That ‘Pujo-Pujo’ Feeling
by Aritra Dey
Clear blue skies laced with cotton clouds. The landscape dotted with waving fluffy white sticks of ‘kash-ful’. The fragrance from ‘shiuli’ flowers and incense sticks creating an inexplicable aroma. The cacophony of conches and ‘dhaks’ reverberating in an orchestra sweeter than Beethoven’s symphony. Add to these a magical sense of romanticism and you get a festival which transcends religion and rites. ‘Durga Puja’ isn’t just another ceremony to be performed. It is a celebration of happiness and love, harvest and unity, victory of good over evil.
Bengalis, being staunch art-lovers, find the greatest festival incomplete without a good ‘Puja-barshiki’ book or a pleasing ‘Pujor Cinema’. Who will sit back and watch a movie when there is a festival of this magnitude going on – you might ask. But after a sumptuous ‘bhog’ meal, the lazy Bong will devote a bit of time for a film. And for certain unfortunate souls who are away from the Golden Land, watching certain movies brings in the nostalgia and spirit of ‘Durga Puja’.
Here are the 10 films a Bengali prefers watching during Durga Puja.
Note: The Films aren’t ranked in any manner.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s popularity among the bibliophiles is bettered only by Rabindranath Tagore. When Pradip Sarkar debuted in Bollywood with an adaptation of the classic novel, ‘Parineeta’ in 2005, the Bengali hearts fluttered. A love story with a Bollywood twist in the climax, ‘Parineeta’ is the perfect family movie. The ‘Bong’ connection the lead actors share adds to the flavor of this expertly made movie. And when Rabindrasangeet finds its way in the movie’s soothing playlist, a Bengali just can’t ignore it. Shantanu Moitra, take a bow!
When to Watch: Panchami Evening maybe!!
Kaushik Ganguly has somehow managed to retain his individuality amidst the mass sellout to commercial Bengali cinema. A tale across two countries, ‘Bishorjon’ in 2017 narrates a tale of love and sacrifice between a smuggler from India and a rustic woman of Bangladesh. Their paths cross due to a fateful incident during the event of Bishorjon (immersion of the Mother Goddess). Wonderful performances from Abir, Jaya Hussain and Kaushik Ganguly earned the film a National Award.
When to Watch: A perfect film for Dashami evening.
Vidya Balan is simply adored by the Bengalis, given how well she can carry a role of one. When ‘Kahaani’ hit the screens in 2012, people were simply astounded by Sujoy Ghosh’s Calcutta Thriller. Bengali’s love mysteries and the language’s literature is strewn with detective stories. Vidya Bagchi is the latest on the list. The streets of Calcutta, home stars like Parambrata Chattopadhyay & Kharaj Mukherjee in lead roles and Bengal’s son-in-law Amitabh singing ‘Jodi Tor Dak Sune keu na ashe’ in his baritone – ‘Kahaani’ has all the ingredients to be a Bengali’s favorite.
When to Watch: Fried Hilsa and a murder mystery on a wet Ashtami afternoon! Ah Life!
Tarashankar Bandhopadhyay’s short story ‘Pratima’ was about the jealousy and ego between the two wives and their crazed husband Zamindar. The back-drop of it all was the British-pleasing act of creating a Durga Idol with the face of Victoria. Rituparno Ghosh wove an excellent dark tale with the characters, bringing in evil in a seductive form on the eve of Durga Puja. The young sculptor creates his masterpiece and in the ‘Antarmahal’ (inner chamber), desires were built and deeds were performed. Rituparno Ghosh created a ripple, using the image of Durga Puja to an extent no one had dared to do before. Jackie Shroff, Roopa Ganguly, Soha Ali Khan and Abhishek Bachchan put in supreme performances in this murky tale.
When to Watch: Watch it only if you yearn for something different from the usual light-hearted stuff! How about on a dark Namabi night?
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s most popular novel has to be the tragic romantic tale of ‘Devdas’. Although a couple of adaptations had previously hit the screens, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s colorful rendition with the biggest stars in Bollywood stands out by a mile. Catchy and visually attractive, the Bollywood ‘Devdas’ added a crucial segment which never appeared in the novel. The enchanting Paro and the seductive Chandramukhi meet during the auspicious Durga Puja, and dance to the rhythmic ‘Dola re Dola’. When Aishwariya Rai and Madhuri Dixit clad in traditional Bengali Sarees dance to the ‘dhak’ with ‘dhunachi’, no one can look away. It is an all-out commercial film. If you prefer to indulge in some heavy romance and tragedy in Bollywood style, this is the film for you.
When to Watch: Watch it with your loved one and let the melodious track bring in the romance in your lives!! Any day will do!
5. Anthony Firangee/Jatishwar
It is up to you on whether you prefer the Uttam Kumar classic or the Srijit Mukherjee’s reincarnated version, but a watch on the life of the celebrated bard, Hensman Anthony is a must. The Portuguese landed on the shores of India, and stayed on, adapting the culture of Bengali, the songs and poems and even the sobriquet,’Anthony Firangee – Anthony the Foreigner’. Both films depict his life perfectly, the pain and pathos in his life and the ostracization from the society after he married a Bengali widow. Uttam Kumar’s version is lighter and filled with evergreen classic tracks sung by Manna Dey. Srijit Mukherjee’s film is darker and twisted, but contains several melodious tracks which were enough to fetch National Awards in the music category.
When to Watch: Saptami Afternoon is the perfect time for a re-run!
4. Joy Baba Felunath!
Sherlock Holmes can stay in 221 B Baker Street. Calcutta will never need him when there is Pradosh Chandra Mitter residing in 21, Rajani Sen Road. Satyajit Ray’s second and final film on his creation, traveled to the winding, narrow lanes of Kashi (Benaras). A missing Ganesh statue, a grisly murder, a villain like Maganlal Meghraj, the king of Africa, the mysterious Machlibaba, Durga Puja – ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ is a packed up mystery story which keeps the viewer rooted till the very end. Utpal Dutt as Maganlal is terrifying. Santosh Dutta’s iconic performance as the comical Jatayu brings in peals of laughter. The knife-throwing scene remains evergreen. Soumitra Chatterjee is ‘Feluda’, no matter whoever represents the character now.
When to Watch: This is a film which can be watched anytime, anywhere and with anyone. So find out your favorite time and favorite people and divulge in the mystery!
Satyajit Ray’s 1960 film is regarded as one of his finest works ever. The satirical tale on superstition and orthodox mentality present in the people is represented by this wonderful film. ‘Devi’ shows the transformation of Daya into the Goddess Durga at the behest of her father-in-law. She brings in Shakti and joins sainthood, womanhood and motherhood together, casting an unearthly spell on the audience. Sharmila Tagore and Chhabi Biswas put in supreme performances to elevate the film to the elite status. ‘Devi’ generated a lot of controversy as Satyajit Ray questioned exactly where the false sentiments of the people hurt. He exposed the untruths and brought into light what actually happens due to superstitions. The degradation of Daya’s life is depicted wonderfully.
When to Watch: An evergreen classic, ‘Devi’ is best watched on Panchami, just before the main event starts!
Rituparno Ghosh’s millennial drama ‘Utsab’ is a complete film. The biggest festival of Bengal in an ancient zamindar house serves as the backdrop of this Rituparno Ghosh classic. Released in 2000, ‘Utsab’ brings about the tensions amidst the joy of re union, uncovering a long buried secret and culminates on a positive note. The opening shots are those of the sprawling mansion and the finishing touches to the clay idol by Banshi, much like that of the Satyajit Roy cult film ‘Joy Baba Felunath’. The story is unparalleled.
The way Rituparno Ghosh handled the simple yet detailed plot is admirable. Showing the common troubles of a Bengali household amidst the pride of Bengal, the Durga Puja, Rituparno penned a perfect script, offering clues along the way for unearthing the secrets and finally showing a way out of the crisis. He unveils the demons lurking behind everybody’s character slowly and uncovers the secret which the family had been trying to suppress over the years.
When to Watch: It is the perfect ‘Sharodiya’ film, and a worthy Ashtami watch.
1. Pather Panchali
A list about Bengal and films is incomplete without the greatest Indian film of all time, Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’. Durga is the name of one of the protagonists, and the film starts with her presence and ends with her heartbreaking demise. ‘Pather Panchali’ is a wonderful human documentary with Durga Puja playing a crucial role in shaping up the characters. It is the moment of the year where economic differences are forgotten. The entire community is livened with a sense of festive spirit. Apu and Durga enjoy these moments. They are not rebuked for being poor then. Durga tries to do grown up stuff, showing her maturity at such a young age. Apu wonders about the Mahabharata play and solidifies his role as a dreamer.
And of course, the iconic scene of Apu and Durga running through a field of ‘kash-ful‘ to catch a glimpse of the train will be remembered throughout the world.
When to Watch: ‘Pather Panchali’ is a film for all occasions. But it is best watched on Sashthi, just before the ‘bodhon’ ceremony.
The author is a software engineer at Infosys. A passionate film and football buff, with a special interest in deciphering the literature behind the movies.