Content-driven films of various genre – from whodunit thriller, Partition saga to women’s fightback tale – were wholesomely backed by the audience while formula-masala movies fizzled out after initial release hype in the Bengali film industry in 2015.
Films like director duo Nandita Roy-Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay’s “Belaseshe”, the biggest blockbuster of the year and the latest edition of popular fictional sleuth “Byomkesh Bakshi” by veteran Anjan Dutt witnessed 70 per cent occupancy for over a month single in screens and multiplexes.
In stark contrast formula films like “Herogiri”, “Kathmundu”, “Jamai 420”, “Besh Korechhi Prem Korechhi”, “Romeo and Juliet” having the typical action-romance-foreign location combination failed to register even over 50 per cent occupancy two weeks into running despite glitzy premieres. Showing clear preference for author-backed stories, having the ‘Bengaliness’, a clean narrative and story line, the audience opted for films which were derived from literary works and kept to the basics.
While some films were in the thriller zone (like “Har Har Byomkesh” by Arindam Sil, “Byomkesh Bakshi” by Anjan, “Abar Byomkesh” by Anjan or Badshahi Angti by Sandip Ray), others were typical family dramas like “Belaseshe”, inspired by a popular Bengali stage production, and the Partition-themed drama “Rajkahini” by Srijit Mukherjee. Mounted on a big scale, the visually opulent “Rajkahini” also belonged to the genre of women-centric films talking about the fightback of 13 female sex-workers. While talking about the 60-day spectacular show of
“Byomkesh Bakshi”, Anjan Dutt had earlier said that Bengali audiences always preferred films with narratives and, hence, thrillers or family entertainers have the ability to pull people to theatres.
“While Satyajit Ray had been banking on stories by famous novelists like Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhya, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Saradindu Bandopadhyay for his films, and Mrinal Sen on Subodh Ghosh and Premendra Mitra, our generation of film-makers either started writing our own stories or turning to literary works by past masters and the audience are coming back,” he had said.
Corroborating his views, writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s fiction “Ebar Shabor”, a low-budget film directed by Arindam Sil, on the exploits of an investigator-cop, had over one-month run at theatres earlier this year, surprising the industry. The enthused director then took up the story of ‘Banhi Patanga’ for the ambitious “Har Har Byomkesh” casting popular actor Abir Chatterjee in lead role of sleuth yet again and the film has shown ‘sold out’ or ‘fast filling’ in boards at different theatres since it’s release two weeks back.
Similalry the Byomkesh thriller “Sajarur Kanta”, starring Konkona Sensharma as the female lead Satyabati and Dhritiman Chatterjee as the sleuth, also had got a decent opening in August. Same was the case with IFFI-screened “Anyo Apala” by Satarupa Sanyal on a mother’s gritty battle end-November or “Mayer Biye’ by Sudeshna Roy on widow re-marriage (in September) with both working out at box office moderately.
In stark contrast, big budget mainstream romance-action-comedies of directors Raj Chakroborty, Raja Chanda, Rajiv Biswas and Ravi Kinnagi could not sustain at the box office despite boasting off local heavyweights from Jeet, Nusrat and Koel Malick. The names range from “Besh Korechhi Prem Korechhi” to “Borbaad”.
With Aparna Sen’s just released operatic “Arshinagar” causing ripples among audiences and witnessing full houses on Christmas week, the premise of rich and varied content ruling audience’s heart seems to prevail. Interestingly mainstream superstar Dev is in the lead role of this Shakespeare-inspired film which again shows how local superstars are shedding their stardom for more realistic roles in sync with the changing audience priorities.
“We need fresh concepts like ‘Belaseshe’ with which audiences can connect. Only a story with good content and intense performance can save the Bengali film industry,” says Arijit Dutta, owner of leading film distribution house Priya Entertainments.