Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bengali Cinema in 2016: The emperor is naked; but ppl cheer his misery


Let me put out the disclaimers first.
1)     I am no film critic
2)     I know nothing about film intellectualisms
3)    What I speak and write here is complete from logic and try to support that with articles in newspapers reports I come across.

Now that I have taken the weights off my chest, time to go ahead with the knife and scalpels.

I do not know what the value of Bengali cinema is. But, that 2016 has NOT been a good year for the industry is quite obvious. I do not need to be a rocket scientist to see it.

The problems that I see is quite obvious and I do not know why people (film-makers) are ignoring the elephant in the room. Perhaps they are blind.

Let me borrow a line from an online article in The Wire (I am modifying it as per my liking here) : “Good (Bengali) films are few and far between especially in 2016. There are some exceptions in previous years like like Nirbashito, Phoring, Cinemawalla, Byomkesh Pawrbo, Bhooter Bhobissyot  to name a few. But it is otherwise a uniformly bleak scenario. 

Frankly speaking, except Shiboprasad Mukherjee's Praktan and Srijit Mukherjee's Zulfikar; there are no success stories. (I'm ignoring the detective flicks.) Commercial ventures like Love Express, Prem Ki Ta Age Bujhi Ni; and the likes fell face first. 

Coming to the pain points: 

Content, content and content

The one thing that I am most dejected about in Begali cinema is total and absolute lack to content. For once most of the commercial movies being dished out nowadays are southern re-makes. Blatant, frame-by-frame copy-paste of southern hits and flops.

Now, the Hindi movie channels mostly air southern hits/ flops and so on half the time; albeit dubbed. And these are said to be the top grossers for the channels. So quite obviously, will the audience not already have seen a Bengali remake of a southern hit?

I mean, lets assume by the time a Rowdy Rathore is re-made and shown across a Bengali cinema hall, it will be aired, re-aired and would have become stale on say a Max. Why would I even spend, Rs 100 to see this movie then when I know what it is all about?

Bengali movie producers still feel southern re-makes to be a hit formula. But trust me, it will be a short path to success. In the long run, the audience will be more discerning and will be vociferously rejecting these films.

On content, if original one fails to interest movie-makers, then, there is an entire clutch of Bengali novels that can be successfully replicated. There are a host of authors who would more than gladly script a movie for a director / producer, if they are paid handsomely. Stop taking the short cut.  

Here are two links supporting my arguments: 

But, star power you say will help you sail through? Well this brings me to the second point.

Absence of Faces

The biggest problem that Bengali cinema faces nowadays is absence of faces. Heros / actors are type-cast, type-cast and type-cast till the point they end their carreers. 

Take a cue from John Travolta guys. He did “Saturday Night Fever”. And after that have you even see him play a dancer or a similar character? I do not recall. Please correct me, if I am wrong. He played  the unsympathetic villain / negative character in Broken Arrow; and a perfect character artist in the Nicolas Cage co-starred Face-Off. Look at the variety he brought to the audiences. 

But here, well we all know a Dev or Jeet will keep playing the same role of dancing around trees and making “villains” fly in the air. An Abir or a Parambrata will continue to be a “thinking man’s hero” (whatever that means nowadays). A Kanchan or Subhasis regaled to play comedians; and absolutely no scripts for mature actors like Saswata or Kaushik Sen or for veterans like Paran Bandopadhyay.

Thanks so much dear producers and directors for treating us to the same Abir or Parambrata in every second “urban genre” movie; or a mumbling-bumbling Dev or Jeet or Ankush or someone else in “mainstream movies”.


This brings me to the third point : switch-overs.

Directors, producers and every one claim that they make films for the “urban genre” or for the “mainstream”. And, pray, tell me what are the two categories? No one knows. 

But the so called definition seems to be multiplex audiences and those going to single screen movies theatres. Automatically, the nature of movie making changes.

One makes movies for Mr Sophisticated (filled with intellectual references which even Mr Sophisticated does not understand) and the other is for “Montu Chaiwala” (who also does not understand what is pushed down his throat except objectifying the heroine and glorifying the hero).

But, is it not possible for directors and story-tellers (which brings me back to the first point) to make a movie that appeals to Sophisticated and Montu both?

“Stop talking nonsense. It cannot be done.” Seems like a logical escapist argument. But, doesn’t Bollywood do this almost all the time? 

The lines between a Manthan and Sholay are slowly being blurred with movies like Gangs of Wasseypur or Badlapur appealing to both urban and single screen audiences?

Regular definition of a hero is routinely being challenged and broken down in Bollywood.  Or else why would an Irrfan Khan, Manoj Vajpayee and Nawaazuddin Siddiqui make the switch and find acceptance? Actors like Naseeruddin and Om Puri and even Amrish Puri have done this in yesteryears.

And Hollywood has simply blurred these lines ages ago. Or else how does and Argo find commercial success with a “commercial movie actor” like Ben Affleck?

Closer home, in Bengali cinema, detective flicks are always finding an audience irrespective of directors and movie making hitches. But that isn’t a long term solution.

 Here is another link to support my point:

It is high time for Bengali cinema to script is own standalone success story.

Script goes haywire

So what is that actually ails Bengali movie makers? This brings me back to the first point of content and linking it with scripts.

Let me be frank, almost all Bengali cinema has been heavily relying on ‘sex’ as a theme. Here is another case in point -

But does ‘sex’ work without a good script and in complete absence of content? Take a look at some of the recent films which are named in this article and ask yourself how many you have seen. My intelligent guess (most guesses are mostly lucky) is a majority is not on your watch list and a large number of names are unheard of.

Either we are in serious dearth of good scriptwriters or we simply take audiences as idiots. No wonder that most movies fail. There will be no major producers taking risks in a failing industry and the power will be centred in the hands of a few or Ponzi scheme drivers running the show in the coming days.

Of course, these few producers will keep telling you that film has made money. You never have a trade source to tell you whether the film actually made money or not.

(PS- Just like no reporter says that he has done a bad story or claims that all major breaks are by him.) So best answer is to ask yourself whether you have seen the movie and what is your reaction to it.

Poor Time Slots at Multiplexes

Apart from politicising the film industry, there is one point no one seems to talk about. The poor time slots that Bengali films get in a multiplex.

Chances are; if you have not caught hold of a Bengali cinema in the first two-to-three days, preferably the first weekend, then you have to file a missing complaint to locate it. Or walk down Chandni to get hold of a pirated copy.

God knows what stops Bengali cinema producers from taking to alternate mediums in case of screening movies – through channels, D2H options, CDs and DVDs, netflixes, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube.

However, in case of multiplexes, the best slots are allotted to Hindi movies (and not even Hollywood). Unless it is a big banner producer from Bengal (he / they who cannot be named here) then obviously they are given some better slots. But otherwise, “Bhagwan bharose” (God help us).

For example, I am still struggling to find a good slot for Chiranjeet starrer “Kiriti Roy”. Preferably, one after office. Most slots are afternoon ones. Really who will go to watch that movie on a weekday then?

Sometimes, I feel, there should be some contract with multiplexes to ensure better slots for regional cinema. Preferably prime time slots. Or these multiplexes are simply fined exorbitantly. (I know it sounds ludicrous. But, sometimes you need to use a stick to tame the arrogant mule.)

I don’t know whether you have read this long list of criticisms and shortcomings. But, for Bengali cinema to survive, it has to introspect; realise what is wrong and take a truthful call on the course to rectification.

The sad state in Bengali cinema today is (borrowing yet again from the previous Quint article) :  “No one wants to call the emperor’s naked bluff and instead cheers to his misery.”

(Views are personal and CAN be DEBATED.) 

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, read it and have seen most of those movies mentioned in the HBL story.
    Now few points-
    1. I agree with most of the points that you raised here and the industry has been talking about these for a long time now. But the question remains the same: What are they doing about it? What's stopping them from relying on original content more...?
    2. You missed the ever decreasing number of single screens. People are building multiplexes without thinking about the spending power. Every part of my country has not yet reached the stage of spending 100/200 for a show. Actually this is an issue even Bollywood is suffering from and they are also voicing these issues on dif platforms.
    3. Also I feel all these problems started when films became a product. I just don't buy the often talked about "urban and rural TG" concept.
    4. Even if I had to agree with that then business wise it doesn't make sense to keep those south India remakes in urban theatres. Bcoz in urban theatre the ticket prices are high. But when I think about that I feel as the numbers of single screen theatres are very low they just try to get as much as they can from each pockets of the state. Maybe that's the reason they don't keep those shows for more than a week. I have also seen the producers to pay the theatre owners more to keep a movie for a longer time despite being it a loss making film.
    5. Why do we always hv to rely on authors to write for a film. Every one is not Gulzar/Javed Akhtar/ Salim Khan. They used to write differently for movies. I feel the writers shd hv knowledge about the film language. So if there's someone who has that they can always write a movie but we need more original story and screenplay writers.
    6. We need original content. Inspired by novels will always be there but that's not original. If properly made cinema is no less than literature.
    7. Yes you said it right that the actors need to rediscover themselves. I understand that Bollywood has more money and the actors can prep for 2 yrs for a single film but the current lot of tollywood heroes (including the Dev-Jeet and Parambrata-Abir types) need to brush up their skills high time.
    8. Tollywood will hv to write more scripts keeping the likes of Paran Bannerjee, Kharaj, Saswata, Rudranil, Kanchan, Kaushik Ganguly (yes the director. He is an excellent actor) and etc...
    9. we'll hv to get rid of the overhyped mediocrity like Srijit, Shiboprosad etc.. No matter what they do, the films are shittier, melodramatic.. Though Zulfiqar, Praktan, belasheshe were hits but work wise these are just not good. I trust Kaushik Ganguly films more....
    10. Finally, keeping the present scenario of satellite rights market, music rights, digital rights etc.. in mind, the movie making and strategy to sell a movie will hv to be relooked. And there can't be a monopoly of one particular producer here. There has to be a field play level for others. Knowing what they do to kick the other producers out, they will hv to stop hurting other producers. It's not helping the industry in any way.