chapter  4
Regional cinemas
Pages 142

This chapter maps the multiple transitions and shifts of Bengali cinema since its inception in the 1920s, tracing the evolution of a particular paradigm of the film form leading up to the end of the 1950s, and the unmaking of the same paradigm of ‘Bengali’ cinema since the 1970s, and leading up to the present. Key to this understanding of Bengali cinema is the idea of ‘cultured Bengaliness,’ which informed the making of a regional culture industry. It created the paradigm of ‘film as art’/‘culture,’ and made the Bengali cinema a project of the educated ‘middle classes,’ the Bengali bhadralok.1 The rupture of the same paradigm of ‘film as art’ or a ‘cultured’ entertainment gave Bengali cinema an entirely new configuration after the 1970s, and made room for the existence of very diverse genres and trends of regional cinema. The last decade has seen efforts better to commercialize Bengali films, with the industry forging corporate ties and effectively tapping the explosion of electronic media for the purposes of publicity and promotion. Bengali cinema now looks poised for an upturn, but its very distinctive brand of Bengaliness, its defining element of an earlier era, seems to be a thing of the past, or, at least, has receded to the margins of the contemporary discourse.