Bengali films have always been ahead of their time, to date, the industry continues to churn out cinematic gems. The legacy of Ray-Ghatak and their contemporaries, who took their work to international platforms, is being taken forward by the new-age filmmakers. While keeping the charm of Bengali cinema intact, contemporary films are surely bringing back those glorious days.
And, fortunately, OTT platforms have made it easier to access stories that we might have missed out on otherwise. So if you are on a lookout for something beyond mainstream cinema, we suggest you to add these Bengali films to your watchlist.
1. Jyeshthoputro– Zee5
Originally conceived by renowned filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, Kaushik Ganguly’s family drama showcases a complex relationship between two brothers within a simple narrative. The death of the patriarch of the Ganguly household brings both back together to their ancestral home but the huge gap between them still remains. On the surface Jyeshthoputro might seem like a story of a dysfunctional family but it unravels the layers of human psyche.
2. Bela Seshe– Amazon Prime Video
Chaos ensues in the family when a septuagenarian couple decides to part ways after 49 years of marriage. The film deals with numerous delicate issues within a marriage and makes the viewer question their beliefs about this union. Besides delivering a poignant story of companionship, the film boasts of extremely convincing performances. Bela Seshe is a family drama but unlike any other you might have seen so far.
3. Nagarkirtan– Amazon Prime Video
Although not all, Nagarkirtan might clear up a few disagreements we have on trans representation in our films. Coupled with outstanding performances, the almost flawless film shakes you to the core. To say, it is just a queer love story would be trivialization of a film that holds up a mirror to the naked realities of the society.
4. Mayurakshi– Zee5
When the protagonist’s father shows signs of geriatric dementia and cognitive dysfunction, he returns to his ailing father. The film delves into the struggles of ageing and complexities of human relationships. Soumitra Chatterjee and Prosenjit Chatterjee,with impeccable performances, make Mayurakshi much more than a film that explores the evolving relationship of a father-son duo.
5. Jonaki– Netflix
Jonaki, with powerful storytelling and surrealistic visuals, traces the decaying memories of its protagonist, Lolita Chatterjee, lying in her deathbed. She relives her life through those foggy memories and dreams. Director Aditya Vikram Sengupta goes beyond the boundaries of conventional storytelling and that’s where the brilliance of the film lies. Truly a visual treat.
6. Tasher Ghawr– Amazon Prime Video
The story in the film is told as an extended monologue narrated by the lead, played by Swastika Mukherjee. Set in the backdrop of the prolonged lockdown, Tasher Ghawr picks up a common issue, that is domestic violence, but stands out in its treatment of the subject.
7. Rajkahini– Amazon Prime Video
Rajkahini isn’t the first film made on partition. However, this fictional tale does shift the lens towards one of the most exploited sections of society, the prostitutes. The intricate tale of love, patriotism and oppression, showcases the dire need of belongingness. When a brothel owner and the residents are commanded to leave their home, as the country is being divided, they wage a war to save the roof over their heads. Sounds familiar? The film was adapted in Hindi as Begum Jaan. And even if you have seen it, the original one is still worth a watch.
8. Shonar Pahar– Netflix
Mostly Shonar Pahar exhibits a rift between a fiercely independent mother and an estranged son. But Parambrata Chatterjee, who also features in the film, makes it out of ordinary with his innovative approach to the plot. Despite its flaws (which are very few), you can sit through the film for its masterclass performances, for sure.
9. Asha Jaoar Majhe– Amazon Prime Video
Asha Jaoar Majhe, a lyrical masterpiece, says so much without even using a word. The film, starring Basabdatta Chatterjee and Ritwick Chakrobarty, follows a nameless couple stuck in monotonous jobs. The routine mundane acts continue while the narration is left to the alluring old classic Bengali songs.
10. Machher Jhol– Netflix
Machher jhol isn’t a dish but an emotion (for Bengalis) and in this film it is a shared memory for a mother and her son. When the latter returns home to visit his ailing mother, she asks him to cook machher jhol (fish curry) with the same flavours he did decades ago. Director Pratim Gupta skips the melodrama and brilliantly captures the conflicts between traditional values and new generation’s ambitions.
While mainstream cinema is still riding and thriving on adaptations and stories told over and over again, these films surely bring you a contrasting scenario of Indian cinema.