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Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood

Friday through Tuesday
March 16th -20th!

Bird & Beckett goes to the movies…

at the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco’s Richmond District…
we’ll see you there!

Opening Night Friday! 
7pm – The Japanese Wife
9:15 pm – Aparajita Tumi

Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood:  Classic & Contemporary Bengali Movies from Tollywood!

 ♦view the complete schedule at this link

♦view details on the films here

Before there was Bollywood, there was Tollywood–  Tollywood,  home of Bengali-language filmmaking, has long been the proving ground of many talents later usurped, exploited and made rich & famous by the Mumbai-based, Hindi-language Bollywood machine.  Its nickname came about in 1932, when a writer in American Cinematography magazine named it for the Tollygunge neighborhood of Kolkata (Calcutta) in which most of the Bengali-language movie production offices are based.


But why is Bird & Beckett throwing a Tollywood film festival?

It’s no small thing that we get to give Bay Area moviegoers a chance on opening night (Friday, March 16th, 9:15 pm) to see Aparjita Tumi, the brand new feature film by award-winning director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury.

Aparajita Tumi (The Unvanquished) stars the No. 1 Bengali actor Prosenjit plus two wonderful actresses from the south, Padmapriya Janakiraman and Kamalinee Mukherjee, and Chandan Roy Sanyal.

Aparajita Tumi was shot last summer entirely on location in the Bay Area — from Carmel to San Jose and Fremont to San Francisco.  In fact, key scenes for the film were shot in your favorite neighborhood bookshop, Bird & Beckett, and your favorite “great little place to eat,” Higher Grounds.

The film premiered in Kolkata in January, and we were on the scene to soak up the glamor!  Come to the Balboa Theatre for our own San Francisco brand of glamor–casual & cool in this vertiginous city of foggy beauty.

Aparajita Tumi screens Friday night at 9:15, after the 7:00 pm screening of renowed director and actress Aparna Sen’s 2010 film, The Japanese Wife — a gorgeous tale of epistolary love between a Bengali teacher and the Japanese woman who becomes his wife, though they never meet.

Starring Rahul Bose, Raima Sen and Moushima Chatterjee, The Japanese Wife also features Japanese actress Chikusa Takaku in the title role of the woman whose love for the Rahul Bose character hardly requires physical proximity to be real, deep and abiding.  The film is described aptly as a “love poem” on celluloid, and renders a rich sense of the remote and swampy Sunderbands region  in the Ganges river delta and the rhythms of life there, at once serene and brimming with the excitement of expectations, dreams and the swirl of the characters’ relationships.

Konkona Sen Sharma in Iti Mrinalini

Konkona Sen Sharma in "Iti Mrinalini" by Aparna Sen, screening Saturday, March 17 at 8:30 pm

On Saturday night, at 8:30 pm, we’ll show Aparna Sen’s latest film Iti Mrinalini (2011).  Aparna Sen and her daughter, Konkona Sen Sharma, play the film’s lead character at two stages in her life.  The Hollywood Reporter compared Iti Mrinalini (An Unfinished Letter) favorably to the work of Douglas Sirk and Max Ophuls, two masters of Hollywood melodrama from the Golden Age.

In the course of the festival, we’ll also offer a half-dozen other contemporary and classic films.  The weekend will include screenings of Aniruddah Roy Chowdhury’s Antaheen (The Endless Wait), which won Best Picture at India’s National Film Awards in 2009, plus established director Goutam Ghose’s Moner Manush, and acclaimed films by emerging directors Suman Ghosh (Nobel ChorThe Nobel Thief) and Somnath Gupta (Ami AaduThe Sound of Love).  And on Tuesday, we’ll kick off an evening of classics with Satyajit Ray’s 1969 kids’ action pic Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures of Goopy & Bagha) followed by his black-and-white existential masterpiece Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest) and Mrinal Sen’s formidable film, Calcutta 1971.  Click here for more detail on some of these individual films.

On Sunday evening the Festival will cast a huge spotlight on Nagmoti — a film from the early 1980s by the now legendary musician, ethnomusicologist andfilmmaker Gautam Chattopadhyay.

This dramatic feature film, set in a community of gypsies in the Ganges river delta southeast of Kolkata, won the 1983 Silver Lotus award for Best Bengali Film at the National Film Awards, India’s equivalent of the Oscars.  We’ll show it in a 35mm print that’s rarely been seen since Gautam’s untimely death in 1999.

Accompanying the Nagmoti screening will be a live performance by Bengal and Beyond,” a band that fuses Bengali music and American jazz, led by bassist Bishu Chatterjee, with carnatic saxophone master Prasant Radhakrishnan, drummer Bryan Bowman and vocalist Sharmila Guha.  Back in the 1970s in Kolkata, Bishu played drums and cello in his brother Gautam’s trailblazing folk-rock unit called Mohiner Ghoraguli; now Bishu is a regular on the Bird & Beckett jazz scene.

“Bengal and Beyond” plays at 7 pm Sunday, and the movie screens at 8:15.

Click on any of the directors’ names or titles below for a glimpse of what’s in store for you:

Aparna Sen
Iti Mrinalini, 2011
The Japanese Wife, 2010

Goutam Ghose
Moner Manush, 2010

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Aparajita Tumi, 2012
Antaheen, 2009

Somnath Gupta
Ami Aadu, 2011

Suman Ghosh
Nobel Chor, 2012

Click here for poster art & other images

From the masterworks of Satyajit Ray to the lush and probing romanticism and social engagement of the contemporary masters, audiences look to the Bengali-language cinema of Kolkata to provide India’s most satisfying movie-going experiences.

There’s nothing to rival the thrill and good feeling of a grand movie-going experience in a real theatre with a crowd of excited moviegoers — you just can’t get that good feeling when you stream flix to even the best flat-screen tv!

So brush up your Bangla… or clean up your reading glasses for the subtitles… and join your friends at the historic Balboa Theatre in mid-March for what promises to be a very big show!


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