Priya Cinemas Kolkata stands as the proud torch bearer of the evolving Bangla Film Industry and under the able leadership of managing director Mr. Arijit Dutta is now spreading its wings to reach out to the masses in the districts of West Bengal by developing similar properties in areas like Siliguri and Haldia. Priya Entertainments Pvt. Ltd. has revived the dying flame of stand-alone theaters and in a candid chat with Sholoana Bangaliana, Mr. Dutta who is fondly addressed as Dadul Da mapped the evolution of the Bangla Film Industry from the early nineties to 2013 (The Year of Chander Pahar) and also spoke at length about the problems that are crippling this “Once Very Strong” industry.
Mr. Arijit Dutta whose only exposure to movies as a child was in the form of Cartoon Films on birthdays, in-spite of the family hosting big stars like Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachhan fondly remembers Haathi Mere Saathi as the first commercial Hindi cinema that he had been allowed to see (Which he later took the liberty of watching about 51 times each time crying during the scene of Ramu’s death). With Hindi Films coming so late in life, Bangla cinema was apparently non-existent until Paromitar Ek Din was put up in Priya in keeping with a friend’s suggestion. As Mr Dutta says, “The urge or the habit of watching Bangla Cinema did not exist at that time, more so because of the kind of movies that were being made during that period”.
Mr. Arijit Dutta along with being an accomplished actor is an entrepreneur, probably the role that he holds closest to heart and it can be easily said that this very aspect of Mr. Dutta has been shaped, chiseled and fine tuned by his mother Mrs. Purnima Dutta, a social activist and very successful entrepreneur who had single handedly controlled the downward sling that Priya Entertainments Pvt. Ltd. had started slipping into at one point in time. Mrs. Dutta, a strict disciplinarian ensured that her son takes over the business only after learning and understanding the finer aspects of the corporate world, a conscious decision which she did not budge from even when Mr. Dutta had to fight out the odds and survive with bare minimum in one of his job postings. Mrs. Dutta has an awe inspiring personality, one that even the Kolkata Police feared and respected and looked up to when it came to managing the crowd at Priya during the big releases and it is her perseverance and taste that has given Priya Cinema an identity of its own.
Along with strengthening the brand presence of Priya Entertainments Pvt. Ltd. and acting in select Bollywood and Tollywood movies, Dadul Da is actively working on his dream project which centers on Eco-Tourism in Bengal and this passion of his invariably comes from his involvement with sports right since school days. A District Level Cricketer in school days, University Blue in Hockey during college days in Jadavpur University and A National Rowing representative, Arijit Dutta had at one point of time explored and excelled in almost all kinds of sports. His love for the wilds and mountains also goes back to his school days when he was first exposed to mountaineering. With the vision that this man has and the strategic expertise that he has the capability of bringing about in his projects, the new Eco-Tourism project might as well shine out as a landmark for tourism in Bengal.
At a time when the popular notion was that cinemas were run only by ‘Rickshawwallahs and Lungiwallas’, Mr. Dutta took the reins of Priya Cinemas and standing strong in the face of all odds, Mr. Dutta did all he could, right from selling tickets at the counter to managing lines at the entrance to taking tough decisions like increasing the ticket prices of shows at Priya to mostly running family oriented movies at the theater, to revive the whole experience of movie going in Kolkata.
While talking about the evolution of Bangla cinema with Mr. Dutta, a very important concern that has been troubling the thought leaders of the Bangla film industry i.e. the flood of Bangla Movies (Of all kinds) came into light. “Bengalis do not have the time, temperament or the resources to watch so many Bangla Movies every week” says Dadul da and from here picks up the discussion on the profits that some of these Big Banner movies claim to have made in the past. Interestingly enough, as Mr. Dutta says, apart from some movies like Bhooter Bhabisyat, Ichhe and such other cerebral films, the number of truly profit making films can be counted on fingers. Adding on to this thought, Dadul Da also stated that the Bangla Film Industry which was once one of the most successful industries in India with over 80% films making profit, over 15% covering cost and just about 5% losing money is rapidly getting into the lines of Bollywood where about 80% of films are losing money, 15% may be covering cost and just about 5% making profits. Mr. Dutta also pointed out that the lack of unity amongst the Bangla Film Makers as well as the absence of solid preventive measures to stop movie piracy is in a big way responsible for the failing revenue models and the lack of growth of the industry. Dadul Da also holds this lack of unity and the existence of multiple channels responsible for the inadequate representation of the Bangla Movies in the overseas market, a concern which also entails the failure of Databazaar Media’s efforts to take Bengali Films to the overseas market in an organized manner.
Talking core business, this new flood of movies is actually doing more harm to the Bangla film industry than good as while the taste of the audience in the urban areas has evolved and experimental movies find a place, the district audience still prefers hard-core Dev and Jeet movies which are now not being made in those numbers as these actors have also been swept with the new wave which limits them to about mere three to four movies between the two of them. As Dadul Da sees it, the way things are progressing, the theaters in the districts will soon run out of content as “On Merit” only very few movies have the capability of sustaining the occupancy for 5-6 weeks and this shortfall of content will actually result in the depletion of resources, the shadows of which have already started creeping in, forcing these theaters to opt for ventilator services.
After talking at length on such important issues of the Bangla Film industry, the conversation shifted to Mr. Dutta’s career as an actor and quite a few interesting things like his initial total lack of interest in acting and then the subsequent building up of base as an actor came out. Mr. Dutta catapulted to the status of a national star with his last Bollywood Hindi Movie Madras Café due to which, just like most others, information on his upcoming Bollywood movies was of great interest to us. As revealed by Mr. Dutta, he will soon be seen in a Dharma Productions movie that would in all probabilities also star Hrithik Roshan and talks are on for another movie called Music Mandali. On this very context he also mentioned few of his favorite movies and in the list featured some landmark films like Bou Barracks Forever, Shunyo Anko and definitely Madras Café.
When asked about his aspirations as a director Mr. Dutta said that he has no such plans yet but then again never know! Though Mr. Dutta did not totally shun off the idea of trying his hands at direction, he outright denied any aspirations of producing a movie; the problem area being the union laws that compel producers to employ and pay even non-contributing and non-performing members of the crew which is absolutely not acceptable to Mr. Dutta.
From this very exhaustive conversation with one of Bengal’s most successful businessmen Mr. Arijit Dutta, some very interesting facts about the industry trends came to light which definitely needs very careful consideration and deliberate action and this can be achieved only when the entire industry comes together as a giant conglomerate representing only one thought and that is The Overall Health of the Bangla Film Industry and its International representation.
Arijit Dutta Interview (You Tube)