Bongs Taking Over Bollywood ?
You might ask, why this now? Well, it seems like the Bong community is to Bollywood as to what the Jewish community is to Hollywood. Three of the best films of 2012 were made by Bengali men — Shoojit Sircar, Sujoy Ghosh and Anurag Basu. There have been a good number of Bengali actresses ruling Bollywood and most of them have the right combination of beauty, brains and acting skills. Not just saying this only because I am a Bengali (yes, a bit of a bias is involved) but it feels good to see the community as a whole, doing well in bollywood!
Bengali directors have traditionally been central to Bollywood given their style and choice of treatment and the all round box office success witnessed last year, is just an add on. Old directors like Shakti Samant and Hrishikesh Mukherjee with their movies like Aaradhana, Amar Prem, Golmal, Guddi, and Bawarchi shaped the careers of many actors and actresses and also carved a niche for themselves. They basically depicted the emotions and the problems of a common man. These directors also depicted women as strong characters in their movies.
2012 also saw a lot of the films set in Kolkata/Bengali background. Says Anurag Basu, “Since most of the directors are Bengalis who have done movies set outside Bengal, they want to return to their roots. In some ways, I too felt the same way when I set Barfii in Bengal. When I made Murder and Gangster, it was not possible for me to have Bengali characters. In Life… In A Metro, both Konkona and Shilpa played Bengali girls. As a Bengali director, when I got a chance to make a movie that could explore the surroundings I knew well, I didn’t want to let go.”
While the number of Bong heroines in Bollywood is countless, some actors of Bengali origin have also made an impact in Bollywood through their screen presence and amazing acting talent. Mithun Da (as fondly called by the industry) has been one actor who always stood out, in all of his films. The Superstar has starred in over 300+ films and his charm seems to be never-ending. Ronit Roy, who currently acts in the TV serial Adaalat as the suave KD Pathak, starred in the critically acclaimed film Udaan. Known as the “Big B” of small screen, his work was much praised and won him many best supporting actor awards.
Shoojit Sircar, who shot his debut Yahaan in Kashmir, says his casting decision for Vicky Donor was influenced by his own upbringing in Delhi’s CR Park. “Vicky Donor is a love story between a Punjabi boy and a Bengali girl and is set in Delhi. I hail from a Bengali colony in Delhi’s CR Park and have seen marriages between Punjabi and Bengalis. It’s refreshing to look eastwards”, says Sircar.
Dibakar Banerjee’s political thriller Shanghai also received critical acclaim, exploring the dark side of politics and corruption. Dibakar Banerjee, who has built an image to do it differently, has won two national awards for Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye! Lucky! Lucky Oye!. Banerjee has proved that a filmmaker does not require exquisite outdoor locations and massive budget to deliver a hit while Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh already has plans to bring Vidya Balan back as Bidya Bagchi in a sequel.
Sujoy Ghosh says, “India has so many diverse cultures and hence people of India would love to know more about their own culture and when it is shown through movies it has a great impact on them and it brings a change”. While Ayan Mukerji sold us a bubbly, crisp coming-of-age-story or a creative young boy in Wake Up Sid in 2009, 2013 will get to see the young Bengali director’s much awaited Yeh Jawani Hain Deewani.
Well, 2012 was a great year and we certainly hope that the acolytes of Satyajit and Ritwik Ghatak live long and prosper. On that note, let me share with you a special coverage of last year’s IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) where a friend and I requested the top Bollywood stars to say a word or two in Bengali.