It was back in December 2010 when Sreyashi Sen, a school pal of mine who has been living in Singapore for the last 10 years, was here on vacation and we caught up over coffee. As our conversation rolled, we discussed the variety of cultural events that Singapore hosts and the number of artistes travelling from here to there all year round when an interesting point surfaced. Despite a 2,000-plus population of Bengalis in Singapore, there has never been a festival of Bengali films there or even a big screen show.
Two years on, Sreyashi called me up suddenly on a March morning and said, ‘Why don’t we take forward what we touched upon a year ago?’ So, I travelled to Singapore and made it my mission to turn this idea into reality.
What had started as an adda at the bustling Cafe Coffee Day in South City Mall turned into a full-fledged plan over some more coffee, this time at the Clark Quay waterfront in Singapore, before shaping up as a dream come true for us (Mirvana, his production house) to take Bengali cinema to other countries.
We talked for hours and realised that a Bengali film festival just for Bengalis wouldn’t work. We must work with multi-ethnic groups in Singapore. All they know about Indian cinema is Bollywood. They don’t know about films from other regions at all. Yet, much to my surprise during my visits to a few film schools there, I found that Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak and their works were a part of their study material. Unfortunately, they had no idea about new-age films coming out of this region now.
Mirvana Singapore, in accordance with the taste of young media students in Singapore and a festival committee of 30 members, one half comprising Singaporeans and the other half Indians, shortlisted seven films to have come out of Tollywood since 2010. The initiative from members in the committee including Singaporeans who know nothing about our language or culture was heartening. Then came the clearance from the Media Development Authority of Singapore, their censor board who went through all the films with subtitles, separately licensed each film and finally gave us the green signal!
Our next step is to take Bengali cinema to other unexplored territories as well as organise a similar festival here in Calcutta as a platform for interactions. Why should we restrict ourselves to just one international film festival in the city? Darpan 2012 is a start and we will soon have their films coming here before we go farther east.
Till then, me and my Bandage mates are on a diet of Singapuri kola so that we can go to Singapore and become successful Singapuri kolakaars!