ravings, rantings and ramblings
It was heartening to see a fledgling idea, take wings into its second year. Abhijaan – UAE’s only Bengali Film Festival just closed curtains after a 3-day, star-studded affair. The term ‘abhijaan’ translates into adventurous exploration. Bengali cinema, post its glorious era of Ray and his ilk, went into some really ‘massy’ and quick-buck-making routine, often blindly aping what their far cousin Bollywood was churning. Thankfully, a new breed of cinema came to the fore with a new bunch of directors like Rituporno Ghosh, Gautam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Ray’s son Sandip. Almost a decade since, Bengali cinema has got slicker in production. While the ‘easy on the head’ and massy entertaining Bengali movies do get churned out, the current breed of directors like Srijit Mukherjee, Anik Dutta, Anjan Dutta, Arindam Sil etc are keeping the other end high by making films that appeal to the aesthetic and intellect.
Here are my top moments of Abhijaan:
I was the Master of Ceremony for the entire festival. Sharing stage with Bengali cinema stalwarts has been a hig highlight. Young and old, pooled into one, Abhijaan shipped 12 names from the industry who came with the interest of presenting their films to the Bengali diaspora and interact with them. Of them all, the high point was introducing the big daddy of Bengali Cinema, ad-man, TV, stage and silver screen actor par excellence Dhritiman Chatterjee. I remember seeing him in most (Satyajit) Ray films and later in Hindi and English films. It was indeed a moment meeting the cerebral actor. Next up, was calling on stage the cheeky, unassuming, powerhouse actor Saswata Chatterjee. He scared the living daylights as the contract killer called Bob Biswas in the Bollywood hit Kahaani. Saswata is no stranger to Bengali cine-goers. His on-screen histrionics in various movies prove that he has perhaps superceded his superstar father. In real, he is a soft-spoken, quiet and an observant Bengali who speaks when it is his turn.
The 2nd moment has to be the question-answer sessions that followed every film. It got the director and actor of the film in direct contact with their audiences and the dialogues that ensued, certainly make for what every Bengali will call a good ‘adda’!
And finally, meeting so many Bengalis at this time of the year. Usually, I get exposed to my vernacular pool once-in-a-year, during Durga Puja. With Abhijaan, I came face-to-face with perhaps the entire Bengali population in the UAE, who thronged to the Knowledge Village Conference Centre Theatre in their fine clothes to watch their favourite star on and off-screen. In those 3 days, I have heard “Ki re, kemon achhish? (Hey, how are you)” to “Ki shundor lagchey (looking so beautiful)” more than I have in my lifetime!