Cinemawala: An ode to the celluloid era shot in lush digital

Posted by Kaahon Desk On April 24, 2016

According to the reports, Kaushik Ganguly’s Cinemawala has won the UNESCO Fellini Medal; therefore it is probably being eagerly awaited. The trailer of Cinemawalla has a déjà vu of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso but that’s not an insinuation. Probably all tributes to small-time cinema halls and a lost era of celluloid glory have the same feel. From the content of the trailer, one would expect a rather over-the-top Paran Bandyopadhyay as a single-screen hall owner and a repository of Bengali cinema’s better yesteryears. Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Sohini Sarkar seem to belong to a later generation, obviously. The younger man is probably at odds with the senior citizen and the woman is probably a conscience keeper. And thus far, the film promises nothing different than standard tropes found in every other melodrama.

However, there are a few points of intrigue. To begin with, an ode to the celluloid era is shot in lush digital, and an elegy to the single-screens will probably be released in the multiplexes. Obviously this is not a grievance or criticism, because this divide is probably necessary for the ode to be possible. However, it’d be interesting to see how far the film itself is aware of such inherent contradictions and how it chooses to address them.

Incidentally, given the age of the protagonist played by Paran Bandopadhyay, lion’s share of his professional career must have encompassed the decade of 1970s and 80s. As we know, the ‘70s was the decade when the so-called ‘golden era’ of Bengali cinema came to a halt because of myriad political, social and industrial reasons. The latter half of the ‘80s witnessed a slow rise of the industry after the mainstream popular re-invented itself by abandoning the earlier romantic dramas and presenting family-centered potboilers with elements of social rabble-rousing (one particularly remembers Anjan Choudhury’s projects). It was the era of color, VHS piracies and the beginning of a B-grade ‘regional’ imagination, which was slowly losing its cultural specificities as Bollywood was on the verge of redefining itself, which will be complete by the 1990s.

Will the troubled period of 1970s and ‘80s feature in Cinemawala’s looking back at Bengali cinema’s yesteryears? The trailer shows Paran Bandyopadhyay reveling in the nostalgia of Uttamkumar – which one might feel as appearing subtly anachronistic. Is Cinemawala another longing about a ‘golden past’ of Bengali cinema which is fashioned to be oblivious of a gloomier phase when that ‘past’ was actually shelved. Such an erasure was also evident in Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om where the disturbed ‘70s suffered an overlook to forge a merrier ‘nostagia’ of Hindi cinema as a constructed predecessor of today’s Bollywood. Is the new urban Bengali cinema Cinemawala constructing a similar reification of the ‘50s and ‘60s as its predecessor proper? Hopefully, the film will throw better light on such confusions.

Arup Ratan Samajdar  


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