June 20, 2009

Unique retrospective of Bengali cinema opens in Edinburgh

London (PTI): The St John's Church Hall in Edinburgh has been transformed into a Sunderbans jungle for a three-day Bengali film retrospective of classics by Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Tapan Sinha as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The hall has been covered by foliage from West Bengal while the cackle and cooing of fauna from the Sunderban groves fills the air. According to film festival expert Mark Cousins, forests are a natural place to watch films, "particularly ones from steamy, florid West Bengal".The Bengali Film retrospective runs until tomorrow, when noted Indian actor Sharmila Tagore will be present to publicly discuss the mists and magic of Bengali cinema with Cousins.

Explaining the significance of watching Bengali films in a forest setting, Cousins said at the opening: "I associate forests with fairytales, so the idea of telling a story in a forest is very appealing."Bengal is famous for its jungles. Its images and sounds appear in all their poetry, music and literature.Besides, if you want to convince people to come to films they haven't heard of, you have to make it as magical as possible."

Cousins said: "We're showing West Bengal films in that little forest cinema because the creative heart of Indian cinema is in West Bengal. We invited the first lady of Bengali cinema, Sharmila Tagore, because she's a legend and her career is unique. We're totally thrilled".Classic Bengali films to be shown include Ghatak's 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' (1960), 'Titash Ekdi Nadir Naam' (1973), Tapan Sinha's 'Niranjan Saikate' (1963), and Satyajit Ray's 'Aranyer Din Ratri' (1970).

"Indian cinema is not all Bollywood. India is a federation of people, ideas and cultural forms. And West Bengal, without doubt, is the artistic heart of this federation. It has a tradition of literature and poetry that other parts of India didn't quite have. And this feeds into its films," Cousins added.The uniquely transformed movie hall is part of a cultural conversation between Kolkata and Scotland organised by the British Council.

"I want white Scots to fall in love with these films. I want people to be gripped by the desire to see what Kolkata is like. I want them to be left with a major hunger to go and see Bengali films. These are great works of art. It's as simple as that," Cousins added.

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