta is one of the new Bengali directors in the industry, who released his first directorial company, Asha Jaoar Majhe or “Labor of Love” in 2014. It won the Indira Gandhi National Film Award for Best First Feature and premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, which Sengupta had described as “steeped in Indian idiosyncrasies, and in particular of Calcutta ”. In a medium that often relies heavily on the virtuoso of a well-written script, the aptly titled film is devoid of any dialogue, but ably recounts the daily struggles of a lower-middle-class Bengali couple in Kolkata as they go about their business. seemingly mundane day, only meeting once in the entire film.
His next film, Once upon a time in Calcutta, was first screened in Venice in 2021, becoming one of only two South Asian films to be represented. Sengupta’s famous attention to detail, which stood out in his 2014 film, was employed here, and he put his actors through two years of workshops to prepare for their roles. The film will comment on the effect of the post-communist and rapid urbanization of the city in conflict with the penchant of the inhabitants to cling to the glory of the past, told through the eyes of a bereaved mother.