Unlike Hindi films, 2019 has been an excellent year for Bengali films. There was a lot of great films on offer, and this year in Bengali films is possibly the strongest year for content and quality since 2014. Hence there was enough and more to choose the Top 10 Bengali Films of 2019, and celebrate their richness and overall cinematic appeal.
Of course there is a continued gripe in terms of the kind of films that are still becoming commercially successful as most of them cater to a broad stoke, no nuance filmmaking, and the actual good content films are still struggling to get commercial success along with critical acclaim. Though relationship based stories still formed the core of good cinema (unlike thrillers / mysteries and their juvenile making that just felt too ordinary and convenient), the filmmakers showed a lot of positive intent dealing with bold themes like homosexuality, issues of the elderly, cyber crime or influence of social media; and did not shy away from having their own political voices heard on contemporary or historical issues; or giving their own interpretation and twists to classic literature. But just making good films is not enough. The industry also needs to appreciate the power of digital platforms and ensure that more and more films (especially the good small films) are tying up with the leading digital platforms of the country and are available for a wider viewership and appreciation within a couple of months of release.
Having said this, there isn’t a lot to complain about, and the hope is that this solid trend continues in the years to come. With so much to hope for and look forward to in the future, here is then looking at Top 10 Bengali Films of 2019. 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. 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, and this included both full length features as well as documentary films.
Note: Have not got an opportunity to watch critically appreciated films from festival circuits like Abyakto – The unsaid (Arjunn Dutta), Parcel (Indrasis Acharya), Barunbabur Bandhu (Anik Dutta) as they have still not got their wider theatrical release. Have also missed out on watching Urojahaj (Buddhadeb Dasgupta) for the period.
- Mahalaya | Soumik Sen – MAHALAYA : A Nostalgic & Courageous Film
- Feluda : 50 Years of RAY’s Detective | Sagnik Chatterjee – Feluda : 50 Years of RAY’s Detective – A nostalgic trip
- Surjo Prithibir Chardike Ghore | Arijit Biswas – SURJO PRITHIBIR CHARDIKE GHORE : Stand With Your Sun
Top 10 Bengali Films of 2019 – Ranked
10. BIJOYA | Kaushik Ganguly
“It is the terrific writing of Bijoya that sets the film apart. The sharpness of the thought process shows in the smartness of its writing all over. In a way, the structure of the film is strikingly similar to Bishorjon and yet the context is switched brilliantly to make it as dissimilar and fresh as possible. One can say that the screenplay almost plays out as a alter ego to its predecessor, and because we have already bought in to the depth of emotions of the three central characters with the earlier film, we are quickly immersed in their pain and agony of love and loss here, and ride along with them to their destinies with a constant lump in the throat and moisture in the eyes for the most part.”
- Complete Detailed review here: BIJOYA : An aching lump of emotions
- The film is streaming on Zee5.
09. BIRD OF DUSK | Sangeeta Dutta
“The unparalleled emotional sensitivity and the complex relationships that Rituparno Ghosh so effortlessly portrayed in his films came from his immense understanding of the human psyche, and for a lifetime he expected the same sensitivity and empathy for himself too. Unfortunately he had to fly away to more peaceful abodes quickly when he didn’t get all of that. Bird of Dusk is an excellent overall attempt to document and reconstruct that free-sky understanding through the lens of warm empathy, profound love and a deep sense of loss. Thank you Sangeeta Dutta for such an emotionally rich experience, its a must watch – just like the cinema of Rituparno Ghosh!”
- Complete Detailed review here: BIRD OF DUSK : Quest for Tranquility
08. SHAH JAHAN REGENCY | Srijit Mukherji
“I feel elated today that you adapted the classic so well to make it your own, and gifted us with one of your most aesthetically nuanced and honest films. You took us on a richly layered and emotionally engaging 156 minute journey into the intimate corridors of Shah Jahan Regency to experience life in its various shades of joy, pain, commitment, deceit, love and loss, making us laugh and choke along the way. Moving the story and its characters to the contemporary times was a smart move to find more relatable emotions without compromising on any aesthetics or the soul of the original story. As the final credits rolled, I realized that just like the first experience with the book, you have been successful in transporting me to a trance again, from which I did not want to come out.”
- Complete Detailed review here: SHAH JAHAN REGENCY : Check In to Life!
- The film is streaming on Hotstar and Hoichoi TV.
07. RAJLOKKHI O SRIKANTA | Pradipta Bhattacharya
“Thank you Pradipta Bhattacharya for reassuring the faith that good cinema is timeless – built on the pillars of profound emotions, and an uncompromising vision. It doesn’t need to be gimmicky, and yet it can afford to honestly non confirm. It doesn’t need to restrict thoughts within the realms of the finite and the ordinary, and yet it can leave you with endless possibilities of what life is as such, or of what life could be when it becomes aspirationally surreal; and leave you stumped with the profound impact of each of those eventualities. More than anything else, Rajlokkhi o Srikanto and their entire world wants to set romanticism free & soar, and takes us along to soak ourselves completely in it – in life, death and beyond…”
- Complete Detailed review here: RAJLOKKHI O SRIKANTO : Love that transcends beyond time and more…
06. KIA AND COSMOS | Sudipto Roy
:It is interesting that for a Kia who isn’t fond of metaphors in life, her partner of the title card becomes the biggest metaphor of the film. Interestingly named Cosmos, it stands for the unbound world of unknown truths and emotional aspirations that Kia is seeking through her investigative lens. Kia and Cosmos is her journey of self discovery and growing up, of finding hope and positivity, and of finding the wind beneath her wings to fly. Sudipto Roy & Team ensure the same sense of contentment for us, the audience, as we become an integral part of Kia’s emotional journey and occasional triumph. We just need to patiently give Kia, that delicate, breathing space. And we should. To her, and to this unique little film as well.”
- Complete Detailed review here: KIA AND COSMOS : A Humane, Affectionate & Delicate Gaze At Life
- The film is streaming on Netflix.
05. AHAA RE | Ranjan Ghosh
“Simply put, with Ahaa Re, filmmaker Ranjan Ghosh wants to tell a warm and universally appealing humane story about the power of love reigning supreme; overcoming all societal obstructions of nationality, religion, age, gender or any other baggage of past. Along with Basundhara and Farhaz, he is in search of that magical emotion that will find its destination only when there is a true calling of hearts, free of guilt, inhibitions, or obligations. Atanu Ganguly, the father, hence becomes the embodiment of what Ghosh wants to leave behind as the rich and flavorful message of the film – believe in the surreal power of love to alter lives, and let it be the global emotion to unite the human race in the true spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”
- Complete Detailed review here: AHAA RE : The Lingering Aftertaste of Life
04. JYESHTHOPUTRO | Kaushik Ganguly
“When a film casts the biggest superstar and the best actor of Bengali cinema of our generation pitted against each other in life and in performing arts, and head on acknowledges who is the better actor of the two and how that is often not enough for success; it makes a bold and highly self-aware statement about hard facts of life without being worried about any repercussions. Also, when a film’s story-line builds on the everyday mundaneness of daily lives, and thrives on its organic but predictable conflicts without trying to force-fit anything just for the sake of drama; one has to again applaud the fearlessness and the sure-footed awareness of the story-teller about his ability to touch lives without an attempt to manipulate emotions. Kaushik Ganguly and his profound new film Jyeshthoputro are brilliant examples of such confident and restrained poignancy!”
- Complete Detailed review here: JYESHTHOPUTRO : Melancholic Musings of Life
- The film is streaming on Zee5.
03. TARIKH | Churni Ganguly
“For those who have watched both Nirbasito and especially Tarikh now, can gauge how sensitive a person is Churni Ganguly. It reflects deeply in the kind of real but intensely emotional characters she creates, and with such utmost care. She wants to tell stories of life, invariably ends up telling stories of loss, but even in that she firmly believes that the real story is about the people who are left behind dealing with the sudden going away of the loved one and struggling with their side of new found incompleteness. So much so, that the rest of the story becomes all about them making peace in their own ways, grabbing anything of the leftover memories in their minds, in inanimate objects, as a reflection in another person, or in the frozen social media footprint. Each of them become entities in their own right, and one is constantly exploring closures in them – of unanswered questions, of random assumptions, of unmet expectations, or of uncalled for distances.”
- Complete Detailed review here: TARIKH : The Refreshing Timeline of Emotions
02. KEDARA | Indraadip Das Gupta
“Films like Kedara are not made every other day. It also knows very clearly that it is not a film for everyone. But it is very special and demands to exist and flourish in its own niche space. It does not entertain, it leaves you to introspect. It dares not to follow the customary template of everyday drama, but comes with a unique voice to deal with the trauma of solitude in a masterful film. Just like its protagonist, it throws up the challenge to define the paradigm of success and failure of art and of life to the viewer. It is for us to decide then. For me, it is a resounding success – not many films leave you with a catharsis that will resonate in its poignancy for a long long time. Thank you Indraadip Das Gupta for this gem!”
- Complete Detailed review here: KEDARA : The Soliloquy of Solitude
01. NAGARKIRTAN | Kaushik Ganguly
“Kaushik Ganguly’s passion project Nagarkirtan becomes a mouthpiece for all such marginalized and different individuals who want to fit in, who want to be accepted as they are, and who want to experience love and life like the rest of the society, that has no space to understand, appreciate or welcome them. Nagarkirtan wants to breathe free in a world where love transcends gender or class, and is celebrated in its purest form – like the blossoming romance of the eternal lovers Radha and Krishna, or like the devotional submission of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the widely acknowledged embodiment of both Sri Krishna and Sri Radha, thereby elevating it to the highest forms of spiritual piousness. Through Madhu and Puti, the identities of Radha and Krishna become one and the same beyond a point, with the purity of their love attaining liberating spiritual highs, grounded to roots by a violently numbing pain – only Ganguly could have aspired to attain such astounding depths of rich storytelling.”
- Complete Detailed review here: NAGARKIRTAN : Quest for Identity
So that was the Third Vantage Point Selection of the Best Bengali Films of 2019. More power to these wonderful filmmakers to make more and more such terrific films in years to come. We will now expand our view and look at the Best Indian Films of 2019 as a whole. Meanwhile please do share your thoughts on what worked for you in Bengali Films of 2019, and what would you like to retain or change as trends as we move forward to a new year and a new decade. Happy watching films…
If you like this content, please share the link for further reading.