The madness of Rio Festival, the feel of Valentine’s Day in Paris, the Diwali frenzy in Delhi, or the fun galore of Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai – you can put together all these and blend well and still you won’t get the level of amusement which Kolkata turns out to be during those 5 days of Durga Pujo. It is the biggest festival in West Bengal and for centuries the display of artistic minds has captivated the world. The mesmerizing show of lights, the unbelievable pandals, the electrifying sound of Dhaak, and the whole grandeur of the state – would give you goosebumps for sure. A friend of mine who was on his first Durga Pujo trip to Kolkata said in astonishment that “I am feeling like I have entered the opulent world of Sanjay Leela Bhansali”.
Yes, Durga Pujo in Kolkata is like that – impeccably colorful & purely traditional. You will get to see lavish experiments too but that also merges magnificently with the traditions here. Many moviemakers over the years have delved into this affable area of Durga Pujo. But a few of them truly match the nostalgic ride of Durga Pujo in Bengal. Here is a list of some of them.
As said earlier by my friend the grandiose display of Durga Pujo in Kolkata is exactly like any big-budget SLB movie – so how can I start the list without mentioning Devdas? Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay wrote it in 1900 and published it in 1917. Many other directors have also made this into a movie both in Bengali and Hindi. SLB took much creative liberty and tweaked the events here and there and many people had many problems with that. But when it comes to the depiction of Durga Pujo and those bengalines on-screen – people were just mesmerized.
One of the very important aspects of Durga Pujo is that it brings people from all walks of society together. That’s why to make the idol of Durga Maa one needs the soil from the home of prostitutes also. SLB went ahead and prepared a meeting of Paro and Chandramukhi who bursts into “dola re” dance amidst ululation. You could see the prevalence of red and white saree everywhere, the heavy jewelry, and of course the idol of Devi Durga. The whole pujo was not shown but a few facets of Pujo – unlimited fun, the mingling of all people without boundaries, and forgetting the past to embrace a hopeful future get full marks here. After Bhansali, no one actually captured the illustriousness of Durga Pujo.
This is another Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay novel which was adapted 6 times on screen in various languages. The one directed by Pradeep Sarkar and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra released in 2005. Vidya Balan was introduced to Bollywood through this flick. This movie didn’t miss to capture Kolkata in its full flavor of the early 20th century. The famous dhunuchi-naach was soothing to the eyes.
The name of the movie means “festival”. Directed by one of my most favorite filmmakers of all time Rituparno Ghosh this movie shows the story of a family. A family just like many other Bengali “ekannoborti bonedi poribar” or huge influential families is now scattered. The members of the family return home during Pujo and reunite which signifies one important aspect of our festivals – homecoming. Every member has their turmoil, history, and emotions regarding this old building, pujo, and their equations with one another. Over these five days, they overcome many battles running within which is what Durga Pujo is all about – surpassing the fears and evils to be happy.
It is still the best of all thrillers in the last 20 years by Bollywood. Sujoy Ghosh captured the ultimate madness of the city during Durga Pujo and merged that with a thriller-mystery of national interest. The baritone of Bachchan Sahab, in the end says, “Maa Durga is the most powerful one because she is made with the powers of all mothers…..every year she descends in our lives and brings an end to all the evil powers”. This was the prime motive of the movie. Vidya Balan, a pregnant lady in search of her missing husband finally reaches her goal. In the end, she kills the man who was responsible for an evil act of crime in the city. She kills him on the night of Doshomi and then vanishes – epitomizing the supreme power of a woman. This was a true treat to the flavor of Durga Pujo.
Directed by Ray – the master filmmaker, this one is about Patriarchy and its management of the feminine consciousness. The father-in-law (Chhabi Biswas) believes that his daughter-in-law (Sharmila Tagore) is a manifestation of the goddess and that leads to tragic consequences.
This one directed by Kalpana Lajmi stars Raveena Tandon as Durga who is tormented by domestic violence. She annihilates the threshold drawn by patriarchy during the pujo days and kills the tormentor on the last day of pujo finally overcoming her fears and realizing her power within. It shows the hypocritical side of our society. Where, on one hand, the woman is beaten and suppressed and on the other hand, she is worshipped. It fetched a National Award for Raveena Tandon and you must not miss it.
Set in the early 19th-century zamindari set-up, this movie directed by Rituparno Ghosh is one of his finest works. It is based on Tarashankar Bandhopadhyay’s short story “Protima”. The movie tells the tale of a zamindar played by Jackie Shroff who is unable to impregnate his wives (Roopa Ganguly & Soha Ali Khan). It shows the misogynistic and oppressive side of the patriarchy. A potter played by Abhishek Bachchan is hired to make the Durga Idol that year and to impress Queen, Jackie Shroff wants the face of Maa Durga to replicate Queen Victoria. But the sculptor ends up making a Maa Durga idol that looks like the younger wife of the Zamindar. It is a movie worth watching and investing your time.
Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, this short film is my most-favorite movie on Durga Pujo. Enacted by Ananya Chatterjee & Monali Thakur – this movie is about a daughter’s homecoming, forgetting the bitter past, and embracing a hopeful future. Durga Pujo is all about that – isn’t it? Anuradha belonged to a rich and influential Bengali Hindu family. She marries a Muslim guy and goes away to some foreign land. Her mother never supported this relation and now she returns to her ancestral home after 2 decades where Durga Pujo is held every year. Lali- Anu’s daughter finds her Naani’s cookbook and cooks on one of the Pujo days and the taste of the food magically replicates her Naani’s.
This outstanding movie by Kaushik Ganguly begins with a mother refusing to go and see the bishorjon or immersion of Maa Durga with her son. The idols of Maa Durga are immersed in the river after the celebration and the lady remembers one such immersion of her past. A Hindu lady from Bangladesh finds a Muslim boy from India and brings him home, treats him, lies about his real identity, falls in love with him, and finally, one day bids him goodbye thus immersing her emotions in the same river (as he goes to India through water route).
There are many more movies like Bodhon, Debipaksha, or Joy Baba Felunath where the plot centers around Durga Pujo and will leave you with a feel of this powerful time of the year.