The Crisis Of Contemporary Bengali Cinema


 Still from Moner Manush ( 2010)

The Bengali contemporary cinema has become so insipid, so trivial that it has forgotten the basics of film-making. The Bengali filmmakers as well as the filmgoers, both have almost no knowledge of film language or the formal expressions of cinema. The shots have no logic, the mis-en-scen no meaning, the light settings are arbitrary, the editing is mechanical and the sound is ad-hoc. People have forgotten that a film is not just stitching of pictures in a sequential manner to tell events from point A to point B. We can read instruction manuals for that. Cinema is primarily a poetic expression which has a basis of its own language, namely, the cinematic language. The contemporary Bengali films are devoid of any poetry, any beauty and any subliminal stimulus to the finer sensibilities of man. A 60 second advertisement has better things to offer audio-visually than almost any contemporary Bengali film. To quote Partha Chatterjee from, ‘The inability to understand the nature of cinematic language or the basics of scriptwriting seems to be at the core of all the structural and aesthetic problems troubling Bengali filmmakers these days. The end result is usually a static narrative in which people talk their heads off.

But what is more frightening is that the Bengali audience, who is devoid of any film culture and film education, champions this trash as ‘Art’. Production houses resist any change in the formulae, for which they have coined a specific term, ‘Bangaliana’. Any deviation from the norm is met with suspicion. New projects with high cinematic value and international viability are shunned suggesting the local audience is unprepared for any change. New filmmakers with fresh ideas are ignored or belittled.  The Bengali film industry seems to have no ambition to improve and reach out to the world. As a result we are seeing the slow death of cinema and the rise of mediocrity in Bengal.


 Still from Gandu (2010)

The only possible exception is the films of Q (Gandu, Tasher Desh).  It will be futile to judge his work in a conventional critical framework as his films are reactionary to the current state of Bengali cinema. Hence his expression is more of a rebellion than that of an artist. But Q is on the right path and Bengali cinema would need more filmmakers like him. It’s time for a drastic change. It’s time we go back to the basics and understand the logic of cinema. It’s time that the new filmmakers, especially the debutantes, who are not yet contaminated by the system, churn out radical cinema which has international appeal. It’s time we speak in a universally legible cinematic language. An approach like this alone can save the downward spiraling Bengali cinema and the Bengali audience.

A few better films from Bengal post-2000

  1. Herbert (2006) by Suman Mukhopadhyay
  2. Dosar (2006) by Rituparono Ghosh
  3. Moner Manush (2010) by Gautam Ghosh
  4. Gandu (2010) by Q
  5. Shabdo (2013) by Kaushik Ganguly

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