If you’re a fan of Ra.One and Rowdy Rathore type Bollywood movies wherein the actors fly through the sky most times like Superman, and would bring Spiderman and John Wayne to shame with their fighting and shooting skills; then probably this blog post wouldn’t make any sense. Otherwise read on. There was a time when I didn’t watch any Bengali movies for over a decade – since besides being extremely poor – in terms of story line (read – missing in most cases), characterization, story locations, choice of actors, and definitely acting; the movies simply sucked. Big time.
In the recent past, things have changed. For the better.
The two most famous and still enduring movements in cinematic history include – Italian Neorealism and later, the French New Wave cinema.
Italian Neorealism (Italian: Neorealismo) is a national film movement characterized by stories set amongst the poor and the working class, filmed on location, frequently using nonprofessional actors. Italian Neorealist films mostly contend with the difficult economic and moral conditions of post-World War II Italy, reflecting the changes in the Italian psyche and the conditions of everyday life: poverty and desperation (source: Wikipedia).
The works of Vittorio De Sica, Alberto Lattuada, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Giuseppe De Santis and Cesare Zavattini are considered to be classics of this era. In recent times, the Japanese New Wave which is highly influenced by Italian neorealism includes classical works from the likes of Takeshi Kitano – Sonatine (1993), Hana-bi (1997) and others. The Persian New Wave includes works from Jafar Panahi. Majid Majidi. These are the two most influential, critically acclaimed neorealistic post-revolution film makers to come out of Iran. Majid Majidi’s “The Song of Sparrows (2008)“, “Children of Heaven (1997)” and “The Color of Paradise (1999)” are classics.
The second major wave is the French New Wave.
The New Wave (French: La Nouvelle Vague) was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of classical cinematic form and their spirit of youthful iconoclasm. “New Wave” is an example of European art cinema.Many also engaged in their work with the social and political upheavals of the era, making their radical experiments with editing, visual style and narrative part of a general break with the conservative paradigm. Using portable equipment and requiring little or no set up time, the New Wave way of film making presented a documentary type style. The films exhibited direct sounds on film stock that required less light. Filming techniques included fragmented, discontinuous editing, and long takes. The combination of objective realism, subjective realism, and authorial commentary created a narrative ambiguity in the sense that questions that arise in a film are not answered in the end (source: Wikipedia).
Now coming back to the recent few movies from Bengal , 2008 – 2012 – the directors have managed to break away from the Ra.One and Rowdy Rathode types and establish themselves as a separate faction. The stories are completely of the highest quality of art-form, yet, the movies have managed to achieve commercial success of the likes of mainstream cinema. Since most of them have been critically acclaimed in the West as well; even if you don’t understand the Bengali language; you could always buy the DVD or Blue-Ray discs of these and watch them with sub-titles.
The best ones include –
- Hemlock Society (2012): Director: Srijit Mukherji, Actors: Koel Mullick, Parambrata Chatterjee, Rupa Ganguly, Deepankar De
- Bhooter Bhabishyat (2012): Director: Anik Dutta, Actors: Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Parambrata Chatterjee, Paran Bandyopadhyay, Swastika Mukherjee, George Baker
- Bedroom (2012): Director: Mainak Bhaumik, Actors: Abir Chatterjee, Rudranil Ghosh, Ushashie Chakraborty, Parno Mitra, Paoli Dam
- Baishe Srabon (2011): Director: Srijit Mukherji, Actors: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Raima Sen, Abir Chatterjee, Gautam Ghosh
- Autograph (2010): Director: Srijit Mukherji, Actors: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Nandana Sen
- Madly Bangalee (2009): Director: Anjan Dutt, Actors: Anjan Dutt
- Chalo Let’s Go (2008): Director: Anjan Dutt, Actors: Ritwick Chakrabarty, Rudraneel Ghosh, Saswata Chatterjee and Parambrata Chatterjee
- The Bong Connection (2006): Director: Anjan Dutt, Actors: Raima Sen, Shayan Munshi, Parambrata Chatterjee
A few have of course said – the movies though have a distinct art-form flavor; and heavily influenced by Italian Neorealistic touches; yet, is kinda mixture of all and doesn’t do enough justice to the cinematic art-form. In fact, eminent Malayali filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan dismisses the phenomenon as a ‘compromise’. “I cannot appreciate the trend. It is a compromise on the part of the filmmakers. They are doing something which is a submission to the demands of the market,” Gopalakrishnan told PTI during a recent visit to the city (source). I do agree – since watching a Japanese New Wave movie like Sonatine (1993) and then watching a recent Bengali New wave movie like Bedroom (2012), one can make out the differences – the Japanese movie is purely artistic stripped down to its bare form (heavily influenced by the Italian Neorealistic movement); yet the Bengali movie though on the same lines, possesses commercial aspects to make the movie appeal to everyone. Thus, the critics are right after all.
As for myself, am extremely elated to watch a few good movies from Bengal finally. Much is expected from the new generation, especially the land of Satyajit Roy & Ritwik Ghatak. If you love watching quality movies, definitely watch these above-mentioned 8 movies. You would surely love them.
PS: Let me know if I MISSED any in the list.