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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ani & Bonnie: Talking Tolly

Hello.... here's a bit of letting in....
for those who have been complaining that there hasn't been much of the friendly banter of late....
get into this candid conversation about films, what else, but actually trying to gain a perspective on the Bangla cinema exclusively.
For the uninitiated: Ani is what my friends call me (short for my first name, Anindo) and Bonnie is a dear friend (well a lot more than that, and that's all that you would get in the name of an intro for Bonnie) and a fellow film-buff, or a film junkie!

Ani: Hey, don't you think that things have been looking up for Bangla films of late? I felt surely lucky to get treated to such diverse yet engaging & watchable films this year as 'Antaheen', 'Jackpot', 'Madly Bangali' and, of course, 'Angshumaaner Chhobi' (the best Bangla film of 2009 according to me)...
Bonnie: I cannot sound so optimistic, dear! Though the year began good with 'Antaheen', 'Jackpot', 'Cross Connection' & 'Madly Bangali', most of the films seen later were duds! Only 'Angshumaaner Chhobi' being the exceptionally good offering later in the year.

Ani: Well, the Bangla films do suffer from qualitative mediocrity because of a lot of things, though there is no dearth of talent here in Tollygunge.
Bonnie: The compulsions that the makers are often subjected to are too weirdly traditional.

Ani: What do you mean exactly?
Bonnie: The weird wondrous traditions? Oh there are a plenty, for instance take Prosenjit considered the numero uno in Tollygunge, as if he is the next best thing after the rosogollas of Bengal..... everybody goes gaga now that he backs up supposedly substantial films after having clenched his teeth and flexed his muscles, mostly the facial ones, in umpteen trashy potboilers.
Ani: This year I am sure you saw him in 'Houseful', what you would call a pseudo art-house flick. Prosenjit did deliver what was asked of him. No?
Bonnie: Well, he did.... but wasn't that expected? However, I fell asleep watching that indulgent director Bappaditya Banerjee torturing us, as he would like to torture his critics, with such a boring film!

Ani: I was lucky to see Prosenjit in a gem of a performance in a Buddhadev Dasgupta film, that I saw on home video this year, it's called 'Swapner Din'. Seen it?
Bonnie: Ya, some time back it was released in select theaters during the Pujas. Prosenjit was good in it. I am not saying he is a bad actor, I never said that - he was fantastic in 'Utsab', 'Chokher Baali', 'Dosar' and 'Khela' too, all Rituparno films - don't forget that link..... ha ha ha...
Ani: Did u see some of the new-age films of the year, like 'Bishh' and 'Risk'? I missed seeing both.
Bonnie: I was not so lucky! I found 'Bishh' engaging, but it hardly makes the cut as a decent watch. And the less said about Riingo's 'Risk' is better; it is so moronic on a technically competent director's part to rip-off a Hollywood thriller like 'Cellular'!

Ani: Okay, got your point.... but originality is hardly valued in Bangla films these days. Look at the double successes that Raj Chakraborty had with his 'Challenge' and 'Prem Aamaar', both of which I saw in theaters and saw the mass-connect that is enjoyed by Raj. I might not have approved of the content, but I had to say that this is a director with panache, after all the controversy over a silly song from 'Challenge' (Bhajo gourango....) and the way he gave his sound-bytes on umpteen television channels on the same....
Bonnie: How a young, energetic director like Raj makes silly potboilers is not hard to guess.... it is the lure of the lucre, boss..... but what beats me is that guy's emulation of Subhash Ghai in being in front of the camera in every movie of his! Well, he is at least better looking that Mr Ghai.
Ani: Both Raj & Subhash Ghai had one thing in common, a big fat ambition to be a hero in films.... hence the cameos. But on another note, what do you think of the first Bangla blockbuster that had the gloss thanks to 'digital intermedite' technology? I am talking about 'Dujone'....
Bonnie: Did you see it?
Ani: No, I could not....
Bonnie: It is absolute rubbish. Dev has his limitations as a hero, if you ask me.

Ani: But isn't he the next big thing in Tollygunge after Prosenjit & Jeet?
Bonnie: If you had seen Jeet in this year's 'Saat Paake Baandha' and 'Neel Aakasher Chandni', you would know why Dev still has a long way to go as far as acting is concerned.
Ani: You seem to have a personal bias for Jeet, eh? I am yet to see the two Jeet hits of the year, will surely try to catch them on home videos later.
Bonnie: Well, you may say that I am partial to Jeet. That guy surely worked his way up, and has been able to maintain a stable position as far as commercial viability is concerned. And the Jeet-Koel pairing is truly good. The films would have done much better had it not been for the 'Paran Jaaye Joliya Re' craze that was fanned by the fact that the filmmakers got sued (ashamedly, a first for Bangla films!) for having copied 'Namaste London'.

Ani: Okay, now tell me which was the worst Bangla film seen by you this year?
Bonnie: Cannot name just one, dear. There are so many of them..... as I get to see a lot more of those meaningless, formulaic films than you... the films with those silly imports from Mumbai (be they B, C or Z grade starlets, we have such a fetish for them it seems!), the sillier stunts, and stupidly lifted plotlines.... the majority of the Bangla films are a mess, STILL!!!!! The worst I have seen this year, or should I term it the most gruesome torture of the year that one could be subjected to, was 'Phire Pete Chaai' starring Vivek Trivedi & Arpita Mukherjee. However, there's this one film that I would like to make a mention of which I was heartbroken to see... and that's 'Hitlist' by Sandip Ray, I must have expected a lot more from such a fine filmmaker. It seems he made the mumbo-jumbo pulpy saga having been completely clueless about what he was doing; it left me with a 'neither here - nor there' feel.
Ani: I know what you mean. I too was disappointed by 'Hitlist'. Sandip Ray is a very good filmmaker on his own, and one need not always compare his work with that of his father, Satyajit Ray - the maestro, the legend. I think he needs to be backed by credible producers who can help him realise his creative vision.
Bonnie: That's a far cry, 'cause Tollygunge is always dependent on the non-Bengali 'moneybags', that's as deplorable a tradition as the trend to refer to our film industry by the name of Tollywood, a christening in poor taste!
Ani: That reminds me of the worst Bangla film that I happened to see just a few days back, on VCD..... it's 'Trishna', a Bangla version of the steamy flick 'Jism' (which itself was 'inspired' by a Hollywood product) and it gave me nightmares.....
Bonnie: Yuck! How could you sit through it? It had made me cringe, I remember.

Ani: I had known about it being universally panned.... but could not resist the temptation of seeing Rituparna do the dare-bare routine. Ha ha ha... Well, it definitely has some shock value. Before I end the chat, I would like to say something positive. I just remembered seeing a film that was not exactly in the A-plus league but is worth a watch... it was the pleasant surprise of the year for me, I am referring to the film 'Kaaler Raakhaal'.
Bonnie: I missed out on that? How was Parambrata in it?

Ani: Parambrata was excellent, and so was Rudraneel. I thought that the film by Shekhar Das would be a propagandist bore, but it is eminently watchable, a fine story, fine musical score, and some fine performances.
Bonnie: By the way, I hated Rituparno's 'Sab Charitro Kaalponik', with Bipasha Basu, Prosenjit and Jisshu in the cast. And judging by your review of that movie (in mouthshut.com) it is evident that you did not approve much of it either. Though I think that the whole execution was wrong. The dubbing of Bipasha's voice by Sohini definitely takes the cake for drowning it completely.

Ani: I agree. I am anxious to see 'Kaalbela' which I missed seeing when it released....
Bonnie: Goutam Ghose's 'Kaalbela' was good enough, but it again had a lot more to chew because of the extensive serialsed version that was originally planned for television and was heavily edited for the big-screen release. Paoli Daam is here to stay though, she is a brilliant actress.

Ani: What are the things you are looking forward to in the coming year, as far as Bangla films are concerned?
Bonnie: I am greedy. I am hopeful. I hope for the best. But I am also a bit cynical, when I say that it is really hard to make things change for the better in Bangla films. I am hopeful to see a lot more fresh talents both on and off screen. And the big-ticket release that I am waiting for is Aparna Sen's 'Iti Mrinalini'.

[Pics, from top: stills from 'Jackpot', 'Antaheen', 'Houseful', 'Hitlist', 'Challenge', 'Bishh', 'Trishna', 'Kaaler Raakhaal' and 'Sab Charitro Kalponik'; and the promising actress Paoli Dam; and, a scene from the film 'Madly Bangali'.
Pics courtesy: Google images]
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mehul said...

3 Cheers, dude!!!
Awesome post.
Keep up the good work!:)

pallavi said...

There were a few Bengali movies in 2009 that were quite satisfactory, and meant good news for viewers. But the general trend of downslide in Bengali films, as observed in the candid conversation, is still very much rampant.
Originality takes a backseat - be it for a campy biggie like 'Paran Jaaye Joliya Re' or a so called meaningful film like 'Dwando'.
If one asks 'Why do some remakes work and some don't?' - there is no definite answer to it.... it is difficult to really ascertain what will make a film click, but the marketing of Bengali films have surely advanced in the last few years.
The huge draws at the box-office like 'Challenge' or 'Prem Aamaar' might drawing sniggers from the allegedly sophisticated but are able to woo the masses with their manic energy and lowbrow cocktail of melodrama & action. It in turn makes the directors & producers who want to grab the maximum number of eye-balls believe that infesting a hit Southie script with street-smart dialogues, foot-tapping numbers, charming locales (Singapore & Malaysia being the current favorites) and adding an overall gloss in terms of production values will spell the magic mantra - SUPERHIT! And so the rut continues.

Siddhu said...

A nice piece. I agree with most of the views expressed here. I am sorry to have missed some of the good films of the year. A big drawback for Bengali releases is that their presence at the multiplexes is minimal. That makes many like me miss out on some films that could have been checked out otherwise. Hence left with no other option but to wait for the video releases.
I found Cross Connection, Angshumaner Chhobi, and Madly Bangalee to be quite refreshing, and felt that Brake Fail, MullickBaari and
Box 1313 could have been much, much better.

Satyaki said...

Sometimes the bad script ruins it all despite the good intentions of the makers.... and that is indeed understandable, but I wonder why most of the Tollywood (sic) products are utterly unwatchable because the makers aren't honest themselves. When shall we see the emergence of the young filmmakers who will not hesitate to make an honest film without compromising their creative integrity..... when????
I sincerely hope that solid marketing strategies get the quality Bangla films promoted well. At least the films should all deserve a chance to be seen, whether they get lapped up or rejected by is a different issue.
Films like 'Cross Connection' and 'Angshumaaner Chhobi' found the support of the viewers this year, unlike some other poorly marketed films like 'Bonobhumi', '10:10', and 'Mullickbaari' in the recent past. Among the potboilers, I loved watching 'Olot Paalot' because of the bindaas portrayal by Rishi, a newcomer (he has acted in multiple Oriya films, and made his debut in 'Tomaar Jonno'). And the surprise of the year was Tota Roy Chowdhury who gave an excellent performance in 'Angshumaaner Chhobi' and in 'Hit-List'. Among the actresses, Paoli Dam was the toast of the year, while old-timers like Indrani Halder, Rupa Ganguly and Debasree Roy still made their presence felt.

Aniruddh said...

An enjoyable post.
Thank you, Anindo.
It really makes good reading.
I think, this year Tollygunge was blessed with the maximum number of releases in a long time. The overall quality left much to be desired, of course. Even good filmmakers can come up with a turkey now & then. There is a lot of pressure after all for them to deliver. I am looking forward to catching Tapan Sinha's last film (conceived by him), completed by Raja Sen, Teenmurthy, and the new-age product Chha-e Chhuti.
The large number of releases has also meant that there was a scramble for the theaters. Thus, many films not getting a fair deal at wide exhibition. One of the surprises, however, has been the director Sanghamitra Choudhury, who has come up with one bad film after another, in rapid succession; Premer Phaande Kakatua, Jeena, and Rahasya - the Bhoutik (the funniest title ever!!!!) were all unwatchable but marketed with great gusto!

Imran said...

A cool candid conversation indeed. Very different from the typical postings on this blog. It is sad but true that though much is being said & written in the media about the glorious revival of Bengali films, apart from the silly bug-budgeted productions that can afford to make the hero & the heroine prance around in foreign locales instead of doing so in North Bengal or in Digha or Bakkhaali, nothing much has changed. The single screen theaters have hardly been revamped, and the majority of middle-class elite still stay away from Bengali films.
Of the several releases, the ones that impressed me the most were Angshumaner Chhobi, Antaheen, and Madly Bangalee (even with a smattering of English & Hindi, I would consider 'Madly Bangalee' to be a Bengali offering).
The ones that were somehow watchable were Chhuti, Cross Connection, Jackpot, Kaalbela, and Sob Choritro Kalponik.
And the ones that created some buzz irrespective of the content were Challenge, Prem Aamaar, Hit-List, Friend, Houseful, Jamai Raja, Mama Bhagne, Neel Aakasher Chandni, Lakshyabhed, Paakhi, Olot Paalot, Saat Paake Bandha, Smritimedur, and Trishna.
Others just failed to regsiter on my radar, dude!

Swarnali said...

Its a nice piece & quite Entertaining also!!
Keep it up,dear !!
I totally agree with u that, we got some such awesome movies in this 2009. The "Kaalbela","Kaaler Raakhaal","Cross Connection","Angshumaane Chhobi" & "Jackpot" are liked to me than others....

Vivek said...

A lively post indeed. Cool, chatty & catty content; yet throws some light on Bengali films in all seriousness too.

Sharmee said...

I don't know if the profits have gone up or not, but in the current year, the Bengali films have surely gained more visibility. Among the qualitative offerings in the pipeline, I am hopeful about Anjan Dutt's Byomkesh film (the recent Byomkesh release from Swapan Ghosal called Magna Mainak was pathetic!) and the films by Buddhadeb Dasgupta (The Voyeurs and Janala) and Aparna Sen (Iti Mrinalini) and the film based on the life of Lalan Fakir by Goutam Ghosh (starring Prosenjit).

Anonymous said...

Boomba-da, that is Prosenjit, is still the NUMBER ONE hero in Tollygunge! DEv, Jeet, Soham and others cannot even be compared to him!
I liked Prosenjit in all the recently released films: Funtoosh, Mama Bhagne, Sob Choritro Kalponik,... and all others!
In the posters of the film Clerk, which will soon be released, he looks so sexy!!!!!!!!!!!

Anirban Halder said...

Well-thought post.

My personal favourite is ‘Madly Bangalee’- a gem of a film from Anjan, reminiscent of the brilliance he showed in his telefilms, as I’ve mentioned in my blog (www.kolkatacurry.blogspot.com), closely followed by lovingly made ‘Antaheen’, with ‘Angshumaner Chhobi’ and ‘Cross Connection’ taking the third and fourth positions respectively.

Raj needs to introspect. He has true potential and can’t afford to be even a wee bit complacent. I’d still like to remember him only for ‘Chirodini Tumi Je Amaar’.

Well, I’d say 2009 is closing on a happy note. All the filmmakers who delivered in this year are on to their next, as a director or producer (Aniruddha). The biggest production house (Sri Venkatesh Films) is back to making meaningful cinema (‘Iti Mrinalini’ and ‘Autograph’) long after they made ‘Chokher Bali’ and ‘Raincoat’. So I’m looking forward to 2009 more than I did to 2010. BTW the group ‘Cinemania’ in Facebook lists the forthcoming releases.

Anindo Sen said...

I thank you all for taking an interest in my post, and especially for having bothered to put forth comments..... they mean a lot to me.
It is not possible for me to personally thank all of you nor do I get to interact with all the readers of my blog.
But, as the year draws to a close, I hereby want to say THANK YOU to all the fellow bloggers who have supported me, and those who regularly read & comment.

Finally, I want to thank you for taking an interest in Bangla (some have asked me why I prefer the term 'Bangla' to 'Bengali', as is commonly used, 'Bangla' often denotes things related to the country that goes by the name of Bangladesh; well, I use the term 'Bangla' consciously because that is the language we speak, whether we refer to it by the term 'Bengali' or 'Bangla'!) cinema, which cannot prosper without audience appraisal & appreciation.

Arunima said...

What a wonderful post! am as usual left amazed and wishing if i cud be half as good as you ;-)
As u know i am not an avid Bangla film watcher and u know that i havent even seen a single movie mentioned in ur post..but still i was all engrossed while reading ur post and that is the marvel of ur writing..hope to see more such delighful posts in days to come..

Krishh said...

Hey, more Bengali movies should be released at the multiplexes with subtitles - for the non-Bengali speaking viewers! I hope that issue is addressed by the makers of good cinema, not only from Bengal, but from all other states as well. So many regional films are getting released these days, but WITHOUT any subtitles in English, so they should not complain about a limited reach thereafter!

Abhijit Sengupta said...

A very well written post. Although I haven't been able to watch many of the films you mentioned here, but of the few that I could manage to catch, I found 'Angshumaner Chhobi' a really hatke film. Kudos to Atanu Ghosh for gifting us such a well scripted (ignoring the few loopholes in the story) and well-executed film after a long time. 'Cross Connection' too was a enjoyable watch. It's a fresh, smart n light-hearted rom-com, a 'rare species' in Bengali cinema. I sincerely hope our Tollywood directors make more such urban tales in the coming year. I even loved 'Antaheen' and 'Jackpot'. However I was utterly disappointed with 'Brakefail' (I still can't believe 'Jackpot' and 'Brakefail' were made by the same director!) and 'Shob Charitra Kalponik'. Hope both of the directors ressurect themsleves with their next venture!

Sounak said...

I loved 'Madly Bangalee' the most! It portrays today's times, the youth and their dreams and their frustrations, the best. May more such films usher a new dawn for Bengali cinema.

saurabh said...

Currently, Bangla films are doing great business - sometimes even toppling major Bollywood productions - which is very, very encouraging indeed. The production values have increased manifold, there is greater gloss and sparkle, and the stars are getting noticed along the length and breadth of the country, and even overseas (as the mainstream films mostly have the song and dance routines filmed there).
However, the content still gets compromised with a majority of the commercial successes being copies of Southern hits (from Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam - be they legitimately reprised or lifted ingloriously). Let us not make poor excuses like What Works And What Sells Governs The Business Plans As Commercial Films Are Business Ventures First and may we all celebrate QUALITY and CREATIVITY above all else, let us encourage, inspire, and get our films a place of PRIDE.

Kaustav Bakshi said...

I must congratulate you on this post...for I am absolutely ignorant of what's happening on the commercial Bangla Cinema front! Yes, I am familiar with such names as Jeet, Dev, Koyel, etc; but, have not watched a single film starring these actors, except for Hemlock Society (with Koyel in the lead), perhaps. Therefore, I cannot really comment!

But, honestly, I had tried once or twice to sit through an odd film of Dev or Jeet in order to get hang of what they are all about! Believe me! I could not take it after say ten minutes....Even 'horrible' is an understatement...I cannot be sure whether you would agree, for you have sufficiently distanced yourself from this post by introducing these two characters who engage in a conversation...

But, am not sure whether, people with such command over the English language (your characters speak grammatically correct English) at all care for the likes of Dev, Jeet and Rituparna. Aren't these Tolly stars much too beneath the dignity of the English-speaking crowd? I mean the people I have interacted with are awfully condescending of them! Although the comments your post has received speak otherwise. :)

But, am happy that you are in a way critically documenting the contemporary cinematic era, notwithstanding the aesthetic import of these films. Documentation is certainly necessary. :)