Best Bengali Films of the Decade – Ranked

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The 2010s is coming to a close and we are in the process of compiling the Best of what cinema had to offer for us from 2010 – 2019. We have already done a few articles on Hindi Films, listing the best films, best performances and the best musical albums of the period. You can find all articles related to the Best of the Decade Here. Today we start the journey for Bengali films, and will recall the Best Bengali Films of the Decade.

The biggest event that rocked the Bengali film industry in this decade was the shocking early demise of the legendary Rituparno Ghosh in 2013. With him an era in Bengali cinema came to an end, and that gap could never be fulfilled the same way again.  But he laid the foundation for many other filmmakers to come, and showed the way how to feel and tell stories about the deepest human relationships. It was his fearless courage that helped Bengali cinema to break taboos much ahead of the rest of the country and bring forward sensitive stories around homosexuality, coming of age, complex female psyche or other atypical relationships on screen with a much wider acceptance.

The era also saw two of the most prolific filmmakers of the industry emerge and rule with Kaushik Ganguly and Srijit Mukherji. With their very different styles and stories, both of them created a loyal captive audience for their films and received significant commercial and critical acclaim. This was also the decade of commercialization of all iconic sleuths and detectives from bengali literature. From Felu’da to Byomkesh, from Kakababu to Kiriti Roy, from Mitin Mashi to Shabor, everyone triggered their own franchise and in spite of the repetitiveness, the audience latched on to it, and almost all A-list stars could play one of these characters in one film or the other. I just hope that the industry quickly moves on from there and we see more of other genres and topics gaining as much love and affection from the audience. The multiplex culture and audience is already altering the movie watching experience and has opened up conversations about good and bad films across genres, rather than commercial and parallel cinema. The lines were blurring, and change can only be for the bigger and better.

Then there was the rise of many young and promising filmmakers, who started to bring forward fresh ideas and unique narrating styles on both conventional and experimental themes. Many of them have gone on to get rich national and international acclaim. The number of debut directorials making their well deserved entry into this Best of the Decade list is a good enough indication of their talent and passion. I just hope that they get more and more commercial viability in days to come as well and audience stands with their cinema with all the passion. We are already seeing how rich content driven small films are making such an incredible mark both critically and commercially in say the Malayalam film industry, and that should hopefully be the go forward direction for Bengali films as well as far as the business of cinema is concerned. Also in the wish list is the industry’s need to appreciate the power of digital platforms and ensure that more and more films are tying up with the leading digital platforms of the country and releasing the films on the same with english subtitles within a couple of months of release. More and more people need to watch our films and love them, and that is one strong way to motivate filmmakers to make better films.

With so much to hope for and look forward to in the future, here is then looking at 30 Best Bengali Films of the Decade. It is a good mix of genres, filmmakers and kind of films, though there are some clear front-runners who drove the quality narrative for the last decade. This is a ranked list, and like every other listing, there will always be personal experiences and tastes driving the choice of films and their relative ranking. So a cult film or a popular film may not be as appealing to me, while an unlikely film may have spoken a whole lot more at the overall level. The reverse is equally true. We also saw to it that the overall film was strong enough and was not getting influenced by a very strong performance in an above average film; or did not go over indulgent in filmmaking to eventually turn out to be a missed opportunity even with an interesting concept. We also only considered films that got a theatrical release within this period.

Do share your thoughts and comments on the lists here. What would you like to add to this list and why? Is there something here that you do not completely agree with? Here goes the listing then for your consideration:

Honorable Mentions:

Baishe Srabon (2011), Aparajita Tumi (2012), Paanch Adhyay (2012), Meghe Dhaka Tara (2013), Rupkatha Noy (2013), Nirbashito (2014), Bheetu (2015), Kadambari (2015), Cinemawala (2016), Shankhachil (2016), Maati (2018), Pupa (2018), Ahaa Re (2019), Jyeshthoputro (2019), Kia and Cosmos (2019)

 

Top 30 Bengali Films of 2010 – 2019 : Ranked

30. Mayurakshi (2017) | Atanu Ghosh

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A heartwarming story of an aging father and his NRI son, Mayurakshi had brilliant performances by Prosenjit Chatterjee especially as well as Soumitro Chatterjee, and made us feel for the changing expectations of relationships with time. Honestly, the film did not work too well for me in the first watch, but this is also the kind of cinema that grows more on you during its repeat viewing within the comfortable corners of home. The film is available on Netflix.

 

29. Autograph (2010) | Srijit Mukherji

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The directorial debut of Srijit Mukherji, Autograph was his tribute to the iconic ‘Nayak‘ by Satyajit Ray. The film dealt with the life and times of a superstar deftly played by Prosenjit Chatterjee, and his relationships and realizations. This was also a breakthrough film for Anupam Roy, and he arrived with Beche Thakar Gaan. The film is available on Hoichoi TV and Hotstar VIP.

 

28. Goynar Baksho (2013) | Aparna Sen

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Large parts of Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho (as adapted from Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story) is brilliant and Mousumi Chatterjee is especially terrific as the ghost matriarch of the family who comes back haunting Konkona Sen Sharma and her inheritance of the jewelry box. Konkona is excellent as well, and the film explores changing definitions of empowerment of guarded women of the household with changing times. The film however loses some steam in the final act with a convoluted storyline and ends up delivering a softer punch overall. The film can be watched on Hotstar VIP.

 

27. Natoker Moto (2015) | Debesh Chatterjee 

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Again a debut directorial, Natoker Moto is a sensitive retelling of the life of a dedicated theatre artist, her passion for the art and the price she pays for it along the way. The film adopts an excellent visual narration style that quickly blurs the lines between cinema, theatre and life in general. The transitions between life and stage and very well executed. The film has some excellent performances from the entire cast. Paoli Dam and Bratya Basu especially shine. The film is available on Hoichoi TV.

 

26. Ramdhanu (2014) | Shibaprasad Mukherjee, Nandita Roy

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How far will you go to ensure the best education for your child in an English medium school? Ramdhanu is a smart documentation of the desperation of parents of this generation and how the innocence of children is often at stake to meet the parental aspirations. This is the most restrained and heartfelt film from the director duo, who otherwise often fall into the traps of regressive manipulative cinema in the lure for commercial success. The film was adapted as ‘Hindi Medium’ for Bollywood. The film can be watched on YouTube.

 

25. Open Tee Bioscope (2015) | Anindya Chatterjee

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Open Tee Bioscope is a well executed coming of age film with an overdrive of nostalgia of the growing up years. The film understands every nook and corner of the by-lanes of North Calcutta and the nuances of growing up there. The next gen of bengali film actors from Riddhi Sen to Rwitobroto Mukherjee found their wings in the film and enabled an authentic portrayal of the golden friendship of childhood. Sudipta Chakraborty was endearing as the mother, but the stellar performance of the film came from Rajatava Dutta and Upal Sengupta (with the music). The film is available on YouTube.

 

24. Phoring (2013) | Indranil Roychowdhury

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Another film that marketed itself as Baroder Chhotobelar Chhobi, Phoring is another beautiful coming of age story that deals with the obsessive infatuation of a young adolescent  boy with his sensitive and helpful teacher. Akash Adhikary was excellent as the young boy, and in her debut year, Sohini Sarkar gave two back to back good performances in Phoring and Rupkatha Noy. The film can be watched on Amazon Prime Video.

 

23. Bodhon (2015) | Ayananshu Banerjee

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Bodhon is a small film with a large heart. Again a debut feature, the film traces the journey of a woman craving for motherhood and what happens when she gets a natural born after she has already adopted a child to satiate her desires to be a mother. Arpita Chatterjee was terrific in the film and was well supported by Joy Sengupta. Bodhon isn’t available on any of the digital platforms for now.

 

22. Shonar Pahar (2018) | Parambrata Chatterjee

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Shonar Pahar is a heartwarming story of unlikely bonding between a loner elderly lady and a young orphan boy, especially during a stage of life when the lady’s own son has drifted apart from her. Powered by brilliant performances by Tanuja and the young Srijato Bandopadhyay, and ably supported by Jisshu Sengupta and Parambrata Chatterjee (who also directs the film), it is difficult not to feel emotional with the film. The film is available on Netflix and Zee5.

 

21. Bakita Byaktigato (2013) | Pradipta Bhattacharyya

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Bakita Byaktigato is a very unique film. In the garb of a filmmaker trying to make a film on the pursuit love, this story traces some very unlikely forms and complexities of human relationships and reaches surreal territories where boundaries between realism and fantasy is all blurred. The film flows like a river with a somewhat unstructured construct, at times can get a little overwhelming, but remains strongly grounded by the stellar performances by the cast, especially Ritwick Chakraborty. The film can be watched on Zee5 and YouTube.

 

20. Chotushkone (2014) | Srijit Mukherji

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Four filmmakers strangely connected in life come together on a project exploring death through their unique short films on the same topic. But there is a bigger construct of destiny and they are all part of a situation that they cannot run away from. Not all the four films (within the film) are equally strong, but with Chotushkone Srijit Mukherji is on his comfortable zone of the thriller and plays out the larger construct very smartly. This is possibly one of the finest performances of Parambrata Chatterjee and he is topped over only by the hidden ace of the pack. The film is available on Hoichoi TV.

 

19. Bishorjon / Bijoya (2017 / 2019) | Kaushik Ganguly

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Technically two different films released about 2 years apart, they are both first two parts of a trilogy that deals with love that transcends over national boundaries and religious bindings. The first film Bishorjon explores the dynamics between a young hindu widow in Bangladesh, a muslim man from India stuck there in her shelter post a mishap and the rich lord of the village who schemes to marry the widow. With Bijoya, the action moves to this side of the river Padma, and we see how the change in situation now influences the thinking of all the three characters. Both Kaushik Ganguly and Jaya Ahsan are brilliant in both the films and Abir Chatterjee is earnest in his efforts to match up to them. Bishorjon is available on Hoichoi TV and Bijoya on Zee5.

 

18. Ahare Mon (2018) | Pratim D. Gupta

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Pratim D Gupta’s Ahare Mon is a rich kaleidoscope of emotions and people at various stages in life and societal setup on their journey to explore joy, happiness and love. Each of these journeys have their own flavors of sweetness and there is some brilliant storytelling at play here through which the filmmaker converges some of the tracks to a common focal point. The lyrical narrative is also bolstered by some fantastic performances by the cast, especially Adil Hussain and Anjan Dutta, and there are so many times one would want to go and hug them and others in the film. Ahare Mon is available on Hoichoi TV.

 

17. Iti Mrinalini (2011) | Aparna Sen

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Iti Mrinalini may not be the most flawless film Aparna Sen has ever made, but there is something deeply personal and endearing about the story that traces the journey of an actor and how her passion and her relationships have only taken away more from her than giving her back. Played wonderfully by both Konkona Sen Sharma and Aparna herself at two different stages of the protagonist’s life, the film’s strength lies in its wonderful screenplay and sharp editing. Kaushik Sen is also brilliant in an important character, while Rajat Kapoor hardly ever goes wrong on screen. One can watch this film on Hotstar VIP.

 

16. Shabdo (2013) | Kaushik Ganguly

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Shabdo revolves around the life of a foley artist of Bengali film. His job is to create ambient sounds for films as part of the overall sound design, but he gradually gets trapped in his own world, a world full of sound, and starts losing out on the rhythms of life and his grip with the real world dialogues. A very unique subject is powerfully represented on screen by some excellent direction by Kaushik Ganguly and possibly one of the finest performances by Ritwick Chakraborty. The film is available on YouTube.

 

15. Moner Manush (2010) | Gautam Ghose

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Moner Manush is a Indo-Bangladesh joint venture based on the life and philosophy of Lalon Fakir, a noted spiritual leader, poet and folk singer of Bengal in the 19th century. Gautam Ghose based his screenplay on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s book of the same name, and Prosenjit Chatterjee completely dissolved himself in the character of Lalon and his spirituality. Moner manush deserves your patient viewing and is available on YouTube.

 

14. Abosheshey (2011) | Aditi Roy

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Yet another directorial debut on the list, Aditi Roy chooses to tell the story of a son who is trying to learn about his mother only after she isn’t any more in Abosheshey. In his search for roots, he meets a very sensitive woman in the memories of his mother, who yearned for her son all her life but had to make do with her loneliness. She found ways to keep herself engaged and also find momentary happiness in those things. Rupa Ganguly delivers a terrific performance in the film ably supported by Raima Sen, although the rough edges of Ankur Khanna playing the son show. Nevertheless, it never hampers with the overall experience of the film. This is another small film that is not available anymore on any digital platform.

 

13. Tarikh (2019) | Churni Ganguly

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Churni Ganguly’s Tarikh is one of the smartest screenplays of recent times. Playing along the timelines of life and how there is often an undefined pattern of dates and events that influence our lives, the film also smartly integrates the influence of social media on our lives in the current times, and how relationships are often made and laid to rest on the same. It takes some very attentive viewing to truly appreciate Tarikh as Ganguly has infused the film with such fine nuances. The film is still awaiting a digital release.

 

12. Apur Panchali (2014) | Kaushik Ganguly

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Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay and then Satyajit Ray made Apu iconic through the Apu trilogy. With Apur Panchali, Kaushik Ganguly wants to explore what really happened to the child artist Subir Banerjee who played the young Apu in Pather Panchali. It is a fresh concept, and the film is a restrained dramatization of how the lines blurred between what happened in Subir’s actual life and his on screen character. The beauty is enhanced by how actual clips of Ray’s classics are seamlessly interspersed in the screenplay. Parambrata Chatterjee and Parno Mitra deliver very fine performances. One can meet them in the film on Hotstar VIP.

 

11. Chitrangada : The Crowning Wish | Rituparno Ghosh

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Be What You Wish To Be – Rituparno Ghosh made Chitrangada to bring to screen what he believed all his life. A non conformist and a trailblazer that the filmmaker was, he plays the central lead of his film that traces the life of a choreographer, his core identity that he primarily believes is of a woman, and his relationships with his parents and his lover centered around this truth. Much like Ghosh’s life, the film is a heartbreaking documentation of everyday struggle to fight for one’s own identity in this widely queer world. Rituparno Ghosh was terrific and was ably supported by Jisshu Sengupta and Anjan Dutt. This was the last film of Ghosh for which he could witness a theatrical release. The rest of his work that followed were all released posthumously. The film is available on Hoichoi TV.

 

10. Kedara (2019) | Indraadip Dasgupta

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Kedara is such a matured cinematic experience that it is difficult to figure out that it is the debut directorial of Indraadip Dasgupta. It is a lyrically evocative film that shows class and grace in every frame, and delves deep into the solitude of a ventriloquist and his struggle to find life in nothingness. The masterful act by Kaushik Ganguly as the lead takes the film to another level, and hours after one has left the theatres, this immersive film does not leave you. Kedara is still awaiting a digital release.

 

09. Khaad (2014) | Kaushik Ganguly

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Do people meet their most honest selves when they are the closest to death? Khaad is a brilliant ensemble film when a group of tourists meet up with an accident and are forced to spend a night together with very limited means. It turns out to be a night of confession for all of them, and very dark secrets and regrets start toppling from the most unlikely quarters. Khaad may not have been amongst the most awarded films of Ganguly like many others on this list, but there is something deeply affecting about the film that moves you to the core. No one has used Arijit Singh in Bengali film songs like Ganguly, and Khaad is a great testimony for the same as well. Kaushik Ganguly, Mimi Chakraborty, Rudranil Ghosh and many others from the cast shine in their roles. It is also one of those special ensemble films where there is no special focus for any stars and everyone is on a level playing field. Watch Khaad on Hoichoi TV.

 

08. Bhooter Bhobishyot (2012) | Anik Dutta

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Bhooter Bhobishyot is one of those films that no one had any expectations for and yet it came, it saw and it conquered. It is a survival drama of a bunch of ghosts (!), and is a brilliantly written satire on the changing times. Staying true to the genre, this film is also a tribute to Satyajit Ray’s Hirak Rajar Deshe, in the sense that it also adopts rhymed dialogues throughout the film to play out the satire. It must be mentioned though that the film will lose all its charm through subtitles, and will be primarily enjoyed by the bengali audience only. The film had a terrible adaptation done in Hindi, but that does not take away the sheen from this film and its rich performances. Swastika Mukherjee is especially sensational. The film is available both on Hotstar VIP and Hoichoi TV.

 

07. Jaatishwar (2014) | Srijit Mukherji

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Jaatishwar is arguably the best film ever done by Prosenjit Chatterjee. And Srijit Mukherji as well. Mukherji has always done well whenever he has tried to pay tributes to older bengali classics, and this is Mukherji at his best paying his homage to Antony Finrighee. Life, Death and then Life is a continuing circle that does not break if it is forcefully broken with many desires of the heart unfulfilled. The film is rich in all its cinematic components from music to screenplay to performances and definitely deserves all its critical acclaim. The film can be watched on Hoichoi TV.

Read the crisp retrospective on Jaatishwar here : Jaatishwar – Five years of love!

 

06. Nagarkirtan (2019) | Kaushik Ganguly

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There is so much and more to love about Nagarkirtan. The film tells the very tender love story between Pnuti and Madhu, both of whom are struggling with their sexuality and understanding of love. They know that they don’t belong to the conventional structure of the society and hence are in search of a recluse that will let them be as they are. Pnuti thinks that a sex change surgery will eventually solve all his problems and the woman inside him will finally find the wings. Madhu’s struggle to understand himself is even more nuanced. With outstanding performances by Ritwick Chakraborty and Riddhi Sen, Nagarkirtan is as lyrically powerful as the eternal bonding between Radha and Krishna. The digital release of Nagarkirtan is eagerly awaited.

 

05. Sahaj Paather Gappo (2016) | Manas Mukul Pal

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Sahaj Paather Gappo – This small indie film (yet another debut) by Manas Mukul Pal is beautiful in every sense of the word. And why not, as it takes us on the journey of two young brothers living in a small remote village who find beauty and happiness in small things of life. Their life is not easy by any means, their heartbreaks are earth shattering, but Pal adapts Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s short story so beautifully on screen that one gets transported to a completely different world. Nur Islam and Samiul Alam were the two young actors who played the leads facing camera for the first time in their lives. The casting choice played out beautifully in terms of depicting pure unblemished innocence, and the film becomes a winner all the way. Watch this beautiful film on AddaTimes. Do watch it!

 

04. Arekti Premer Galpo (2010) | Kaushik Ganguly

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Arekti Premer Galpo is a path breaking film. This was the first film on homosexuality to be shot after the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The film deals with a transgender documentary film maker, who wants to make a documentary on the real-life legendary jatra actor Chapal Bhaduri, noted for his portrayal of female roles on the stage at a time when women did not perform in theatres. There is also the aspect of his relationship with his bisexual married partner played by Indraneil Sengupta, as well as Jisshu Sengupta who plays the role of Chapal’s love interest in his film. The film is a complete immersive experience as the real and reel merge courses as the film progresses and the viewer is left haunting by the mental trauma associated with unconventional but natural needs of a section of the society and the associated betrayal. Rituparno Ghosh was in outstanding form in the film and a strong influence of his style can be clearly be seen in Kaushik Ganguly’s storytelling and overall filmmaking. Unfortunately the film is not available on any digital platform.

 

03. Abohomaan (2010) | Rituparno Ghosh

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An acclaimed married filmmaker, his dream project, a young actress of the age of his son, his graceful wife and a sudden death – Abohomaan is all this and much more. The film is a heavily layered relationship story that dives deep into the psyche of two of its female leads coming from diametrically opposite worlds. No one understood women and their worlds as intimately as Rituparno Ghosh, and Abohomaan is another glowing example of the same. Dipankar De, Ananya Chatterjee and especially Mamata Shankar deliver flawless performances, and lets Abohomaan stay eternally in your thoughts as one of the best this decade. Reportedly, Rituparno Ghosh had initially planned to make the film in Hindi as Kya Haseen Sitam, with Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Vidya Balan, but later decided to make it in Bengali as Abohomaan. Watch the film on Hoichoi TV and YouTube.

 

02. The Japanese Wife (2010) | Aparna Sen

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Aparna Sen’s The Japanese Wife is poetry on celluloid. Every frame is lyrical and every moment oozes love and understanding like never seen or heard before. Here is a story of a primary school teacher living in the remote villages of Sunderbans who falls for a woman whom he has come to know only through letters. They never meet in their lifetime, but firmly believe that they are a couple tied together by the sacred threads of marriage. They get pained by their loneliness and the other’s ailments in the same breath but remain completely loyal and dedicated in their trust for each other. This is unique and deep human bonding at its strongest and is powered by brilliant performances by Rahul Bose and Japanese actress Chigusa Takaku. Mousumi Chatterjee is lovely as the caring aunt as well. The film can be watched on YouTube.

 

01. Asha Jaoar Majhe (2014) | Aditya Vikram Sengupta

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If there was one film on this list about whose ranking I was absolutely sure of even without giving much thought, it is Asha Jaoar Majhe. It is an absolutely striking debut film by Aditya Vikram Sengupta. The film follows a young married unnamed couple as they go about their day or night, and struggle to make both ends meet. They both work on alternate shifts and meet only occasionally for a very limited time on some days, and are enduring all the hardship to change their everyday situation. It is a brilliant observation of ordinary lives, their subtle gestures to express love for each other even when alone, and their desperation and understated pain and the film achieves all this without a single dialogue in the film. There is some brilliant camera work on play here along with a superb audiography, accentuated by the absolutely natural and finely measured performances by both Ritwick Chakraborty and Basabdutta Chatterjee. With everything coming together, we see a wonderful lyrical ballad created on celluloid that has no action or event to show but a lot of emotions and feelings to to be felt. Feel all that more as you catch Asha Jaoar Majhe on Amazon Prime Video.

 

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So that was the ranked list of 30 Best Bengali Films of the Decade – A Third Vantage Point Perspective! Honestly speaking, these rankings are not cast in stone and can change with time as one revisits some of these films or life alters perspectives about life with its everyday experiences. At this time, I feel fairly good of this list, and may be will revisit it down the line to see how the overall positioning changes, if at all. As of now, these are the ones that stayed on with me for the longest and I keep going back to them time and again, including the ones that were honorably mentioned.

Please share your thoughts and comments on the ranked list. Also let us hope together that the coming decade becomes bigger and better for Bengali Films.

We have more to add to this series of Best of the Decade. Keep following all discussions on Best of the Decade here. And keep having fun at the movies!

 

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Copyright ©2019 Jayashree Chakravarti. This article cannot be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL can be used instead.

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