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Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood

Mark your calendar!

Bird & Beckett goes to the movies… at the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco’s Richmond District… March 16-20.

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

♦view the schedule at this link

Before there was Bollywood, there was Tollywood–  so dubbed in 1932 for the Tollygunge neighborhood of Kolkata (Calcutta) in which most of the Bengali-language movie production offices are based.  Tollywood has long been the proving ground of many talents later usurped, exploited and made rich & famous by the Mumbai-based Bollywood machine.

Why is Bird & Beckett throwing a Tollywood festival?  It’s no small thing that we get to give Bay Area moviegoers a peek at Aparjita Tumi, the brand new feature film by award-winning director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Antaheen won Best Film at India’s National Film Awards in2009).    Aparajita Tumi was shot last summer entirely on location in the Bay Area, including key scenes in your favorite neighborhood bookshop, Bird & Beckett, and your favorite “great little place to eat,” Higher Grounds.

Based on a novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay, Aparajita Tumi stars the No. 1 Bengali actor Prosenjit plus two wonderful actresses from the south, Padmapriya Janakiraman and Kamalinee Mukherjee, and Chandan Roy Sanyal.  Aparjita Tumi premiered in Kolkata in January, and your own bookshop proprietor was there 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.

One thing leads to another, and so we’ve put together a wonderful banquet of films from Tollywood to give you a rich taste of this extraordinary industry.

At the Balboa, Mar. 16-20, we’ll showcase new works by contemporary masters, both proven and newly emerging:

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

And we’ll also screen a rare gem by Gautam Chattopadhyay and masterworks by the likes of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen.

The Festival will cast a huge spotlight on Nagmoti — a film from the early 1980s by the now legendary musician, ethnomusicologist and filmmaker 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 screenings will be live performances 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.

Sharmila Tagore, Robi Ghosh and Soumitra Chatterjee in Satyajit Ray's "Aranyer Din Ratri" based on a novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay

Tollywood is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Indian cinema.  The first films made in India were done in Kolkata, and the industry was named Tollywood decades before the term “Bollywood” came into use.

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.

Remember, too, that 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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The Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project

Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.

The BBCLP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit...
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The Independent Musicians Alliance

Gigging musicians! You have nothing to lose but your lack of a collective voice to achieve fair wages for your work!
The IMA can be a conduit for you, if you join in to make it work.


Read more here - Andy Gilbert's Feb 25 article about the IMA from KQED's site

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