Bengali film director and producer Arindam Sil, actress Rituparna Sengupta and director Shrijit Mukherjee on the opening day of the second Abhijaan, the Bengali Film Film Festival, on February 5 at the Knowledge Village, Dubai. Image Credit: Satyaki for Abhijaan

If the response at the second edition of Abhijaan, a Bengali film festival is anything to go by, then it must be admitted that there is a small yet passionate expat audience in Dubai hungry for quality films from the eastern part of India.

As the curtains came down on the three-day affair at the Conference Centre, Knowledge Village in Dubai, on Saturday, the selection of recent Bengali films showed the industry is ready to delve into a range of subjects — from thrillers in a film-within-film scenario to whodunits to cater to the tastes of the new-age cineplex audience back home.

The challenge before the tightly-knit Bengali film industry — as voiced by a selection of actors, directors and producers in a panel discussion on the opening day, February 5 — is the lack of a global distribution system. “The distribution network of Bengali cinema is quite limited, something for which you cannot go to a theatre in Dubai and watch a Bengali film,” said Arindam Sil, a director-producer and moderator of the discussion titled: ‘Regional cinema: a global perspective.’

Riuparna Sengupta, a National award-winning actress who has straddled mainstream and arthouse Bengali cinema with ease for over two decades, exhorted the gathering to “watch movies in halls rather than downloads.” She was also proud about the emergence of a number of women directors to carry forward the legacy of Aparna Sen, who has made films in Bengali, English (36 Chowringhee Lane) and Hindi (Mr & Mrs Iyer).

“There are a number of new names like Shibani Roy, Aditi Roy who are doing some good work,” said Sengupta, who had two of her films screened at the festival. The other participants in the discussion were veteran actor Dhritiman Chatterjee, Saswata Chatterjee, director Srijit Mukherjee and distributor Arijit Dutta.

Speaking on behalf of organisers Abhijaan, a motley group of expats, Shibani Chakraborty said: “The response was really good this time with all three evening shows over the weekend being sellouts. The expectations will be bigger next time around and we are ready for that — while our end-goal is to screen Bengali cinema from time to time in the halls here.”

The seven films which were screened were Chatuskone (The Four Angles), directed by Srijit Mukherjee, Bharate (The Tenant) by Anindya Ghosh; Teen Kahon (Three Obsessions) by Bauddhayan Mukherji; Byomkesh Phirle Elo (The Return of Byomkesh) by Anjan Dutta; 89 by Manoj Michigan, Ek Phali Rodh (A ray of sun) by Atanu Ghosh and Ebar Shobor (Now Shabar) by Arindam Sil.