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Tollywood top draws 2006

More misses than hits, a run for the main man’s seat, big ventures sinking, a few surprises thrown in… it’s been turbulence time at Tollywood this year.

Mithun Chakraborty came close to unsettling Prosenjit from the hot seat, while the heroine brigade marched ahead with Koel Mullick and Swastika Mukherjee as Rituparna Sengupta sought greener pastures in Bollywood.

A quick look at who and what made a difference in Tollywood ’06.

Shadows of Time. Director: Florian Gallenberger. Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Prashant Narayanan, Irrfan, Soumitra Chatterjee

What’s special: A Bengali feature film from an Oscar-winning German film-maker. An intense love story made in Bengal and garnished in Germany. Though the Bengali sensibility was missing, the breathtaking cinematography made up for it. Jute mills, redlight areas, the ghats of Ganga... the visuals were unlike anything that Bengali cinema has ever seen.

Voiceover: “I wanted to make a film which would work for both Indian and western audiences. Calcutta was the right place for my film, as it has a strong notion of time passing and that is one of the main subjects of the film” — Florian Gallenberger.

Bibar (Calcutta Unabashed). Director: Subrata Sen. Cast: Subrata Dutta, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakraborty

What’s special: Samaresh Basu’s banned-for-obscenity novel, but Calcutta unabashed' Hardly. What seemed outrageous in the Seventies is tame for today’s teens. So, Sen spiced up his script with some “bold scenes” — bedroom romps and bare back shots — which raked in the box-office collections.

Voiceover: “I haven’t deviated from the book thematically. But as the book was set in 1960s and the film is in contemporary times, I incorporated changes that were relevant” — Subrata Sen.

Herbert. Director: Suman Mukhopadhyay. Cast: Subhashish Mukherjee, Joyraj Bhattacharjee, Lily Chakraborty, Bratya Basu

What’s special: It dared to be different. Theatre director Mukhopadhyay surprised us with this unusual tale (told by writer Nabarun Bhattacharya) of a bullied and battered black sheep of a decadent zamindar family. A slice of the Naxal period was dished out without didacticism. Both Joyraj and Subhashish touched a chord as young and mature Herbert, respectively.

Voiceover: “It was since 1997-98 that I had started to develop the book into a script. Ever since I read the novel, I knew that it had the potential to be made into a film” — Suman Mukhopadhyay.

Dosor. Director: Rituparno Ghosh. Cast: Prosenjit, Konkona Sen Sharma, Pallavi Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Shankar Chakraborty

What’s special: A black-and-white film with a contemporary theme. Marital infidelity, relationships and gender issues. Prosenjit and Konkona, together for the first time. And the monochromatic look and feel of the film. Prosenjit’s silence was effective, as was Konkona’s confusion.

Voiceover: “I didn’t find the need to use colour in this film. Black and white gave me the umbrella colour to join all the incidents and disparate elements. The film begins with one relationship, keeps progressing with many relationships and then comes back to the first relationship” — Rituparno Ghosh.

Koel

MLA Phatakesto. Director: Swapan Saha. Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Debasree Roy, Koel Mullick

What’s special: Mithunda and his dialogues. The rehash of the Anil Kapoor-starrer Nayak was the year’s biggest box-office draw. Goon-turned-MLA Mithun took over the turnstiles, leaving romantic/action heroes Prosenjit and Jeet behind. The success story was such that Shree Venkatesh is planning a sequel.

Voiceover: Marbo ekhane, lash porbe sashane...” — Mithun as MLA Phatakesto.

Nayak. Director: Sujit Guha. Cast: Prosenjit, Sayantani Ghosh, Swastika Mukherjee, Ashish Vidyarthi

What’s special: Prosenjit’s most successful film of the year. It clashed with Jeet’s Hero, but managed to stay ahead. So, Tollywood’s hero number one managed to clutch on to his crown.

Voiceover: “The film did pretty well” — Prosenjit.

Agnipariksha. Director: Ravi Kinagi. Cast: Prosenjit, Priyanka Trivedi

What’s special: A remake of Khilona where Prosenjit plays Sanjeev Kumar. Despite a stellar performance from the leading man, the film crashed, hurt its producers and sank comeback girl Priyanka.

Voiceover: “It’s a performance-oriented commercial film. There are no fights in it” — Prosenjit.

Kranti. Director: Riingo. Cast: Jeet, Swastika Mukherjee, Ashish Vidyarthi

What’s special: The Jeet-Swastika combo, rock music by Bangla band members Samidh, Rishi, Som... Kranti fell far short of the mini-revolution in Tollywood that its makers had promised. Because too many things were dated, from the same old story of rape and revenge to Jeet’s cliched transformation from meek village boy to action hero.

Voiceover: “The storyline is inspired by Ram Gopal Varma’s Shiva and so is the treatment” — Riingo.

Jisshu and Nilanjanaa in Aamra

Aamra. Director: Mainak Bhaumik. Star cast: Jisshu Sengupta, Nilanjanaa, Parambrata Chatterjee, Ananya Chatterjee

What’s special: It is touted as Tollywood’s first sex comedy, but Aamra’s uniqueness lies elsewhere. The year’s last release is a candid, bold exploration of sexuality and relationships in modern Bengali society. A documentary-style narrative, deliberate jerky camera movements, jump cuts and natural acting set it apart.

Voiceover: “They are a bunch of confused, anxious, compassionate and adorable characters... It is more of a verbal sexual comedy, more about telling than showing” — Mainak Bhaumik.

Six sidelights...

Madhavan and Konkona in Sunglass

Filming of Brick Lane: A village off the Bypass became Bangladesh in mid-October, when British film-maker Sarah Gavron landed in town to shoot some flashback portions for the film adaptation of Monica Ali’s novel with a local cast and crew. As Nazneen, Tannishtha Chatterjee roamed the paddy fields thinking of her childhood in Mymensing.

Sameera Reddy returns: The dusky beauty was back in town for yet another Bengali film by Buddhadeb Dasgupta — Aami, Yasin O Amar Madhubala. This time, she has Prosenjit for company.

Bangali babu Jackie Shroff: Mouthing Bengali lines isn’t easy for him, but King Uncle didn’t mind giving it one more try. After Antarmahal, the role of a prostitute’s patron in Raatporir Roopkatha brought him here in November.

Star-studded Sunglass: Madhavan, Naseeruddin Shah, Jaya Bachchan… Rituparno Ghosh’s comedy brought rare acting talent to town, from Technicians Studio to Lahabari, St James Church to Gariahat market.

Technicians Studio privatisation: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s privatisation pitch bypassed protest meets, sit-ins and strikes by the film industry members. The studio has been leased out to Zee for a makeover and infrastructure upgrade.

Adlabs comes to town: Our film-makers will no longer need to rush to Chennai or Mumbai for post-production work. Ace firm Adlabs has finally set up base in Tollygunge and Salt Lake. From film processing to recording, editing, dubbing and Dolby digital mixing, the two units at two ends of town will offer everything we needed.

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