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For specific Bengali-language film industries, see Cinema of Bangladesh and Cinema of West Bengal.
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Bengali cinema refers to the Bengali language filmmaking industries in the Bengal region of South Asia. There are two major filmmaking hubs in the region: one in Kolkata, West Bengal, India and one in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The history of cinema in Bengal dates back to the 1890s, when the first "bioscopes" were shown in theatres in Kolkata. Within a decade, the first seeds of the industry was sown by Hiralal Sen, considered a stalwart of Victorian era cinema [1] when he set up the Royal Bioscope Company, producing scenes from the stage productions of a number of popular shows[1] at the Star Theatre, Minerva Theatre , Classic Theatre. Following a long gap after Sen's works,[2] Dhirendra Nath Ganguly (Known as D.G) established Indo British Film Co, the first Bengali owned production company, in 1918. However, the first Bengali Feature film, Billwamangal, was produced in 1919, under the banner of Madan Theatre. Bilat Ferat was the IBFC's first production in 1921. The Madan Theatre production of Jamai Shashthi (1931), under Amar Chauduri's direction was the first Bengali talkie [3][4] A long history has been traversed since then, with stalwarts such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak and others having earned international acclaim and securing their place in the movie history.

On the other side of the border, Mukh O Mukhosh was released on 3 August 1956, written and directed by Abdul Jabbar Khan, based on his drama scrip Dacoit, produced by Nuruz Zaman and Shahidul Alam, distributed by Iqbal Films and acted by Inam Ahmed and Zahrat Azra.


Two film industries

Today, there are two Bengali-language film industries: the one in Kolkata, West Bengal, India (the Cinema of West Bengal, sometimes called Tollywood, a portmanteau of the words Tollygunge and Hollywood),[5][6] is one of many centres for Indian regional filmmaking; and the other one in Dhaka, Bangladesh (the Cinema of Bangladesh, sometimes called Dhallywood, a portmanteau of the words Dhaka and Hollywood), is the mainstream national film industry of Bangladesh.

Early history

Hiralal Sen is credited as one of Bengal's, and India's first directors. However, these were all silent films. Hiralal Sen is also credited as one of the pioneers of advertisement films in India. The first Bengali-language movie was the silent feature Billwamangal, produced by the Madan Theatre Company of Calcutta and released on 8 November 1919, only six years after the first full-length Indian feature film, Raja Harish Chandra, was released.[7]

The early beginnings of the "talking film" industry go back to the early 1930s, when it came to British India, and to Calcutta. The movies were originally made in Urdu or Persian as to accommodate a specific elite market. One of the earliest known studios was the East India Film Company. The first Bengali film to be made as a talkie was Jamai Shashthi, released in 1931. It was at this time that the early heroes of the Bengali film industry like Pramathesh Barua and Debaki Bose were at the peak of their popularity. Barua also directed a number of movies, exploring new dimension in Indian cinema. Debaki Bose directed Chandidas in 1932; this film is noted for its breakthrough in recording sound. Sound recordist Mukul Bose found out solution to the problem of spacing out dialogue and frequency modulation.

The 'Parallel Cinema' movement of Indian cinema began in the Bengali film industry during the 1950s, and then gained prominence in the other film industries of India.

West Bengal film industry

The contribution of Bengali film industry to Indian film is quite significant. Based in Tollygunge, an area of South Kolkata, West Bengal and is more elite and artistically-inclined than the usual musical cinema fare in India. In the past, it enjoyed a large, even disproportionate, representation in Indian cinema, and produced film directors like Satyajit Ray, who was an Academy Honorary Award winner, and the recipient of India and France's greatest civilian honours, the Bharat Ratna and Legion of Honor respectively, and Mrinal Sen, who is the recipient of the French distinction of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and the Russian Order of Friendship. The early nickname for the Tollygunge film industry, "Tollywood", was also the very first Hollywood-inspired name, dating back to a 1932 article in the American Cinematographer by Wilford E. Deming (due to Tollygunge rhyming with Hollywood) and went on to inspire the name "Bollywood" and other similar names.[8]

Other prominent film makers in the Bengali film industry are Bimal Roy, Ritwik Ghatak, and Aparna Sen. The Bengali film industry has produced classics such as Nagarik (1952) The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959), Jalsaghar (1958), Ajantrik (1958), Neel Akasher Neechey (1959), Devdas, Devi (1960), Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), the Calcutta trilogies (1971–1976), etc. In particular, The Apu Trilogy is now frequently listed among the greatest films of all time.[9][10][11][12]

The most well known Bengali actor to date has been Uttam Kumar; he and co-star Suchitra Sen were known as The Eternal Pair in the early 1950s. Soumitra Chatterjee is a notable actor, having acted in several Satyajit Ray films, and considered as a rival to Uttam Kumar in the 1960s but not at the level of Uttam Kumar. He is famous for the characterization of Feluda in Sonar Kella (1974) and Joy Baba Felunath (1978), written and directed by Ray. He also played the adult version of Apu in The World of Apu (1959), also directed by Ray. One of the most well known Bengali actresses was Sharmila Tagore, who debuted in Ray's The World of Apu, and became a major actress in Bengali cinema as well as Bollywood.

The pioneers in Bengali film music include Raichand Boral, Pankaj Mullick and K. C. Dey, all associated with New Theatres Calcutta [13]. Other famous playback singers in Bengali film music were Hemanta Mukherjee, Manna Dey, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay and Kishore Kumar.

In the 1980s, however, the Bengal film industry went through a period of turmoil, with a shift from its traditional artistic and emotional inclinations to an approach more imitating the increasingly more popular Hindi films, along with a decline in the audience and critical appreciation, with notable exceptions of the works of directors like Gautam Ghose. However, even at this time, a number of actors and actresses enjoyed popularity, including Tapas Pal, Prosenjit, Chiranjit, Rituparna Sengupta and others. However, toward the end of the 90s, with the a number of directors coming increasingly into prominence, including Rituparno Ghosh, Gautam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Sandip Ray among others, a number of popular and critically acclaimed movies have come out of the Bengali film industry in recent years. These include, Unishe April, Titli, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Bombaiyer Bombete, etc and signal a resurgence of the Bengali film industry.Now after 2000 their rise another group of actor (Jeet, Dev, Parambrata, Rudranil), actress(Koel Mallik, Paoli Dam), Director(Anirudha Roychodhury, Raj chackrobarty), musicians (Jeet Ganguly).

Jahar Kanungo’s 'Nisshabd' made in 2005 has been critically acclaimed for its originality in the treatment of image and sound.

The market for Bengali films has expanded to a 340-million-strong Bengali audience in Bangladesh, West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. The industry could truly flourish if films from this state have a proper distribution network. While around 50 films are produced in West Bengal every year, only 30 make it to the theatres.[14]

Bangladeshi film industry

The Bangladeshi film industry is based in Dhaka. As of 2004, it produced approximately 100 movies a year. The average movie budget was about 12 crore Bangladeshi taka.[15]

Although the majority of the films made in Bangladesh are strictly commercial in nature, a handful of directors from Bangladesh have attained critical acclaim for their outstanding work. Zahir Raihan, Khan Ataur Rahman, Salahuddin, Alamgir Kabir, Amjad Hussain, Moshiuddin Shaker, Sheikh Niyamat Ali, Humayun Ahmed, Morshedul Islam, Tanvir Mokammel, Tareque Masud are among those prominent directors. One of the first films produced in Bangladesh after independence was Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Called Titas) in 1973 by acclaimed director Ritwik Ghatak, whose stature in Bengali cinema is comparable to that of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen.

Bangladesh has been officially submitting nominations for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film from 2003. Masud's Matir Moina (The Clay Bird) was the first film to be submitted, and won a number of other international awards from the Edinburgh, Palm Springs, Montreal, Marrakech, Cairo and Cannes Film Festivals. Another internationally acclaimed filmmaker from Bangladesh is Morshedul Islam, who won major awards at the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg and other international film festivals.

See also


  1. ^ a b Who's Who of Victorian Cinema. Hiralal Sen
  2. ^ Pioneers of Bangladeshi Cinema
  3. ^ Gokulsing, K.; Wimal Dissanayake (2004). Indian popular cinema: a narrative of cultural change. Trentham Books. p. 24. ISBN 1858563291. 
  4. ^ IMDB page on Jamai Shashthi
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ BANGLAPEDIA: Film, Feature, accessed 27-VII-2006
  8. ^ Sarkar, Bhaskar (2008), "The Melodramas of Globalization", Cultural Dynamics 20: 31–51 [34] 
  9. ^ "The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1992". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  10. ^ "Take One: The First Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2006-07-27. 
  11. ^ The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made By THE FILM CRITICS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York Times, 2002.
  12. ^ "All-time 100 Movies". Time. Time Inc.. 2005. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  13. ^ New Theatres Calcutta
  14. ^
  15. ^ Bangladeshis reject "smutty" Bengali films, AFP/Helen Rowe, accessed 27-VII-2006

*Bengali Cinema

External links



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