History Of Bengali Cinema

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With master filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen, Bengali cinema has had its own presence, producing some of the country’s best films. Has it become a thing of the past? Or, can the new generation of Bengali filmmakers strike back?
As Indian cinema celebrated its 100 years, attention, for a large part, was centred on Bombay, where Dadasaheb Phalke’s mythological Raja Harishchandra — the first full-length Indian film — was released in 1913. However, Calcutta, till 1911 the capital of British India, already had a nascent film industry in the 1900s and 1910s, and was at par with Bombay in the silent and first talkie eras — a history that is often forgotten. Over the years, Bengali cinema has had its own presence, producing
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New Theatres produced such iconic films as Debaki Bose’s Chandidas (1932) and the first talkie version of Devdas (1935) directed by Pramathes Barua with KL Saigal starring in the film’s Hindi version. New Theatres films which epitomised the Bengal cinema of the 1930s and 1940s, drew heavily on the works of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee (Bengal’s best-selling popular novelist), established a degree of technical excellence, and also popularised the hitherto elitist Rabindra Sangeet, to establish the connotations of a ‘cultured’ entertainment which became Bengali cinema’s apparent marker. New Theatres and other Bengal studios of the era produced both Bengali and Hindi-Urdu films, often the same film in a double version to simultaneously cater the Bengali and ‘all-India’ markets. It allowed the Bengal studios to establish a greater ‘all-India’ presence, and compete with Bombay on the parameters of a ‘cultured’ Bengali cinema versus a commercialised one and hence a relatively low-brow Hindi…show more content…
Shatru was the story of an honest police inspector who is transferred to a village that is corruption-ridden, and where he fights the oppressive agents to bring justice to the poor. By this time, this was a common enough ‘formula’ of the Bombay cinema: The figure of the police inspector, particularly, had gained iconic proportions in the films of Amitabh Bachhan. Shatru and the later films of Anjan Chowdhury were also liberally spiced with other ‘formula’ elements of Hindi cinema, fights, the song-and-dance and racy dialogues. What was most significant, however, was that in Shatru, Anjan Chowdhury, for the first time, brought to Bengali cinema a configuration of elements that overturned the industry’s middle-class bhadralok orientation, and related to the more subaltern groups, creating an entirely new audience base. A key figure in the films of Anjan Chowdhury was the honest police inspector, who gets justice to the underprivileged. Interestingly, there was, till the time of Shatru, no such stock figure as ‘hero’ in Bengali films. Actor Ranjit Mallick, who played this larger-than-life figure in these films became, by virtue of it, an icon of the post-Uttam Kumar Bengali cinema, and it was only from the 1980s that

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