TOLLYGUNGE ROUNDUP: HITS AND MISSES OF 2009
The sun is shining brightly on Bengali cinema. It has crossed the barriers of geography to venture out into the open – Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and within the country, against the backdrop of the chilly climes of Leh in Ladakh. It has brought in changes in terms of Bollywood biggies (?) venturing into Bengali cinema in a big way as exemplified through the year-end release Pa Ma Ga Re Saa produced by Bunch of Buddies Entertainment. But that is just in terms of numbers, not necessarily in terms of the quality of films produced and released. Interestingly, the qualitative improvement in the few films that one can count on one’s fingers is significant. On the other hand, the mushroom-like growth of new directors brought across some very bad films There were 60-and-odd releases in 2008 while 2009 saw around 77 feature films released of which, a few were digital films such as Sanghamitra Choudhury’s Rahasya and another film called Sakaaler Rang but both, unfortunately, vanished without trace.
New directors, new actors, new producers and new music directors have been the rule of the game. The oldies like Subhash Sen, Anup Sengupta, Sujit Guha, Sujit Mondal and so on have been very active with directing their usual masala stuff, but the new and upcoming directors have raced them to the winning post in the numbers game. None of the veteran directors feature in the top hits of the year. The three films this year that broke box office records all round are Challenge Nibi Na Saala directed by Raj Chakraborty, Dujone directed by first-time director Rajeev Kumar and Poran Jaaye Joliya Re directed by Ravi Kinnagi. Challenge Nibi Na Saala consolidated the position of Raj Chakraborty as one of the most successful, money-spinning directors of Bengali cinema. The remix of a famous keertana in the film raised the hackles of residents of Nabadwip, the pilgrim town and birthplace of Sri Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the centre of Vaishnava teachings and preaching in the state. As a consequence of a petition filed at the Nabadwip court. But besides stalling the screening of the film briefly, Challenge continued to hit the charts.
The original source of ‘inspiration’ for Dujone is Karan’s Yeh Dil (2003) directed and scripted by Teja. Yeh Dil again, is a remake of a Telugu blockbuster Nuvvu Nenu. The original source of ‘inspiration’ is Karan’s Yeh Dil (2003) directed and scripted by Teja. Yeh Dil again, is a remake of a Telugu blockbuster Nuvvu Nenu. Poran Jaaye Joliya Re was about to be hauled in court by Vipul Shah for copying his Hindi blockbuster Namaste London frame for frame, after an out-of-court settlement with producers Shri Venkatesh Films, the film continued to rake in the greenbacks, laughing all the way to the bank. Point to be noted here is that all these three top hits feature a common hero – Dev, who is poised to overthrow all his competitors in Tollygunge.
Other films that did good business are Sandip Ray’s Hit List that was released in December, Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha’s Cross-Connection, a fresh story on contemporary love and sex among the young in Kolkata, Raja Sen’s Teen Murti on its way to become a big hit, and Raj Chakraborty’s Prem Amaar, copied, with permission, from a 2004 Tamil and Telugu hit called 9/G Rainbow Colony in Tamil. Shoham Chakraborty and Payal Sarkar as the doomed lovers have done very well in an otherwise melodramatic film with excellent production values.
Prosenjit, still numero uno of Tollygunge, had fewer masala releases this year with new leading ladies like Ananya Chatterjee and Moubani Sircar. His concentration was more on off-mainstream films that did not do good business but established him firmly as one of the most versatile actors in Bengali cinema. Shob Choritro Kalponik directed by Rituparno Ghosh and Houseful, directed by Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, have fared well in the festival circuit but turned turnips at the box office.
Other significant films that did reasonably good business are Aniruddha Roy Choudhury’s Antaheen with wonderful music by Shantanu Moitra in his first Bengali film and brilliant acting by most of the cast, anchored firmly to a strong storyline. Goutam Ghose’s Kaalbela and Atanu Ghosh’s Angshumaner Chhobi have got wonderful reviews and also done reasonably good business enough to cover costs. NRI Suman Ghosh’s Dwando, a very intimate film, was well-crafted and designed, but could not pull the audience because of its niche nature. Gautam Sen’s Pakhi, also an off-mainstream film, was neither here nor there and fell flat on its face in its sole outlet – Nandan. Shekhar Das’s Kaaler Rakhal based on Nilanjan Chatterjee’s novel began with good intentions that did not hold till the end.
Jeet, till recently considered number two in Bengali cinema had three releases this year of which two were reasonably well-mounted films and one was a terrible disaster. Hashi-Khushi Club, directed by Sankho Banerjee, Jeet was certainly bitten by a mad dog for this once- in-demand actor to have ventured into a film like this. Saat Paake Bandha, directed by Sujit Mondal, was a plagiarized version of the Kajol-Anil Kapoor 1999 film Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hai. Jeet, who played Anil Kapoor’s role, with his control over emotions in voice and facial mobility, are a wonder to watch. Neel Akasher Chandni, directed by Sujit Guha, was a remix of Chandni+Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam+Kaho Naa Pyar Hai. Jeet had the meatiest role in the film and did justice to some parts. His ‘double’ role is a blend of lover-boy, happy buddy, loving son, singing star of a small town, action hero and martyr to love. In one scene, he pulls the historic Amitabh Bachchan scene in Deewar.
Anjan Dutt had two releases this year. One was Chowrasta-Crossroads of Love and the other is Madly Bangalee. The former, a hyperlinked film with several stories crossing and overlapping each other, was unimpressive but for the music by Neel Dutt. The film is peppered with all that one needs to turn an unusual beat into adult entertainment. It has boozing sessions San and Bobby take together; it has the sad backdrop of fragmented families the boys come from, except Benji, the reasonable among the four; it has disturbed, less-than-perfect parents expecting perfection from their growing, restive children. Ashoke Viswanathan’s first out-and-out commercial film Shesh Sanghat stars Jayaprada, probably on the wrong side of fifty. She still looks beautiful in every shade the director gives her to explore – a young wronged girl, the young bride decked in all finery, the pining mother cuddling her lost son, the militant rebel with her AK-47, and the black headband tied around her forehead, the works. But the film is exaggerated melodrama disguised as a socially relevant film. Swapan Ghosal’s Magno Moinak based on a Byomkesh Bokshi story, came and went and no one even knew about it. Riingo’s Risk, set against a backdrop of terrorism, is reportedly better than his other films but could not run the race with Hit List released on the same day.
Now for the turnips that should never have happened to Bengali films. The future of Bengali cinema would have had a much better mapping in terms of quality had these films never been released even if made. Topping this list is Pa Ma Ga Re Saa made with Bollywood actors with a Bollywood budget but minus a Bengali soul or spirit. Chanchal Bhattacharya’s Amar Bhalolaga Amar Bhalobasha, despite the massive publicity about Lata Mangeshkar’s return to Bangla films, was a terrible film. But it had very good company indeed with an entire host of terrible films charting the 2009 graph. Kolir Arjun directed by Partho Sarothi Joardar, Sanghamitra Choudhury’s Premer Phande Kaka-Tua, Jeena and Rahasya, Satabdi Roy’s Dhaaki, Sunit Bhattacharya’s Smriti Medur, Abhik Roy’s Siddhanta, Reshmi Mitra’s Bhalobasha Zindabad, Qaushik Roy nd Shivaji Panja’s Bishh and Anindyo Sarkar’s Saathi Amaar Bondhu Amaar are some of them. It is really amazing to discover that people who do not know the ABC of film-making manage to get producers willing to put in money for films that will not last the first week even in a limited theatrical release.
Some films that had a lot of promise but got lost in the over-enthusiasm of the maker are Aniket Chatterjee’s Chhoye Chhuti, Aniruddha Bhattacharjee’s Box 1313, and Anjn Dutt’s Chowrasta – Crossroads of Love. Films that were looked forward to with eagerness but did not release during the year at all are Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife, Birsa Dasgupta’s 033, and the promising Mithun-starrer Shukno Lanka. Music directors who created waves of music during the year are Jeet Ganguly, Neel Dutta, Shantanu Moitra and Sanchayita.
2010 is likely to begin with promising ventures. Suman Mukhopadyay’s Mahanagar@Kolkata, Koushik Ganguly’s Aarekti Premer Galpo (with Rituparno Ghosh in an original role that breaks all stereotypes), Subhadro Choudhury’s Clerk, Gautam Ghose’s Moner Manush, Abhik Mukherjee’s Ekti Taraar Khonje, Saibal MItra’s Hanankaal and Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini. One hopes that the cinema season remains sunny next year, minus the unseasonal clouds that cast a shadow on the bright golden halo of the sun.
Shoma A. Chatterji