Category Archives: Uncategorized

Films for Children and their Emerging Prominence

In the history of Indian cinema children’s films have always occupied a special position. However, when compared to other films, children’s movies always seem to be smaller in numbers. As a result, there is always one or more. In the last few years there has been a surge in making films for children, thus producing some landmark films. It is true that psychology of children are a lot different from adults in many ways and so films that are made for children should be able to appeal to them.

There is a difference between films on children and films for children. However, there are a few films that clearly defy this distinction. Tare Zameen Par is that classic example of a film that mesmerizes adults and children equally. In fact, the film was so strong in its conceptualization and presentation that it did cut across the barrier of age. Tare Zameen Par can be regarded as a landmark film in the history of children’s films. In 2011 Amole Gupte’s Stanley ka Dabba hit the screens. When seen from close quarters the film does not fall into line with other mainstream films. It is the story of a small boy Stanley, orphaned by his parent’s death and trying hard to study. The film is a beautiful and captivating depiction of the life of an orphan boy who just wants a better life.

Of late Hawaa Hawaai is also making a buzz among film lovers. The film is about a small boy whose all hope of being able to skate with other children rests on his coach. It makes the story of the journey of a young kid from a small town to the hustle and bustle of Mumbai feel almost like the story of our own life. It is not a film only to watch but a film to feel as well. Films for children are something that need to be crafted carefully so that all the aspects of a child’s psychology are highlighted, otherwise they would lose their appeal.

Debarshi Das

The Latest Trends in Indian Telefilms

The Indian film industry is undoubtedly one of the most well established film industries in the world. In fact, India happens to be the largest producer of cinemas in the world, with around 2500 films produced every year in different languages. Over the last few years Indian telefilms have also undergone huge changes in form and dimension. Telefilms are shorter in length than mainstream films and are generally produced on a low budget. The plot of a telefilm is also less intricate than films and is generally devoid of any digressions.

The latest trends in Indian telefilms highlight a propensity to depict some burning socio-economic issues. One theme that is found to occur repeatedly in Indian telefilms is the theme of gender discrimination. The position of women, especially in rural India, has been in an unbearable state for centuries. With a view to highlight the plight of Indian women most of the telefilm makers in India have decided to make gender discrimination their central theme. Unlike mainstream films telefilms are released straight through television channels and hence are able reach out to a large number of people.

The telefilm industry in India has been on a rapid growth curve especially for the last few decades. The latest trends in the industry suggest that the producers and directors of telefilms would get more and more inclined towards bringing issues like gender discrimination, corruption, moral degeneration and unemployment into public domain. However, it would be inept to accuse telefilms of having a pessimist approach, in fact, they are one of the main mediums of raising public awareness.

Indian telefilms are at par with international productions in matters of merit. Over the last few years a large number of youngsters, most of whom are the graduates of various film and television institutes, have treaded into the realm of making telefilms. This has enriched both the quality as well as the appeal of the telefilms.

Why Bengali Sitcoms are so Popular; Their Evolution into Mega Serials

For people like me who always prefer to see things in a different way, Bengali mega serials are the perfect way to keep the average Bengali women stuck to the couch every evening. As an integral part of the Bengali television industry, these sitcoms have a viewership base larger than any Bengali film. However, there is a need to find why these sitcoms, or ‘serial’ as they are more commonly known in Bengal, are so popular, even if they are nowhere near to the intellectual standards set by noted Bengali film makers.

First, a closer look reveals that the sitcoms have a very simple way to tell a story. This goes well with average Bengali women. The stories are straightforward, though not always without deviation which in turn makes the plot more complicated and profound. Two Bengali mega serials which deserve mention and which are regarded by many as the trendsetter for modern soaps are Janani and Janmabhoomi. While Janani dealt with the day to day incidents in a joint family, Janmabhoomi, depicted the transition of a royal family from the pre-independence era to the post independence years. Both the sitcoms ran for hundreds of episodes before the production ceased and till the very end they retained their popularity.

Second, another important feature that seems to play an important role behind the success of Bengali sitcoms is the story itself. Almost all the stories revolve around a few families and the relationship between characters. There are one or two main protagonists and the story starts forming around them before spreading its branches. Bengali women can relate with the stories depicted and hence feel as if it is the story of their own life. This is why, even more than one sitcom has an almost similar plot.    

Bengali Theater: The Very Fabric of Bengal’s Intellect

Bengal has always been known for its inclination towards cultural and literary practices. It seems poetry and theater is in the DNA of Bengalis. In the early years of 19th century Bengal saw the evolution of theater and stage acts in their modern form. Though to some extent similar practices existed even before, it was only after the onset of the British Raj that Bengali theater gained popularity as a form of mass entertainment.

Though during the first half of the 19th century theater largely remained confined within the courtyards of Babus, the second half was completely different. The legend of the stage and the main brain behind today’s Star Theater Girish Chandra Ghosh revolutionized Bengali theater once and for all. He took theater to the middle of the masses and made it a tool of public education and awareness. However, during Ghosh’s time the sole essence of theater was a lot different than what it is now.

During the early part of the 20th century, Bengal’s theater stages emerged as the platform to voice dissent against the imperial rule. It gained impetus in the closing years of British rule in India when theaters and became synonymous with life. Many critics refer to the staging of Nabanna written by Bijon Bhattacharya in 1944 as the birth of the Group Theater culture in Bengal. In fact, Nabanna was an exact picture of the social upheaval that Bengal was going through at that time due to the notorious Bengal famine of 1943.

In the post independence period Bengali theater performances started taking a clear political shape with a view to propagate a certain political idea. During the entire 50’s, 60’s and 70’s figures like Sambhu Mitra, Tripti Mitra, Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay, Utpal Dutta and Kumar Roy ruled the stages producing, directing and acting in one after another groundbreaking plays that principally focused on the life of a common man. Tagore has always been a favorite of Bengali theater personalities and all of his plays have been staged more than once and from different perspectives.

Sambhu Mitra founded Bohurupee theater group soon after independence and then in 1960 Ajitesh Bandyopadhyay founded Nandikar. Both the groups are still very much relevant in Bengal’s theatre. With the passage of time the old stalwarts gave way to budding talents. Now, Bengali theater personalities include people like Rudraprasad Sengupta, Bibhas Chalraborty, Usha Ganguly, Kaushik Sen, Debshankar Halder, Gautam Halder, Debesh Roy, Chandan Sen and many other promising figures. Many say that the golden age of Bengali theater is gone, but theater is so intricately woven with Bengali culture that Bengal without theater is impossible.

The Author is a Groomer who has trained many a actors for roles in Theaters and Films

Bangla Bands: The New Genre of Bengali Music

The history of Bengali songs dates back to the 12th century when, Laxman Sen, the last ruler of the mighty Sen Dynasty, appointed Jaydeb as his court poet. Jaydeb was a gifted man and his songs on the love of Radha and Krishna are still very much relevant. However, with the passage of time people of Bengal grew more and more inclined towards poetry and songs and throughout the next millennium several Bengali lyricists and composers worked on different genres of songs. But it was not until the introduction of Gramaphone in 1902 that songs became a part of day to day life.

Keeping up with time is always essential in order to avoid fading away into the oblivion and Bengali composers have done it very successfully. 1930’s saw the evolution of the Bengali Adhunik Gaan or Bengali Modern Songs that differ from conventional pastoral or religious songs in more ways than one. But, come the 1970’s, these songs somewhere seemed to be an escape from the reality that the youth of that era were very much attached to. This gave rise to the need of speaking of the real life things in a straightforward way, ultimately leading to the birth of Moheener Ghoraguli, India’s first rock music band, in 1976. It was in fact the birth of the Bangal Band culture, a culture that was inspired from the western society, yet more connected to the roots than anything else.

Moheener Ghoraguli opened up a new vista for the Bengali audience who were searching for something different for quite some time. However, the band failed to hold on for long and dissolved after a few years, but not before changing Bengali music once and for all. In the 90’s several Bangla Bands came into existence— the most notable of them are Chandrabindoo, Bhoomi and Fossils. While Chandrabindoo and Fossils concentrate on Bengali Rock Music, Bhoomi emphasis on folk fusion. All the bands have emerged to be hugely popular not only in Bengal but also overseas where there is a considerable Bengali population.

The first few years of the new millennium also saw the birth of more than one Bengali music bands like Insomnia, Dohar and Madal. Insomnia has strictly kept itself confined within the realm of New Age Rock Songs while both Dohar and Madal are associated with the folk songs of Bengal. Bengali music bands have an audience base that ranges from teenagers to retired people.

The main reason behind the popularity of the Bangla Bands is that their music is really very simple and people connect with the lyrics easily. In most of the cases the songs, unlike conventional Bengali modern songs, are a manifestation of what a person faces in daily life. Right from the absence of the house maid to taking care of skin, from the shrinking of the society to the lost days of childhood, each and every aspect of life is presented in a simple, candid and sometimes in a satirical way. The Bengali music bands, nowadays perform all over the world, thus taking Bengali music to a new level and giving it a better exposure. In the last two decades the Bengali music industry has been changed to a large extent and it is the Bangla Bands that are chiefly responsible for that.

The author is an ardent follower of the Band Culture of Bengal and is a columnist with leading dailies of the country.

World Environment Day Special Kolkata Ghats Watch (Sholoana Bangaliana Feature)

The Fallen RiversThe term Ghat in Bengali language means a set of stairs which leads to a pond or a larger water body like a river. There are many cities through which rivers pass and the ghats were constructed on the banks of such cities so that the people could use them for bathing and other purposes. For example the ghats in the city of Kolkata have their own significance. They are the silent observers of many life and death events. They have also noticed the changing landscape of the city. However the ghats of Kolkata are now in a despairing situation.

The ghats along the Ganga in Kolkata are areas where religious activities and trade is conducted and a walk along one of these busy ghats of Kolkata by Sholoana Bangaliana correspondent in order to present a World Environment Day Special article revealed a sorry state of affairs.

The ghats are in a terrible situation and nearly all of them are crumbling down. All the ghats are in various stages of erosion and these places which used to be the pride of the people in the city have now become victims of ill-maintenance.

One must thank the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage which took the onus of restoring the Prinsep Ghat in 1993. This was built as a promenade by the British government and hence cannot be called a proper ghat. However the ghat has been identified as a British era relic and hence has been luckier than its counterparts.

The next Ghat under observation was the Babu Ghat. Things are dreary here. Illegal vehicles parked, garbage dumpes and the gangs of pandas make you go mad during your visit to the ghat and add to this the stench of the garbage and you will surely get a taste of “Living hell”.

Mutty Lal Seal Ghat was named after a well known philanthropist. This ghat is also facing the same fate as it’s the other counterparts. The biggest challenge is trying to enter the ghat. The garbage lying in the open welcomes you to the ghat. This area which had much importance in the early 19th century has now become a place to dump garbage and inspite of the pitiable state of the water body here, people bathe here without the slightest of hesitation.

If this was not enough, then Loha Ghat and Ram Chandra Goenka bathing ghats with the foul smell emanating from all around will make your my guts wench.

The most sorry sight that left me thinking about the health and well being of the poorer sections of the society was that number of people use these unclean waters for bathing and other purposes as either do not have any options or they are not well aware of the consequences of consumption of such unsafe water. This is harmful for their health. They may become victims of many water borne diseases. Also the way the people are polluting the river waters is alarming. Awareness must be increased by the government authorities among the people to restore the condition of the Kolkata ghats.

Despite the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the condition of the ghats continue to deteriorate. Without proper action being taken, chances are that the ghats will die an untimely death.

Priyanka Dutta

Tagore the Painter; The Bard’s Myriad Expressions

Rabindranath Tagore was a multi-faceted personality. He made a major contribution in the field of literature of not only Bengal but also on the national level. Poems, short stories, novels, dance dramas, essays- he has written them all. One aspect of the Bard that is less spoken about is Tagore the Painter, though his paintings were as classic as his literary masterpieces. He made his contribution in the painting scenario also. He opened the “Kala Bhavan” which made a great mark in the history of painting in Bengal. Born and brought up in a family which laid great emphasis on music, painting and literature, the Bard was also influenced by this medium. After starting the Viswa Bharati University in Shantiniketan, he went on to open the art wing known as “Kala Bhavan”. This wing was set up immediately after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.

The evolution of an original idea which will reflect the creative expression of the students was the main aim of Kala Bhavan. He even invited painters like Nandalal Bose to run this art wing at Viswa Bharati University. In 1930, Tagore first emerged as a painter in France. This was not unexpected as he had long and lengthy discussions with Romain Rolland. Rolland was a Nobel Laureate. In his book “Inde- Journal” he mentioned that Tagore did not like red color. The dominance of the color red in the paintings by the Italian Painters did not appeal much to Tagore. Violet, blue and green were the most preferred colors for the Bard. French poet and Nobel laureate Saint John Perse was another individual with whom Tagore had eloquent discussions on art.

Tagore never received any formal training in arts. This became an advantage for him. He opened up new horizons for his painting and used line and colors to express him independently. Within a decade of starting painting, he produced over 2500 paintings and sketches. About 1500 of them are preserved at Shantiniketan. Darkeness and mystery were explored much in his paintings. Since he was not bound by any traditions, he could give free reigns to his thoughts.

The self portraits for example were highly representative of his style. Many art critics feel that the self portraits show the search for a self within Tagore. Attracted to primitive art style, these portraits were examples of excellence. Silence gains huge momentum in his paintings. A sense of surrealism and myriad emotions also have an important place in the paintings by Tagore.

It was in 1931 that Tagore held an exhibition of his paintings in Kolkata. This was a year after the exhibition in Paris. German students were highly fascinated by Tagore’s surrealistic touch in his paintings.

Tagore’s contribution to literature and music is unparalleled, but his contribution to painting is equally important. To quote the Bard “The world speaks to me in colors, my soul answers in music”.

 

Priyanka Dutta

Satyajit Ray Films and his Ahead of Time Female Characters

Whether you term him to be a liberal minded man or you call him a feminist, one cannot ignore the fact that the women characters in the films of the late Indian film maker Satyajit Ray are a few steps ahead of the time. They had a personality of their own irrespective of the socio-economic background that they came from. This gave them a charm of their own and has made them immortal not only in India but also in world cinema. Be it an upper middle class lady of the nineteenth century or a lower middle class woman or a tribal woman, the characterizations have been distinct and have made the women characters look real in all Satyajit Ray Films. The best and the finest characterizations have been developed by the director on the basis of the works of Tagore. This link could be possibly traced to the fact that both were from culturally progressive families, were Brahmos and had creative and talented women in their families. This strengthened the bond between them to a great extent.

Extra-marital affairs of women in Ray’s films

Chastity in a woman is always considered pivotal. A woman has to be chaste no matter whatever maybe the issue. Ray broke this tradition of so called chaste women with the film Charulata. Charulata is the quintessential Ray heroine. Madhabi Mukherjee’s portrayal of this character made the dilemma of the women of the 19th century come alive wonderfully on screen. Based on Tagore’s novel Nastaneer, the film is about a culturally sophisticated woman who writes poetry, can do fine embroidery works and has a great eye for aesthetic beauty. However her husband does not devote enough time to her as he is busy with his work as a social and political reformer. As a result her loneliness takes a toll on her and she eventually develops an affair with her own brother-in-law. The story was way ahead of the times and highlighted women in a different way as opposed to the way traditional Bengali cinema viewers were accustomed to viewing the heroines.

Another instance of this extra-marital affair scenario has been shown in the film Ghare Baire which is on Tagore’s novel The Home and the World. Bimala is made to take tuitions in Engish by her husband. This leads to the fueling of the yearning to know about the outside world in her. On the arrival of her husband’s friend she is mesmerized by his rendering of stories of the Swadeshi Movement and gets involved in an extra-marital affair with him. Tagore’s stories found the best expression in the hands of Ray as both Tagore and Ray were thinkers who thought much ahead of their times. These stories are now rampant in Bengali cinema. But the time in which Ray made them required courage and guts to portray such issues and such women characters on screen.

Superstitions against women in Ray’s films

Ray, like Tagore was a Brahmo. Hence he was against the ill-practices of the then Hindu religion. With the film Devi, he showcased the position of women in the then mid-twentieth century Bengal society. The treating of a woman as a deity and how this had a negative influence on her mental health was shown in the film. Despite feeling repressed, the women could not protest. With little dialogues, Ray made the most of this unjust situation with the help of silences-As silence speaks more than a thousand words.

Untouchability was also another issue raised by the film maker in his film Sadgati. A Dalit woman played by Smita Patil was oppressed by the Brahmins. How she protested against them was shown in the film. This kind of thought was revolutionary and raising these issues in the films was also not thought of by the audience.

Women as vehicles of change in society

In films like Mahanagar, Seemabaddha, Aguntuk, Kanchenjunga and Shakha Prosakha, the female characters have played a chief role in bringing out corruption or going against male hegemony or even raising questions on the societal prejudices. All these aspects made them flesh and bone characters with which the modern audience can relate to even today. Therein is the universality of the films made by the late film maker. He surely knew women better than many of his contemporaries. When compared with his first film Pather Pachali which did not have such strong female characters, the range which the director displayed later on never failed to impress the audience. Ray did not showcase the men as harbingers of change but let his female characters take the lead.

Ray’s women were better evaluators of situations and knew how to handle them deftly. Despite the films made in a time when heroines had the typical song-dance sequence for them, the films of Ray showed them completely in a new light. They were humane, made errors, listened to their hearts even fought against injustice. It will not be wrong to say that Ray could also foresee the future. The women he portrayed in his films are the new modern Indian women. The women characters of Ray were liberated, had an inner voice which they listened to and acted upon, something that is now the way of life for modern Indian women.

Priyanka Dutta

Manna Dey Songs Popular with the Srilankan Audience Too

Manna Dey, the legendary singer who died at the age of 94 mesmerized the audiences not only in the Indian sub-continent, but his popularity was also equal in the neighboring country of Sri Lanka. The language never became a barrier for this legendary singer whose voice alone melted the hearts of the listeners. The singer gained widespread popularity with the song “Buddham Saranam Gachchami” in the island country. This was the song which was part of the film Angulimala. This particular song had enhanced the prestige of the singer among the common people in the country as well as among the Sinhala Buddhists. The song was composed by music director Anil Biswas. The song “Buddham Saranam Gachchami” is a representative of the soul of this sect of Buddhist followers. The song was dubbed in the Sinhala dialect in the year 1962. This was also the same time around which the original film Angulimala was dubbed in the Sinhala language. A popular Sri Lankan singer by the name of Mohideen Baig lent his voice for the Sinhala version of the same song. After the Sinhala version was out, the song was on the lips of the young and the old alike in Sri Lanka. Karunaratna Abeysekera wrote the lyrics for the Sinhala language. He was a famous poet and an eminent lyricist. This heightened the importance of the songs immensely among the people in this country. The theme of the film Angulimala had also created a place in the hearts of the Sri Lankan audience. This is simply because the film was about Lord Buddha. The film showed how Lord Buddha transformed a robber and a murderer and made them follow the path of righteousness. The song also shows the broad outlook of the people in this country. The song has been sung by an Indian who is a Hindu by religion- Manna Dey. The Sinhala version however had been sung by a Muslim from Tamil Nadu- Mohideen Baig. Manna Dey songs started gaining popularity after this Buddhist religious song was appreciated by the audience in the country. The Sinhalese versions of the singer’s songs in Hindi films began to be made available in the form of CDs and tapes. The songs are even performed now at the various cultural occasions and events. The Sinhalese versions of the Manna Dey songs even garner hits and likes on You Tube from the listeners. Even today at every religious function, this song in the Sinhala version is played. The vast importance of the song can be understood in this way. This also shows why the late Manna Dey gained so much popularity in this country. Language did not pose a barrier. Music overcame every barrier and created a place for him in the hearts of the people.

Priyanka Dutta

Inline Skating in India; Bollywood Film Hawaa Hawaai Brings the Sport to the Fore in India

Roller skating in general, and Inline Skating in particular, has been receiving a massive boost with young skaters queuing up to experience the joy of skating, in India. Various skating clubs have been seeing an upward trend in parents encouraging their kids to take up the sport.  Today, the Indian Team stands at an overall 2nd position in Asia for Skating. In fact, Roller Skating, having missed its place in the Olympics last year, is now being considered for the 2020 Games, scheduled to be held in Japan.

The governing body for skating is the Roller Skating Federation of India (RSFI) registered in 1955. It has been affiliated with Federation Internationale de Roller Sports (FIRS) (World Parent body of Roller Skating) since 1971. RSFI was accorded recognition by the Government of India since September 1990, followed by recognition by the Indian Olympic Association.

According to RSFI, Skating in India can be divided into three parts: SpeedArtistic and Roller Hockey- competitions being held for all categories. The important levels of competitions in India are Club level, State LevelAll India Invitational CompetitionNational level and Selection Trials for the Asian and World Championship.

The selection trials are a matter of prestige for the country, as the students chosen represent the country in global competitions. They have to go through strict trials with Indian as well as foreign coaches. Only National and state level winners are invited by the RFSI to participate in the trials. The Asian and World Championships, which every skating aficionado aspires to participate in, are held once in 2 years.

Competitive clubs present nationally, in cities like Visakhapatnam, Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and many others, push their students to be the best in the field, instilling values like discipline, commitment and increasing their endurance, driving them towards excellence. They train these young achievers to strive for and reach their goal of becoming the best there is.

On a lighter note, considering that this sport has achieved such a high level of seriousness, it is surprising that it is only now that a movie is being made on inline skating. As per a recent article, the membership in skating clubs nationally is on the rise and some even mentioned the movie Hawaa Hawaai being responsible for it. We could call it Pester Power. However, whatever the reason might be, parents couldn’t be happier. A kid skating outdoor, is definitely a happy kid indoor!