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]