With the aftermath of the Durga Pujo festivities lingering in the air, here is a list of five underrated Bengali movies that everyone should watch.
Bela Sheshe (2015)
Directed by Shiboprasad Das and Nandita Roy, Bela Sheshe (loosely translated: at the end of the day) tells a story of a marriage, broken yet not broken. Tthe film is about a husband wanting a divorce from his wife after 50 years of marriage. This raises questions about the social institution of marriage. The film boasts of a formidable cast with names such as Soumitra Chatterjee and Swatilekha Sengupta in the lead roles, masters of their craft. There is a particular scene in the movie, where Rabindranath Tagore’s Tumi Robe Nirobe’s plays subtly, while the characters remain silent, are brilliantly executed.
36 Chowringhee Lane (1981)
Aparna Sen’s directorial debut is a movie which touches the tender chords of the audiences’ hearts. It is the story of a middle-aged school teacher who is trapped in her loneliness. Violet, after the marriage of her beloved niece (her only relative), lives as a recluse her whole life, having only one joy, that is teaching Shakespeare at school. When an ex student chooses to visit her at her residence, 36 Chowringhee Lane, she starts having company. It is a profound, realistic and deeply moving chronicle of a woman’s quiet desperation and struggle through the silence in her life. Jeniffer Kendal as Violet is magnificent. The film also went on to win National Film Award for best direction.
Unishe April (1994)
Rituparno Ghosh, the director, went on to win the National Film award for the Best Feature Film. This film boasts a strong cast of women (Aparna Sen and Debashree Roy), Unishe April is a film about a broken relationship between a celebrity mother and her confused daughter. The film dares to tackle what is perhaps the most challenging subject in art- interpersonal relationships. Mainstream Indian cinema stick to stereotypes- the ideal doting mother, the bright submissive daughter. Unishe April, dismantles those stereotypes with cinematic brilliance. Aditi’s (Debashree Roy) mother (Aparna Sen) isn’t the epitome of a perfect mother, neither is Aditi the poster child. Fraught with history, the film chronicles the aftermath of 19th April (Unishe April), the day Aditi’s father passes away. It is a story of a day, told through flashbacks and gripping exchanges that questions human behaviour at the best. Debashree went on to the win the National Award for Best Actress for Unishe April.
Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, based on the famous short story written by Rabindranath Tagore, is meditative poetry as claimed by one of the journalists at FirstPost. It is the story of a lonely wife, whose husband Bhupathi, the modern-man whose ever consuming interest in running his newspaper, leads him to neglect his wife. To provide her gainful company, Bhupati invites his cousin Amal over. Amal’s infectious energy and literary bent of mind matches Charulata’s and there develops a deep bond between them. What ensues is a poignant love triangle which questioned societal norms and sanctions.
Charulata was based on Tagore’s Nastanirh (“The Broken Nest”) but Ray, who wrote the screenplay in addition to directing the film, refashioned details from Tagore’s story.
Some of Charulata’s most beautiful moments are the wordless sequences, shot with mesmerising grace by Ray and his cinematographer Subrata Mitra. The camera spoke using angles, shadows and perspective. The famous sequence showing Charulata on a swing was a feat. The use of binoculars early on in the film perfectly communicated the idea of Charulata as a caged beauty who wants to watch, touch, feel and experience the world but is forced to remain cloistered.
Feature Image Credits: Indian Express
Ankita Dhar Karmakar