Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood – Day 3

Bird & Beckett
goes to the movies…

at the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco’s Richmond District…
we’ll see you there!

Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood:
Classic & Contemporary Bengali Movies from Tollywood!

Friday, March 16th to Tuesday, March 20th

Before there was Bollywood, there was Tollywood–  Tollywood,  home of Bengali-language filmmaking, has long been the proving ground of many talents later usurped, exploited and made rich & famous by the Mumbai-based, Hindi-language Bollywood machine.  Its nickname came about in 1932, when a writer in American Cinematography magazine named it for the Tollygunge neighborhood of Kolkata (Calcutta) in which most of the Bengali-language movie production offices are based.

Gautam ChattopadhyayDay 3!  Sunday
Dedicated to
Gautam Chattopadhyay

2:00 pm – Moner Manush

5:00 pm – Nobel Chor

7:00 pm – Live Music
– “Bengal & Beyond”

8:15 pm – Nagmoti

 ♦view the full schedule here
view details on the films here

Moner Manush production still

2:00 pm
Moner Manush
directed by Goutam Ghose (2010)
starring
Prosenjit
as Lalan Fakir

Though few facts of his life are really known for certain, the story goes that Lalan Fakir, or Lalan Sai, born to a Bengali Hindu family in about 1774, was thought to be dead of smallpox when the small retinue he was traveling with pushed a raft bearing his body out onto the waters of the Ganges.  However, found by a Muslim family and nursed back to health, the young Lalan went on to become something of a mystic saint and philosopher, the leader of a band of society’s outcasts, a hero and icon to legions, and at base, a Baul folksinger and song writer whose work in that vein comes down to us today only in small, time-burnished fragments, but whose philosophy that rejects all prejudices of caste and creed is dearly held by countless individuals of conscience.

Director Goutam GhoseFilmmaker Gautam Ghose imagines Lalan’s life in a richly conceived, photographed and recorded film that includes nearly three dozen of his songs, drawing on the novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay.  The Kolkata-born director Ghose’s career dates from his 1973 short film, New Earth; among his many awards, his 1982 film Dakhal was named Best Film in India’s National Film Awards.  A good summary of Ghose’s career can be found at this link.

Nobel Chor production still5:00 pm
Nobel Chor
Directed by
Suman Ghosh (2012)
starring Mithun Chakraborty, Soumitra Chatterjee, Roopa Ganguly and Saswata Chatterjee

Rabindranath Tagore’s 1913 Nobel medal was stolen from a museum in Santininketan, West Bengal in 2004… in 2010, India’s Central Bureau of Investigations gave up the search for it.

Writer-director Suman Ghosh spins the tale of Bhanu, a farmer who comes into possession of the artifact and  thinks to parlay it into something in Kolkata… but maybe this piece of metal isn’t quite the point. Nobel Chor, by Suman GhoshNobel Chor (the Nobel thief) is the story of Bhanu’s journey through a gauntlet of crooks, strange memorabilla collectors and entrepreneurs who want to exploit the poor man who just has a simple of dream of being able to give his son a better future and uplift the state of his improverished village. The film explores myriad aspects of contemporary India – the encroach of globalization, the rural-urban divide and the state of India’s villages.  And, it is a trenchant exploration of the relevance of Tagore’s philosophy in modern India.

Ghosh’s fresh and amusing take on his subject has a thoughtful undercurrent that has won it praise from audiences and critics at home and at major festivals abroad in this 150th anniversary year of the poet’s birth.  Nobel Chor’s European premiere was at last fall’s 55th BFI London Film Festival.

Bassist Bishu Chatterjee of Bengal & Beyond7:00 pm
Live music by
“Bengal & Beyond”

featuring Sharmila Guha (vocal), Prasant Radhakrishnan (sax), Bishu Chatterjee (bass), Bryan Bowman (drums)

Bassist Bishu Chatterjee formed the band Bengal & Beyond in San Francisco just a few years ago, to explore and fuse music from his Kolkata roots with jazz, latin rhythms, Carnatic classical music and more.

In the 1970s, Bishu was a founding member of Mohiner Ghoraguli, an historically unprecedented and crucial folk-rock outfit led by his brother Gautam which blazed a trail that many, many Kolkata bands have trod in the years since — particularly since a Mohiner revival swelled to great prominence in the mid-1990s.

Bengal & Beyond cd, "Gautam"Bishu lives now in the Bay Area, and is well-known to regulars at Bird & Beckett Books in Glen Park for his regular Friday evening jazz dates there with the Jimmy Ryan Quintet.  Beyond that, of course, he plays widely– with the group called Jazz Minds, the Chattermill jazz unit, and of course, Bengal and Beyond, which has done memorable shows at the Red Poppy Art House as well as at Bird & Beckett and other venues.

Bengal & Beyond features vocalist Sharmila Guha as well as acclaimed Carnatic/jazz saxophonist Prasant Radhakrishnan and the versatile jazz and improvisational music drummer Bryan Bowman.  The band’s recent cd entitled “Gautam” include songs written by Gautam Chattopadhyay from the Mohiner Ghoraguli repertoire, as well as Bishu’s originals and jazz classics like Horace Silver’s “Calcutta Cutie.”  View a youtube video of the band in an earlier incarnation performing Gautam’s tune Amar Priya Cafe at Bird & Beckett.  In addition, this link shows the band in performance as it’s currently constituted at a Red Poppy Art House date.

8:15 pm
Nagmoti
directed by
Gautam Chattopadhyay
(1983)

We’re thrilled to be able to present to you today, in a rare and delicate 35mm print, Gautam Chattopadhyay’s 1983 film, Nagmoti.  Leaving Mohiner Ghoraguli behind, Gautam moved on to extensive work in ethnomusicology and filmmaking, all the while continuing as a composer, songwriter and musician.

Nagmoti is a dramatic feature film conceived and executed by Gautam and a crew of creative talents drawn from his close circle.  The story is set within a floating nomadic community of snake-worshiping gypsies known as “Bede” in the Ganges river delta southeast of Kolkata, using nonprofessional actors of great talent.  The film was awarded the 1983 Silver Lotus award for Best Feature Film in Bengali at the National Film Awards, India’s equivalent of the Oscars.  Click on the “blog” button in the navigation bar above to view two pages from that year’s festival brochure, which describe the film well and give a brief bio of the director.  (Please note that the pages can be read most easily if you enlarge the image.)

Excellent background essays on Gautam with particular emphasis on Mohiner Ghoraguli can be found at this link and this link