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Mixed menu for Poila Baisakh platter

Nishijapon

Cast: Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Soumitra Chatterjee, Dipankar De, Rituparna Sengupta, Raima Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee

Director: Sandip Ray

Releasing at: Priya, Globe, INOX (Forum and City Centre), 89 Cinemas

Storyline: Retired widower Soumitra Chatterjee's lonely cottage atop a hill hums with laughter and tittle-tattle when his two sons (Sabyasachi and Parambrata), daughter-in-law Rituparna and her sister Raima come to spend their holidays. Plus, there's Chatterjee's tea planter friend Dipankar De. But everything goes haywire when the hanging bridge connecting the house with the outer world collapses in a landslide. Without water, food and power, the close-knit family starts crumbling under pressure.

Why watch it: The tremendous success of Bombaiyer Bombete has pushed expectations from Sandip Ray sky high. With Nishijapon, the director has attempted a different genre blending elements of thrill and suspense with emotion and sharp character delineation. Narayan Gangopadhyay's eponymous story set in the late Sixties finds a contemporary look with the craggy winter hills of Kalimpong in north Bengal lending a ruthless edge.

'It's a film about relationships, about how people react to situations when their basic needs are denied,' says Sandip about his 'dream project'.

Shunya e Buke

Cast: Koushik Sen, Churni Ganguly, Tota Roy Chowdhury and Rupa Ganguly

Director: Kaushik Ganguly

Releasing at: Nandan, INOX (Forum and City Centre), 89 Cinemas

Storyline: On a trip to Khajuraho to study temple architecture, art student Koushik meets his 'ideal' woman Churni only to be repelled by her physical shortcomings on their wedding night. As bitterness creeps into the relationship, friend Tota, who always wanted to be a step ahead of Koushik, tries to win the woman's heart.

Why watch it: The pre-release publicity has positioned the film as a debate on love versus lust. Though it had enough scope for sensation, the director promises to have steered clear of the sleaze trap. Shunya e Buke was screened at Wattermans in London as part of the Tongues on Fire Film Festival last month.

'I have focussed on what happens when physical deficiencies assume tremendous proportions for an artist who is used to painting or sculpting the perfect female body, and how the person at the receiving end tries to grapple with the crisis,' says Kaushik Ganguly, on his second project after his celluloid debut in the box-office failure Warish.

Manik

Cast: Jeet, Koel Mullick, Ranjit Mullick, Biplab Chatterjee and Samata Das

Director: Probhat Roy

Releasing at: Aruna, Mitra, Purna

Storyline: Village boy Jeet comes to the city looking for work where realtor Ranjit Mullick hires him to put the touts in place. Soon, the hero finds himself falling in love with Mullick's daughter Koel. But there's a twist in the tale, post-interval.

Why watch it: The Jeet-Koel combo made a great splash in the superhit Nater Guru three summers ago, following it up with Shree Venkatesh's Bandhan late last year. And for the first time, in Manik, the duo is under the guidance of Probhat Roy. The seasoned director who gave huge box office hits like Shwet Patharer Thala and Lathi makes a comeback after three-and-a-half years of hibernation.

The film has been canned at the Tollygunge studios and in Peling with Kalimpong accounting for a couple of song sequences.

'This is a family drama on a slightly different note, minus any revenge killings. There's action but not an overkill of it. Manik is more like Lathi than Shwet Patharer Thala,' says Probhat Roy.

Also in the running is T.L.V. Prasad's Dada, starring Mithun Chakraborty. 2004 saw the comeback of the action hero in Mithun and with two superhits, Barood and Coolie, under his belt, the Disco Dancer is in the mood for some more at the Bengal box office. The film releases in the Darpana-Bharati-Prachi chain.

Footnote: With Bollywood biggies taking a beating or a breather, the most auspicious week for Tollywood beckons. If even two of these four releases pull in the crowds, the Bengali film industry will gather the much-needed momentum for 2005.

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