Eight Films Celebrating The Spirit of Durga Pujo
The year-long anticipation, expectant countdowns and yearning for returning home have finally culminated in the frenzy called ‘Durga Pujo’. As people throng to the pandals, and Kolkata turns into a giant spectacle of street-art, the queues at the Box Office are also growing in length.
Film releases during Durga Pujo have become a customary affair these days. Big-budget blockbusters hit the screens every year as Bengal celebrates the divine feminine. Art and culture have always been an integral part of the festivities; films have joined the list too.
But today, I am not writing about the films that have released this year. More of that later. I want to talk about the innate connection Durga Pujo has had with films. From the forever-immortal scene of Apu-Durga running through ‘kash’ fields in ‘Pather Panchali’, to the ‘Okal Bodhon’ of Maa Durga in Uma – Pujo has been at the core of the story in many films.
So, here goes my list of favourite films with Durga Pujo integrated in their plots:
8. Dashami – Starring Koel Mullick and Indraneil Sengupta, this film is a story about two childhood friends, whose relationship takes an unexpected turn during Durga Pujo. Indraneil’s character lost his father in childhood and had to give up his education. Koel, on the other hand, went abroad to pursue her studies. When she comes back to Kolkata for Durga Pujo, Indraneil’s love for her is rekindled. The twist in the end made this film special.
7. Debipaksha – Debipaksha, when translated, means the fortnight of the Goddess. Starring Rituparna Sengupta in the lead role, this film is the story of revenge and a celebration of the divinity within every woman. Satabdi Roy and Koel Mullick weave magic into the narrative with their stupendous performances.
6. Bodhon – Archi and Ishaani are a couple living in contemporary Kolkata, working in multinational companies. Their life takes a turn for the worse on Mahalaya, when their son has a heart attack. Amidst this crisis, Ishaani has to battle ghosts from the past – events that occurred ten years ago. For six days, until Maa Durga’s Bodhon, the family struggles through the crisis, through self-discovery.
5. Antarmahal – One of Rituparno Ghosh’s most underrated works, this film was way ahead of its time. Set in a zamindar household in rural Bengal, during the British Raj, it explores the hidden secrets in the inner recesses of one’s heart (as well as the household). As a new potter comes to the household to build the idol of Maa Durga, skeletons come tumbling out, leading to a tragic culmination of fate.
4. Uma – The film is based on the real life story of Evan Leversage, a terminally ill Canadian boy whose wish to see another Christmas prompted his townspeople to bring the festivities forward by months. In the film, Uma is a terminally-ill Bengali girl, who lives with her father in Switzerland. Having heard tales of the grandeur of Durga Pujo in Kolkata, she has been yearning to visit the city of her roots to immerse herself in the autumnal festive fervour. So, her father moves mountains so that her dying wish can be fulfilled.
3. Joy Baba Felunath – A Bengali kid, who has not grown up reading Feluda stories has missed the small joys of life. The second film on the iconic sleuth by Satyajit Ray is set in Varanasi. A centuries-old family heirloom has gone missing. A notorious smuggler had set his eyes on it. Add to the mystery, the sudden appearance of a ‘sadhu’ called ‘Machli Baba’. What is the connection with Durga Pujo, you ask? Watch the film to know more.
2. Kahaani – A pregnant lady from London comes searching for her missing husband to Kolkata, as the city prepares for the annual autumnal festival. As her search turns life-threatening, skeletons from the past keep tumbling out – secrets that might jeopardise the national security. Kolkata transforms into an integral character of the film, and her beauty is accentuated as she prepares for welcoming Maa Durga. The climax comes as a bolt from the blue.
1. Utsab – A family comes together to celebrate Durga Pujo at their ancestral home in a suburban town of Bengal. Behind the glitter and joy of festivities, everyone is battling their own problems, surviving in their own struggle for living. As old chapters in the book of life spring to life, the members are left grappling. One of Rituparno Ghosh’s finest works, the film proves that cinema is not about extravagance but simplicity.
- The opening montage of Bishorjon by Kaushik Ganguly, with scenes of immersion at Taki, and the soulful rendition of ‘Nayo Baiya Re’ by Kalikaprasad Bhattacharya, will win your heart.
Durgeshgarer Guptodhan by Dhrubo Banerjee is as much about the hidden treasures, as it is about the celebration of Bangaliana associated with Durga Pujo.
Durga Sohay by Arindam Sil is a delightful film about a family, immersed in Durga Pujo festivities, who are suddenly faced with attempted theft in the household.
Mahalaya by Soumik Sen is an insightful, and a very well written, film on the radio programme ‘Mahisasurmardini’ that is aired every year on the occasion of Mahalaya. During Emergency, the authorities wanted to replace Birendra Krishna Bhadra, the iconic voice who is associated with the programme, with Uttam Kumar – then matinee idol. What happens next is etched in history.
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