Be it those long queues in front of Nandan during the Kolkata Film Festival or the college fests of Jadavpur University or Presidency every year, if you are a Bengali, chances are your fetish for alternative cinema has by now acquainted you to Vittorio De Sica, Akira Kurosawa and Jean-Luc Godard after Satyajit Ray, of course.
If Bengalis have a nose for the art-house, it is probably because of their acute consciousness of the works of the likes of Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak and Bimal Roy and how the same is an integral part of the Bengali identity. Bengalis and aspiring Bengali filmmakers have for long taken immense pride in not being a part of the mainstream, the other name of which is Bollywood.
Circa 2012. A bunch of Bengali directors are again redefining the cinematic idiom. Only this time it is that of Bollywood. And the movie industry, which for long has thrived on Hollywood rip-offs, song and dance in foreign locales, melodrama and lukewarm action sequences, seems to have made place for the likes of Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai and Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani today.
Although the works of Banerjee and Ghosh are distinctly removed from the half-baked potboilers of Bollywood what these directors do is also a far cry from the works of Ray or Ghatak as well. With cinematic experimentation and intelligent storyline their prerogative is to cater to an audience that is well-informed, culturally aware, affluent, multiplex-going but which still has an appetite for the popular, the kitsch.
Banerjee with his latest film Shanghai achieves just that. A masterful sense of detailing, cinematic narrative and the trajectory of the film so frightfully similar to reality that it worries you that you would not be entertained.
But you are.
Ghosh is a mastermind of a filmmaker. You neither realise nor grudge him when you realise at the end of Kahaani, how he has been cheating you with Vidya Balan’s saccharine emotional foreplay. Kahaani’s success is that of a taut script brilliantly executed.
While Ayan Mukerji sold us a bubbly, crisp coming-of-age-story or a creative young boy in Wake Up Sid, Anurag Basu explored the grey areas of urban living with Life in a… Metro.
Shoojit Sircar, who had quietly stepped into Bollywood with a sensitive, gripping Yahaan, has gone up one rung with the commercial success of Vicky Donor – where he packaged a risque topic like sperm donation with humour and came out with an out-and-out intelligent entertainer.
If this breed of filmmakers is reminiscent of Ray and Ghatak in any sense, it is in their love for good cinema and faith in an intelligent audience.