When the trailer of Chander Pahar was unveiled at a popular amusement park here on Children’s Day in 2013, little did anyone know this would become a milestone film in the history of Bengali cinema.
Based on Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novel (he also wrote Pather Panchali), it is the costliest Bengali film till date, made for Rs 15 crore. It is making waves even in the markets of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, where it was released simultaneously, though they’re not the traditional markets.
To the surprise of many, the film has managed to please a national audience, and ticket sales indicate a longer run. Produced by Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF), one of the biggest production houses in Bengal, it is expected to break even by the end of the current week (the fourth since release). For next week, it can well be on its way to profits. The previous such big-budget Bangla film was Mishawr Rahashyo, made for Rs 7 crore. In this case, SVF was the studio and distributor for the film.
|MAKING A MARK|
Chander Pahar is also the first Bengali film to be shot in Africa extensively; half the budget was allocated for shooting there. The film is about a young Bengali man’s adventures in Africa in the years 1909-1910.
Buoyed by its success, Shrikant Mohta, co-founder of SVF, told Business Standard it was planned to release the movie in South Africa. On Friday, it will hit screens in America, too.
According to film critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the non-Bangla audience also received the film positively. “This is a stepping stone for Bengali films and opens a new horizon for these. I was impressed when I first saw the trailer. The audience reception shows such films have a market outside the state,” he said.
The average cost of making a Bengali film is Rs 2-3 crore and has most of the revenue from single-screen theatres. SVF, to its credit, has films on a larger scale such as Raincoat, Memories in March and Chokher Bali.
Mahesh Ramanathan, chief operations officer of Reliance Entertainment, which has co-produced Bengali film Boss with popular actor Jeet, said this was a positive sign for the sector. “It shows we don’t have to look outside for stories. Our own culture is so rich that we can make such films which would cater to a national audience as well,” he said.
However, when pitted against other regional films, the Bangla film industry has some ground to cover. Movies from the south Indian market are obviously at the front.
The costliest film from southern soil was the Rajnikanth starrer Endhiran, with a Rs 150-crore budget, 10 times the cost of Chander Pahar. Tamil and Telugu films have a decent foreign audience as well. Marathi films, too, have done well recently; their costliest appears to be Baji Prabhu Deshpande, on a budget of about Rs 50 crore.