As early as the Second World War, Indian films began making waves overseas. And Bengali cinema was perhaps the first to make a mark internationally.
Though there may be a lot of media hype about increasing acceptance of Indian films overseas, the phenomenon is hardly new. For nearly eight decades now works of several Indian filmmakers have been appreciated by critics around the world.
And West Bengal could definitely claim the lead in introducing Indian cinema to the world. Among the masters of world cinema who are still remembered for their indigenous works, some of the noteworthy contributors came from West Bengal. The cinemas made in the state soon started drawing national and international attention.
Pioneers of Bengali Cinema
Indian cinema was never inspired by any movement like the European countries but evolved from an extension of theatre on celluloid. It was still an infant as far as international recognition was concerned until Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) was released in 1955. The film won the Prix du document humain at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival and marked the presence of Bengali cinema on the map of international cinema. The journey of Bengali cinema starts here as filmmakers, enthused with Ray’s success, started making films that travelled across the boundaries to bring back certificates of recognition and honour.*
Modern Bengali films
The resurgence in Bengali cinema over the years can be identified by the works of various masters. But, what does Bengali cinema needs the most at this very interesting juncture? It probably needs people to notice that the films made in this part of the world, though rooted in their geography, are universal in their appeal. After Ray–Sen–Sinha–Ghatak, the Bengali film industry was still brimming with talent and bona fide story-tellers. The reigns were in the hands of filmmakers like Rituporno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Goutam Ghose and Buddhadeb Dasgupta who travelled across the oceans and surprised the world with their candid stories. The current army of directors including the likes of Aditya Vikram Sengupta, Srijit Mukherjee, Kaushik Ganguly, Kamaleswar Mukherjee, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Suman Ghosh strives hard to keep up the reputation of West Bengal and its colossal contribution towards Indian cinema.
West Bengal continues to flourish in terms of aesthetically sound films that connect with a global audience. The insolvent Bengali film industry now strives to look beyond the prevalent practices and introduce more purpose. It’s not that innovative efforts have not surfaced at all as we now see the new producers and distributors actively targeting the Bengali audience residing in other metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and New Delhi. However, there is much to be achieved in terms of taking Bengali cinema to the international podium. Reflecting on the present scenario, fifteen times national award winning director, Goutam Ghose, says, “The industry stake holders should attract international collaborations from European or American production houses, exchange ideas, formulate new strategies and promote Bengal as a film-tourism destination. The industry should soon consider forming a dedicated body to supervise and facilitate the enormous potential of international collaborations in Bengali cinema in the near future.”
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