With five honours for two films at the 65th National Film Awards, the Bengali film industry is celebrating the glory which amplifies its contribution to Indian cinema. Filmmakers and actors say such achievements will encourage more talent to come up with subjects that matter and treatment that makes an impact, in the near future.
Atanu Ghosh's "Mayurakshi", a father-son story, won the Best Bengali film, while Kaushik Ganguly's "Nagarkirtan" was bestowed four honours, including Best Actor for Riddhi Sen, Best Costume Designer, Best Make-Up and a Special Jury Award.
Actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, who starred in "Mayurakshi", says it's a "great moment".
"The fact is most of our regional films do not have a huge budget to promote and release the film nationwide, like a Bollywood film. So the only strength we have is our strong content. This is where the content wins," Prosenjit, a celebrated talent of Bengali cinema, told IANS.
The achievement is encouraging for Bengali talent.
"Our achievement surely boosts the confidence for better work," said 19-year-old Riddhi, and added: "I think I am too young to become an inspiration for the future generation because I am one of them. I would rather work much harder to maintain my quality of work."
Prosenjit pointed at how Bengali filmmakers and actors have always contributed to Indian cinema very actively.
"Whether it is Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak to Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh and presently Srijit Mukherji and Kaushik, we have a great presence in the world of cinema and storytelling. I think this year with five awards, we are celebrating the glory," he said.
Emphasising on the tradition of storytelling and iconic filmmakers, Riddhi said: "I think our presence in the film industry, be it in Bengali or Hindi, has always been felt. If we look at the filmmakers who contributed to bringing a change in Indian cinema, we have a Bengali film director in every era.
"From the age of Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee to Pradeep Sarkar, Anurag Basu, Shoojit Sircar, Dibakar Banerjee... Many Bengali filmmakers are not only making their mark in regional cinema but also to the Indian films as a whole.
Bengali director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, who forayed into Bollywood with the acclaimed "Pink", was a part of the 10-member jury of the 65th National Film Awards. The panel was led by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who minced no words in saying Bollywood can't compete with regional cinema in content.
Chowdhury told IANS: "This year, we had some beautiful pieces of cinema come from the various regions. When I look at the number of awards Bengali films won, as a Bengali, it made me happy. Both the films -- 'Mayurakshi' and 'Nagarkirtan' were well-deserving."
"Like the way good cinema, good music or achievement of our own people inspires us to excel and creates a good spirit to work harder, I believe that with the five awards at the 65th National Film Awards, our Bengali film industry will only flourish in future."
Personally, he is happy about the overall quality of films emerging from unexpected quarters of the country.
"Like a film from Ladakh, a film in Tulu language... Those are some of the positive developments we observed in regional cinema this year," he said, adding that the decision for the Best Feature Film, which went to Assamese drama "Village Rockstars", was tough.
Asked why despite their huge budget, wide exposure and star value, Hindi films are lagging behind, Chowdhury said: "Look, National Film Awards is not a film competition. We are celebrating the best film coming from across the country. Hindi cinema is a part of that journey.
"This year, more good films came from other regions that won awards. As a filmmaker, I do not want to deny the fact that how some of the filmmakers are attempting to make good films, working on good content in Hindi films. Maybe next year we will get to watch more Hindi films."
(Arundhuti Banerjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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