2014 Rewind: A year of empty theaters for Bengali films

2014 began on a sad note for Bengali film industry with Suchitra Sen passing away in January and continued in the same vein with only 5 to 6 of the 120 films released being declared hits

Kolkata: With the death of screen goddess Suchitra Sen in January, 2014 began on a sad note for the Bengali film industry which hardly had anything to look forward rest of the year.

Although around 120 films were released during the year, hardly few of them made a mark as most theatres screening Bengali films remained empty.

The saddest part of the year was the demise of legendary actress Suchitra Sen who stole hearts with both her Bengali and Hindi films for three decades till the seventies. 

Suchitra Sen

In Bengal, she was best known for her unbeatable romantic pairing with Bengali cinema legend Uttam Kumar.

Director Srijit Mukherji, whose earlier works like 'Autograph' had pleased both critics and audiences alike, disappointed at the box office this time.

The Prosenjit starrer 'Jaatishwar' won four national awards in the categories of best male playback singer, best costume design, best music direction and best makeup artist. The film, which failed to excite the audience, revolved around the life of Hensman Anthony, a 19th-century Bengali language folk poet of Portuguese origin, as the script crisscrosses between 19th and 21st centuries.

A report by CII and IMRB said the regional industry delivers only 5-6 hits with theatres recording a dismal 30 per cent occupancy on weekends and around 20 per cent on weekdays. 

A survey of Bengali film viewers in Kolkata revealed that a majority (54 per cent) have not been in theatres in the last one year to watch a Bengali film despite proliferation of multiplexes.

In the districts, around two thirds visited movie theaters to catch a Bengali film, but the frequency of visits was quite low, not even three films in a year, the report revealed.

The report further revealed that around 30 per cent of Bengali cinema viewers do not plan to watch a Bengali film in a hall in the near future and an additional 10 per cent have stopped watching Bengali films on big screens in the last one year.

Hit by the dominance of Bollywood, Tollywood was also scared of dubbing of Hindi films and television soaps in Bengali.

The industry called for boycott of dubbed films in the wake of the Bengali dubbed versions of Yash Raj Film production 'Gunday' releasing simultaneously with the Hindi one in the state.

The film was shot extensively in the city and other parts of West Bengal and had the star cast of Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra capturing the flavour of the state in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tollywood however had its share of success at the IFFI in Goa where Kaushik Ganguly's film 'Chotoder Chobi' fetched the best actor award for Dulal Sarkar. The film focuses on the predicaments of those born with genetic defects causing dwarfism.

Srijit delivered a hit with the thriller 'Chotushkone', starring Aparna Sen and Parambrata Chatterjee. The response was such that the producers Reliance Entertainment decided to release it nationally in five Indian cities later on.

Jaatishwar is a Bangla musical drama directed by Srijit Mukherji
Still from Jaatishwar directed by Srijit Mukherji

Popular actor Jeet came up with yet another masala film 'Bachchan', a remake of the 2011 Kannada film 'Vishnuvardhana'. Panned by critics, the film was an instant hit due its cocktail of comedy, action and romance. Sandip Ray experimented with 'Chaar', an anthology film of four stories by different directors.

As Bengal continued to relive its glorious past, director Kaushik Ganguly surprised everyone with 'Apur Panchali', which is based on the real life story of actor Subir Banerjee who played the iconic character of Apu in Satyajit Ray's landmark film 'Pather Panchali'.

Critically acclaimed director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury delivered a box office dud despite high budgets and the mass appeal of actor Dev in the thriller 'Buno Haansh' (Wild Goose).

Young talent showed promise.

Debutante Indranil Roychoudhury's 'Phoring' received the Vincent Ward prize at the 17th Shanghai International Film Festival while another debutant director Aditya Vikram Sengupta's Bengali film, 'Asha Jaoar Majhe' (Labour of Love) won the Best Director award in Venice Days, an independent sidebar of the Venice International Film Festival.

Journalist-turned-director Rhitobrata Bhattacharya managed to rope in Hindi film actor Rahul Bose for his detective film 'Sondhey Namaar Aagey' (Before the sunset). The thriller element managed to do well at the box office. 

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