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The Best of Bengali Cinema in 2018

2018 has been a satisfactory year at the Box Office. For cinephiles like me, there was a lot on offer, across genres. What set 2018 apart from previous years was the fact that content-driven films took the centre-stage and even big-budget films with superstars failed to make a mark, because of the lack of good content.

 

Some of the releases of 2018 – Image credit: The Times of India

 

While the year saw the ‘return’ of Saukarya Ghoshal (who had decided to give up on making films after Pendulum did not do good business), and new directors like Ranjan Ghoshal, we also had veterans like Srijit Mukherjee delivering two blockbusters. There were new filmmakers who wow-ed us, and there were experienced directors who failed to meet the expectations.

Here are my top 10 favourite films of 2018 in Bangla:

10. Alinagarer Golokdhadha – History, they say, is written by the victors. And in India, the history that is taught in schools, is mostly that of Delhi. It took director Sayantan Ghoshal to remind us of the history of Kolkata, and Bengal, in this adventure film. A pacy thriller, the film keeps you hooked, despite a few slippages in writing, and overtly melodramatic performance by Gautam Halder as the villain. Watch it for the history, and Anirban Bhattacharya.

 

 

09. Happy Pill – Ritwik Chakraborty plays the role of a medical school dropout, whose life changes after he discovers a pill, accidentally, which makes people happy. A simple film, it wows you with its innocence. Watch the film for power-packed performances by Ritwik, Sohini and Parno.

 

Ritwik Chakraborty in Happy Pill

 

08. Mati – This is one film, which is so close to my heart, that I’d happily overlook its technical flaws. There are very few films in Bangla that deal with the topic of partition, and how it affected lives. While Ritwik Ghatak made films on the refugee crisis, this film explores a second-generation refugee from East Bengal grapples with her roots. Having grown up hearing stories about our ancestral home in Mymensingh district of East Bengal, Mati made me nostalgic and made me crave for a visit to Bangladesh in search of my roots.

 

 

07. Uranchandi – Probably the first film that can be called a ‘road-trip’ film, except that the film is not about friends. Three women are forced to go on the run. Their paths cross and they go on a trip of a ‘lifetime’. The breathtaking visuals of Purulia, the powerful writing, solid performances by Sudipta Chakraborty, Chitra Sen and Rajnandini Paul (her second film), and the fresh take on social issues make Uranchandi stand out in the crowd.

 

 

06. Ahare Mon – The sweet innocence of the film wins over your heart. The track involving Chitrangada Chakraborty, a cancer patient, tugs at your heartstrings. Veterans Anjan Dutt and Mamata Shankar surprise you with a new side to their acting prowess, while the helplessly-fascinating chemistry between Paoli Dam and Adil Hussain melts your heart. The twist in the tale is a signature Pratim D. Gupta touch.

 

 

05. Sonar Pahar – A film with an eight-year old child and an eighty-year old lady in the lead, Sonar Pahar is like those heartwarming tales of fantasy your mother would read to you as she put you to sleep every night. Complexities of relationships, dynamics of life and constant struggles of living get a fresh touch of professionalism in Parambrata’s direction. The quest for the ‘mythical’ Sonar Pahar is one adventure you must trek for this year.

 

Tanuja in one of the scenes from Sonar Pahar

 

04. Uma – Himadri, an NRI businessman in Switzerland, must fulfil the last wish of his daughter Uma, a terminally-ill teenager, who has only months to live. She wishes to soak-in the festive spirit of Durga Puja in Kolkata but she might not live till October. So, Himadri must arrange a mock-Durga Puja in the month of April. The film was an emotional roller coaster. The divine innocence of Uma, the triumph of the human spirit, and the victory of the heart (good) over scheming machinations of the head (evil) allow you to gloss over the logical fallacies in the film. To even think that the film is a recreation of actual events (when an entire town came together to create Christmas in October, for Evan) makes your eyes moist.

 

 

03. Pupa – A much-acclaimed film, Pupa deals with the controversial subject of euthanasia. The director, Indrasis Acharya, does not for a moment sermonise or take a moral stand. He does not impose any ‘good vs evil’ drama on the audience. He simply narrates the story of a family, whose lives go through an upheaval as the family patriarch suffers heart attack and is bed-ridden. Lives are torn apart, strength of relationships questioned, tough choices have to made, but they come with scarring consequences.

 

 

02. Ek Je Chhilo Raja – The problem with historical movies is that such movies face the danger of being criticised for being eons apart from the actual events, or too committed to historical texts, to the point of being outright boring. Srijit Mukherjee deftly walks the tightrope. A film on the much publicised Bhawal Sanyasi case, the longest running court case pre-independence, EJCR ticks all the boxes for a classic period drama. The astoundingly wonderful make-up, production design and cinematography will transport you to Bengal of the 1920s. Jishu Sengupta’s career-best performance is matched equally by the ensemble, specially Jaya Ahsan. The laborious production is indeed one of Srijit Mukherjee’s best work of all times.

 

Jishhu Sengupta in Ek Je Chhilo Raja

 

01. Rainbow Jelly – After Pendulum did not get the response he expected, Saukarya Ghoshal decided to take a break from making films. Thank God, he returned to filmmaking, or else audiences would have been deprived of this cinematic beauty. Rainbow Jelly brings back memories of fantasy tales of Thakumar Jhuli and young adult fictions – with hidden treasures, an aunt with a mysterious box, a special child who must fight against his oppressive uncle, his only living relative, childhood crush and above all – the quest to break free. Ultimately, this jelly is a sweet concoction of hope, childlike innocence, sweetness, and indomitable spirit of survival.

 

 

Special mentions must be made to films like Rang Beronger Korhi (probably a joint tenth with Alinagar), Guptadhaner Sandhane, Manojder Adbhut Bari, Rosogolla, Kabir and Biday Byomkesh for satisfying the never-ending craving for good cinema. I wish I could add Jonaki, Tarikh, Abyakto to this list, but they have not yet been theatrically released (although I have watched them at the Kolkata International Film Festival).

Here’s looking forward to be wowed in 2019.

 

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Asha Jaoar Majhe – Movie Review

Labour_of_Love_Poster At the very outset, I would like to apologise for even using the word review in this post. I do not think I am qualified enough to judge the merits and technicalities of the visual delight named Asha Jaowar Majhe (Labour of Love).

This dialogue-less film by Aditya Bikram Sengupta is definitely the best film from West Bengal since Antaheen. The impact of the film is best felt when you leave the theatre, soaking in the silence and the cacophony of the crowd outside hits you.

Our daily lives have become so fast-paced and routinely monotonous that we have forgotten how to step back, relax and enjoy the romanticism in the drudgery of the mundane. Or else, why would the two minute long scene of the sunset (with the sound of the Puja at a temple in the background) make you skip a heartbeat? Or the ecstasy when the entire screen is filled with mung dal or white grains of rice?

I am reminded of Charulata. My favourite of all the Satyajit Ray’s films opens with a long sequence of Charu’s loneliness. Two and a half pages of lyrical beauty by Tagore was so effortlessly transcended to the silver screen by Ray… Aditya Bikram Sengupta achieves the same feat, albeit for 120 odd minutes.

The director’s attention to detail is worth applauding. Simplicity is the foundation on which this castle is built. This is just a day from the life of a couple, who work in shifts. While the film has no dialogues, the cacophony of city as the background score only empowers the silence of the characters. The scenes are long, often close-ups, but are conceived so beautifully that you are left wondering how despite following the similar routine everyday, these small details never crossed your mind as important. So much so that your faith in a relationship will be emboldened by a simple missed call.

I have already mentioned the sunset scene. Such cinematic brilliance is strewn all over the entire length of the film. Take example of the wife walking towards the tram stop through the alleys of north Kolkata. The pace of her gait was only matched by the increasing rhythm of the national anthem, from some school in the neighbourhood. Or that scene where changing hues of the sky around a tram pole indicate how time flies – with a political speech as background score.

Labour of Love is actually a celebration of simplicity. This is a family of two lower middle class people, who earn not more than eight thousand rupees a month. But the joy of salary-day is surely one of indulgence. Even a simple shot where the camera is focused on the cracks on a staircase and the wife just passes by as the radio in a neighbouring house plays ‘Tumi Je Amar’ will take your breath away.

Obviously, a film of this stature requires actors of might. No words are required for explaining the brilliance of Ritwik Chakraborty. Shabdo no longer is his best film, Labour of Love is. And Basabdutta… I was her fan since ‘Boyei Gelo’ aired on TV. She is an immensely talented actor who has miles to go. There is a serenity in her eyes which will bowl you over.

As the end credits roll with Ustad Bismillah Khan’s immortal shehnai playing Raag Tilak Khamod, you will surely want to step back, pause and reflect. Life is beautiful.

My Rating 5/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Image Have Their Respective Copyrights

P.S. – Wish the audience in India is more mature. Keeping a phone on silent mode, not making small talk while watching a film where finesse lies in details is too hard for some idiots! They should watch Bajrangi instead!

 

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