The Bengali film industry has been experiencing resurgence during the last five to seven years. The audience is coming back to the cinemas, and with the opening of multiplexes, films have found newer audience. Budgets have also increased ten-fold, and promotion and publicity spends are at par with any other industry, scaled down to the size of this industry.
Filmmakers have begun experimenting, and we have newer stories, and new concepts are being explored. For instance, our recent release, Chitrangada – The Crowning Wish, deals with gender identity, which would have been taboo in a conservative society like ours a few years ago. I think we are in the best phase ever, where we can make the kinds of films we like without wondering how the audience will react.
Budgets of hugely successful and commercial films have gone up considerably, and publicity and marketing budgets have increased phenomenally. It is imperative to have your film heard and seen by the audience. Today, the audience are exposed to various types of cinema and are aware of nuances. They understand the gloss, finesse, realism and all that is true of visually appealing films, of course, along with the story. So ballooning budgets justify ticket prices.
Bengali films are finding a wider market mainly due to greater awareness of Bengali cinema thanks to publicity; availability of films through different mediums and social networking sites; releases being planned nationally; film festivals and so on. Also, Bengali filmmakers are making films in different genres; and new directors are experimenting with newer stories, newer ideas, fresh talent and with a fresh take on stories and narratives. All this catapults these films to a larger audience.
Gone are the days when any and every film drew the audience to the cinemas. People are very smart and exposed to all types of cinema, and they either appreciate a film or reject it completely. Also, today’s breed of producers, directors, scriptwriters, actors and everyone else associated with films are acutely aware of this changing reality.
Foreign locales add flair and gloss to films. Overseas locales are either part of the story or are used for song shoots as in films in other Indian languages. And Bengali cinema is no exception. But it is a recent phenomenon, going back just three to four years. Shooting songs abroad has added a certain gloss and scale to our films, which we were sorely lacking. The audience need freshness, which is achieved by including peppy, well-crafted and well-shot song and dance sequences, which then justify the foreign locales.
We at Shree Venkatesh Films are also shooting our films abroad and are incorporating these sequences into our stories. More recently, we shot in Malaysia for a film called Challenge 2, and the songs will be shot in London and Scotland.
Today, close to a hundred films release in Bengal every year. But we still need fresh ideas, fresh talent, new filmmakers, visionary producers, technicians, music directors and so on. We can no longer keep churning out films like a factory with repetitive ideas, the same cast, same musicians etc. Now that the industry is back on track, the audience is begging for newness in films they pay to watch. Our company encourages fresh talent. The sad part is that there is a serious dearth of new, talented people in our industry.
What The Future Holds
The scenario sure looks promising. The international film circuit is actually asking for films from Bengal, and cities like Bangkok and Singapore are hosting Bengali film festivals. Our films are being requested by Australia, the US, Canada, Italy, Shanghai and South Korea. This is a very healthy sign for the industry. It is very heartening to know that Bengali films are actively being sought, whereas these international markets earlier only looked to Bollywood or films from the South.
If we continue to make relevant, good cinema and do not become complacent, Bengali films will soon be talked about in the same breath as South Indian films in the regional space.