"Cigarette toh shudhu phushphush ke jalaye, ami amar hridoy jaliyechi” (Akrosh, early 2000s). Boss, these dialogues just ain’t gonna work anymore! ‘Protibaad’, ‘Protishodh’ newowa hoye geche, and the ‘Boro bou’, ‘Mejo bou’, ‘Choto bou’ series is over, as all the ‘Choudhuri Porbar’s and “Sonar Sansar’s have been pushed into oblivion. The Bengali movies of the 1990s and early 2000s- very much like a deep fried, heavily spiced, indigestible kochuri- are not being accepted by the newer audiences. Today’s youth, calorie- conscious, yet a lover of excellent taste, expects the same when it comes to cinema. Commercial chobir oto tel moshla ar hojom hoye na! And hence, breaking into Tollywood, is a new breed of directors and scriptwriters, catering to our altered preferences- the masala is just right- giving ‘too much’ a run for all it’s worth! This is what we bongs have gotten around to calling, the ‘multiplex movie’.
Ekhonkar bacchagulo bohut paka! They know everything! Gonjakhuri goppo diy oder mon jeta jabe na, sir! The ‘hero’ of the commercial movie- larger than life- is someone none of us have ever seen in our lives. He jumps off a cliff, and descends on his feet, all his bones intact! He’s shot, six or eight times (depending on what pistol the ’villain’ could afford) - and then he smashes the ‘villain’s’ head on a rock, unhurt... There’s a long list of movies from the 1990s, where the hero tells the villain in a thunderous voice, ‘Mayer dudh kheye thakle bero, haramjada! lorey dekha amaar shathey’.
Sad part is, none of us have had the archetypal older brother who rode an auto rickshaw in order to ensure we got an education. And if one in a million of us have indeed been fortunate enough to have had one, I’m sure we would not have turned him out of the house once we were independent. I haven’t seen too many real life brides eloping with their boyfriends on their wedding day; they know that running around in a 15kg benarasi sari, wearing a king’s ransom worth of gold, is not an easy feat... they’d escape beforehand. But a commoner approach we’d follow is to refuse the proposal outright and tell our parents we’ve made our choice. ‘Cause in real life, a girl’s brother generally does not hire goons to behead her boyfriend.
And therein lies the factor that differentiates class from crass... Today’s movies tell us the story of us. It could be a glimpse of your life, or mine, that we catch in them. The passions we followed, the sins we committed, the little pleasures we indulged in... they’re the basis of a multiplex movie. Set in one of the houses we’ve grown up in, not the palatial mansion that looked more like a bejeweled continent- so gaudy and so huge! The protagonists wear the clothes and makeup we wear, they don’t go to bed looking like they’re going for a wedding! They’re the story of the girl next door, or that boy in class... or even of that transgender we openly ridiculed until a couple of years back, but have now accepted, giving them the dignity they deserve. The characters are neither completely black, nor totally white. They have shades of grey in them, just like we do. And that is why we relate to them. And that is why we love them. They’re bits of us on celluloid.
Be it two strangers falling in love online (Antoheen), or the fingers pointed to a woman’s character when a male friend of hers dies while on a holiday with her (Anuranan), we’ve been there, done that. We genuinely sympathize with Mitthi, yet we don’t blame her fiancée Joydeep Roy for backing out of the wedding (15, Park Avenue) when she suddenly turns schizophrenic, days before the nuptials. Seriously, how many of us would actually go ahead with the wedding? We understand the mixed sentiments of Pablo and Taniya (Madly Bangalee), best friends who end up falling in love, yet deciding to go their own ways when they realized their paths would never converge. They were band members who had clashes with their co-members- religious, academic, and about authority. Now tell me, how many of us haven’t gone through that? Thousands of girls worldwide related to Sri (Autograph), who parted ways with her boyfriend of many years when he illegally used her photographs to promote his directorial début. She was not the Sati Savitri type Indian woman who’d have forgiven her man, irrespective of what he’d have done. Neither am I. Nor are most other girls I know.
The Bong Connection; Cholo, Let’s Go; Cross Connetion; Bo Barracks Forever, Cholo Paltai, Iti Mrinalini... they all depict our love-hate relationship with life, our daily struggles and victories, our laughs and tears. They’r OUR story!
Brinda of Antoheen might have been killed, and with her Abhik might have lost his first love; Preeti of Anuranan lost her reputation of being a ‘nice’ woman, Mitthi lost her sanity and her fiancée; but their movies won. Madly Bangalee, the band, might have disintegrated, but Madly Bangalee, the movie lingers on in our minds for months.
These movies have no heroes and villains. They just have characters- like us! And hence, we know what they’re dealing with. Their tears, their smiles, their worries and their joys become ours. They seem to be our friends, and not aliens from some distant planet. No wonder, we’ve taken to them like a fish to water!