“I think people are all for extra marital affairs in the name of parallel cinema on the Bengali screen,” says director Bappaditya Bandopadhyay. It’s human relationships, which rule the roost when it comes to commercial movies and what we call parallel cinema. “The commercial big-grossers are so irrational. The industry is badly-equipped to handle the realism required to deal with a historical figure, especially a revolutionary,” adds Bandopadhyay.
The names that spring up when we talk about Bengal and it’s role in the freedom struggle are innumerable. Contemporary Bengali cinema, in all its forms, has almost turned its back on the potent cinematic topics in the form of Bengali martyrs and their exploits. While budgets for Bengali films have gone beyond the crore mark, producers and director alike seem not interested in bringing Bengali revolutionaries alive on screen. Dealing with political realities is both expensive and time consuming. “We all want to keep our skin intact and work wonders in the box-office. Human relationships, in both the crude and the sensitive avtars are the safe options,” adds Bandopadhyay. Theatre personality and director Bratya Basu blames the overall decline in the fortunes and quality of Bengali cinema in the last couple of decades for the lack in inspiration. Films made on shoestring budgets can hardly do justice to the accuracy and scale that a film on a revolutionary figure, arguably a period film, demands. The market and the target viewers are also of concern. “Films like Gandhi My Father or The Legend of Bhagat Singh are not commercial favourites. They are meant for a niche audience —- a risky proposition when it comes to a regional film,” says Basu. Director Satarupa Sanyal, who has experimented with socially relevant films like Anu and commercial flicks like Kalo Cheetah, attests the view. However, she feels that the current penchant for loud films with fake glamour is a trend cultivated by filmmakers and producers with profit in mind. So a mindless potboiler like Minister Fatakeskto will do grandly at the box office with its non-urban viewership like a sober take on complicated marital relationships like Dosar. However, the not-close-to-our-life emotions and political complexities, have slim chances at profit in the city. “The market for the cerebral is still restricted. Glamour sells here,” says Sanyal. Reason why director Urmi Chakraborty, who bagged a national award for her film Hemanter Pakhi, is contemplating Hindi or English as the language for shooting a film on the Sri Aurobindo’s year in jail.