Kolkata is no longer just a city, it is a character in Bollywood films and the Bengali stars are now receiving acclaim for their performances. The last few films including 'Kahaani' had two Bengali actors Parambrata Chatterjee, playing the role of a cop and Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas.
In Vikram Bhatt's much-talked about bold film, 'Hate Story', Paoli Dam made her debut in Bollywood. Also, Bengali film superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee would be seen in soon-to-be-released film, 'Shanghai'.
It started off with Bidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) and Bob Biswas's (Saswata) bone-chilling turn in 'Kahaani', the first sleeper hit of the year, directed by Sujoy Ghosh. The Bengali actor's portrayal of a poker faced contract killer Bob Biswas in the film won him accolades from all corners and the role of Parambrata (grandson of the legendary filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak) as the supportive cop, Rana, was another surprise package.
Then it was Paoli who created ripples with a bare-back shot in Vivek Agnihotri's 'Hate Story'. To her credit, the film emerged as a box office winner. "I had a fantastic welcome in Bollywood. It is a brand in itself. I want to do more films here. If I get good and interesting projects in Bengali then I would definitely do. The Hindi film industry has been accommodating. I had a fantastic experience," Paoli said.
"Every actor's dream is to work in Bollywood but for me it just happened. I did not plan anything I just went with the flow. 'Hate Story' just happened, Vikram asked me to come to Mumbai for a film and I really liked the role and I did the film," she said.
Also, in John Abraham's maiden home production 'Vicky Donor', the leading lady Yami Gautam, played the role of a Bengali banker. "It all depends from film to film. Sometimes there is need for Bengali characters, or for the film to be shot in Kolkata. Hence we have Bengali actors. The best part is that characters are written for them," trade analyst Vinod Mirani said.
And now Kolkata's reigning superstar for two decades, Prosenjit Chatterjee, makes a comeback to B-town in Dibakar Banerjee's political thriller, 'Shanghai', where he plays the role of Dr Ahmadi, a social activist.
"Right now, he is extremely popular in Bengal where he has managed single handedly to reinvent himself by doing roles and character which nobody could expect out of a genuine matinee idol, mainstream hero. It took me three months to open him. He wanted to be very sure before he did anything outside the Bengali film because it would be his first Hindi film after a long time," Dibakar Banerjee had said.
Exploring the dark side of politics and corruption, 'Shanghai' is about the dream of turning Indian cities into Shanghai overnight. Dibakar feels it is not easy for superstars of regional cinema to be in Bollywood. "Anybody who comes from regional cinema for him or her to break through in the very insular star system of Bollywood is not easy. When you are respected as the number one in own film industry, it's difficult to sort of accept the fact that you are seen as a new entrant to this industry. Thats where true courage comes in and Prosenjit had it in him," he said.
"When he (Prosenjit) came here, none of the new kids from the unit knew about Bengali cinema and how big he is there. But he did not let anyone feel that he was a true blue mega buck star back in Bengal. He was more disciplined than anyone of us. He was there, into the film and focused. He did not let anyone feel that we were dealing with a megastar. We never felt that," he said.