Bangladeshi contents leading the way in dominating market: Parambrata

Not in any character, Parambrata Chattopadhyay arrived as himself donning a trimmed beard and moustache look paired up with a navy blue shirt, jeans and sunglasses. He was found in a light mood at Prothom Alo office on Sunday afternoon and had an engaging conversation with Prothom Alo Entertainment.

Prothom Alo:

You have quite an old connection with Dhaka…

From 2015 to 2020, I may have played some role in bridging the gap between the film industries of west Bengal and Bangladesh. Foreign travel was hampered after the lockdown started in 2020. We started travelling more from 2023.  

Our friends in Dhaka are traveling to Kolkata while we are coming to visit as well. Hopefully, we’ll be able to work together in a number of projects. There has been sort of a huge transformation in the type and quality of Bangladeshi content in the last three or four years.

Quality contents are being produced on OTT as well as in the field of film and music. The songs created by Coke Studio Bangla are immensely popular in Kolkata. One thing is clear there may have been at least some sort of silent revolution in Bangladeshi films.

We may not be able to see that from the commercial point of view yet. But the fact that Bangladeshi films are exciting audience on both sides of the border is really a good news.  

Prothom Alo:

What do you think are the reasons for the contents of Dhaka being discussed much?

People are living an extraordinary life in today’s world. A person can be a vegetable vendor by profession, yet he has the whole world within his phone. This wasn’t the reality about 10 to 15 years ago.

It has given birth to a sort of dual identity and the form of existence has changed as well. Bangladeshi films are representing these issues more closely I believe. Bangladesh is producing more and more contemporary and people-friendly contents.

Prothom Alo:

There are about 300 million (30 crore) Bengali citizens in the world. How possible it is to dominate a vast market?

Definitely it’s possible. I feel that Bangladeshi contents are leading the way in dominating the Bengali audience market now and will continue to do so in future as well.

The West Bengali films have a certain qualities to them which will be admired in some other aspects. But from the commercial point of view films have to be commercially released in New York or in the Middle East and that has to be done with Bangladeshi films.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Khaled Sarker
Prothom Alo:

Who can help gain easy access to this market?

I won’t take any name in particular. It’s not that the makers of films that have created a buzz recently are that much of an acclaimed director. Even the artistes aren’t that notable. Not everyone’s a Shakib Khan, Dev or Jeet.

People are inclining towards content even on the big screen, let alone OTT. It seems stars neither have nor will have a significant role in making Bangla films hit outside of the country. I believe films are running and will keep running on the power of quality contents.

Prothom Alo:

Since when do you think this trend of watching content based solely on the strength of the story started?

OTT has a massive role behind this. This transformation is coming since people started watching a variety of contents on OTT. When someone’s watching a Spanish or Turkish series, nothing’s stopping them. That’s why I feel OTT has drastically changed people’s hunger for good stories.

The transformation has been going on already, but the rate of that change soared even higher during the pandemic. Does that mean the stars have gone out of trend? No, I’m not saying that.

Even today, a lot of people go to see films just at the mention of Shakib Khan or Dev. But somewhere I have this feeling that another sense has been added on top that I won’t just watch whatever anyone’s offering me. Somewhere there’s a filter on.

Prothom Alo:

Stardom too has a role after all; it shows in the last three films of Shah Rukh Khan…

It’s different when it comes to Hindi language. There’s more of stardom than story behind the way Hindi films have rebound. If it wasn’t for Shah Rukh Khan, I don’t know what would have happened. But, contents will play an even bigger role in case of Bangla films.

South Indian films are extremely popular these days. We think whenever a film featuring Prabhas, Dulquer Slamaan or Fahadh Faasil is releasing they are becoming a hit. Actually it’s not like that. Many of their films release without us even knowing about them.

We get to know about only the contents people like. Obviously Dulquer Salmaan or Prabhas is loved. But apart from the films of Rajinikanth and Mammootty, the audience is indeed picking all other South Indian films based on the content.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Khaled Sarker
Prothom Alo:

We’ve heard you interviewed Shah Rukh Khan once. Tell us a bit about the experience…

I have worked a lot in the past three to four years. Now I have a good connection in Bombay (Mumbai) and everyone knows me there. But, when I had taken that interview I was just a Bengali actor back then. And, I wasn’t this much active as a director either.

Shah Rukh Khan had visited Kolkata for the promotion of a film in 2014. And I interviewed him at the invitation of a Kolkata-based newspaper. When he’s talking to you, you’ll feel that you are the most important person in his life. He’ll intently hear every single word you say and then answer them.

He didn’t even have to give me that much importance. This makes you realise, why a person isn’t a star just for being an actor. He’s a successful businessman and I haven’t heard any technician, costar or producer say anything negative about Shah Rukh in Mumbai till now.

Everyone says he’s a bit different. He’s a legend. I don’t think we can produce another Shah Rukh Khan. Won’t there be a better actor than him? Of course there will be. But, it’s tough to find another star of this caliber. I don’t think there’s another ambassador of India to the world bigger than him.

Prothom Alo:

There’s a sort of notion about the taste of audience in Kolkata that they like to watch films that are a bit different…

It may have been us who habituated the Bengali audience of West Bengal to some extent with the sort of films they prefer to watch. As a result we can notice that people are visiting theatres to watch films. But, it’s all the same sort of films, either it’s a detective story or a family drama based film.

I don’t believe in blaming the audience. We don’t have a suitable alternative and that why we are watching the same thing. People will watch if we can provide them with something different. We must keep trying to provide that.

Have we been able to produce a very modernistic film? No, we haven’t. Rather, we succeeded in making better detective stories and family dramas. Could we produce a thrilling action? If we could you would definitely watch it but we couldn’t.

Parambrata Chattopadhyay
Khaled Sarker
Prothom Alo:

Not that many action films are being made, the condition is same for art films as well. Films made in Kolkata used to go to foreign festivals before. But, now they have been replaced by south Indian films…

The condition of art-house films is completely deplorable. One of the reasons might be that art-house films wouldn’t be that much successful in theatres. Yet they used to be made, for there was a sort of patronisation. Some people would come to the theatres also. The government patronisation has nearly been stopped.

A section of the audience has settled down outside of Kolkata. They do want to watch films but they return home like migratory birds, only in winter. A major portion of the educated community lives outside of West Bengal. We are at the transitional period now.

The next generation is growing up and we are trying to understand what they want to watch. Before producing the film of their preferences, it’s safe to produce family drama and detective stories. We have to break the pattern. It won’t happen in the first try, but the second or third try would do it.

The process has already been started tremendously on the inside. Many are trying to revive commercial film. The discussion of what used to be popular once has started. Maybe we’ll get see the reflection in a couple of years.

* This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Nourin Ahmed Monisha

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