Bengali films have always faced a stiff competition from Bollywood. I am not comparing the budget of the films, but the step-motherly attitude that is meted out to Bengali films even in its own state.
Recently, several shows of Kaushik Ganguly’s National Award-winning film Bishorjon were pulled down to accommodate SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali: The Conclusion.
Though Ganguly and other Bengali filmmakers raised their voice against the issue, the problem remained unsolved.
This isn’t the first time a Bengali film had to battle for its place in the theatres.
Whenever a Bollywood or a big-budget south Indian film releases, Bengali films are sidelined to fight their own battle even in their own state. Yes, it’s a sorry state of affairs.
Bengali film industry has to constantly face other issues too.
Some Bengali filmmakers are blamed for remaking random south Indian films.
Once considered a ‘safe bet,’ these south Indian remakes are no longer finding their share of the audience.
This has certainly not gone down well with the biggest producers in Bengal.
They have worry lines creasing their foreheads today and are constantly brainstorming ‘ways to bring back audience to the theatres.’
Sample this. We’re already half way into 2017. But only Mainak Bhaumik’s Bengali film Bibhabo Dairies, starring Ritwick Chakraborty and Sohini Sarkar has managed to walk away with the ‘hit’ title.
It has become a daily struggle for actors, producers and directors to come up with intriguing subjects (read original), which will compel the audience to return to the theatres.
Also, it’s a constant worry for anybody associated with Bengali cinema to make films, which blur the lines between parallel and commercial films.
Ever since Dev has become a producer, his constant endeavor has been to make films, which will please both the class and mass audience.
He has tried to do the same with his upcoming film Chaamp, which releases on Eid. Yes, a day which has become synonymous with Salman Khan.
Salman Khan’s much-anticipated film Tubelight will also see the light of the day on Eid.
Again, a Bengali film will have to fight its way to reaching the theatres.
But given that the film is about boxing, Dev, one of the biggest superstars of the Bengali film industry, is confident that his hard work will be noticed and appreciated by the audience of his state.
This isn’t the first time Dev’s film will clash with a Bollywood superstar. In 2013, his much-awaited Chander Pahar released alongside Aamir Khan’s Dhoom 3.
Chander Pahar is considered to be the biggest Bengali blockbuster of the decade.
It’s been an interesting journey for Dev. Having been in the industry for 10 years, he has mostly done films (read blockbusters), which are remakes of south Indian films.
But when he chose to become a producer, Dev didn’t follow the usual copy & paste method.
Rather, he himself wrote a story about a boxer, Shibaji, and the ups and downs he faces not only in the boxing ring and but also in his life.
The first official teaser of the film, which released a few days ago, won rave reviews from every quarter.
Directed by Raj Chakraborty, the film also marks the debut of Dev’s rumoured love interest Rukmini Maitra.
A well-known face in the modeling circuit, Rukmini plays Jaya, Shibaji’s wife in the film.
The film also stars senior Bengali actor Chiranjeet as Shibaji’s trainer and Priyanka Sarkar. Jeet Gannguli has composed the music of the film.
The teaser, which starts off with one of the greatest heavyweight boxers Muhammad Ali’s oft-quoted line, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” has the right dose of emotion, drama, action and thrill.
Now, imagine a new film on a sinking ship. The first thought that crosses our mind is Titanic. Similar is the case in Chaamp. Since the film revolves around the life of a boxer, watching the teaser of Chaamp immediately reminds us about Rocky Balboa aka Sylvester Stallone.
Intelligently, Dev has paid tribute to the Rocky series and it becomes clear if one takes a close look at the ‘title’ of the film.
I was also reminded of Robert De Niro’s Raging Bull as I watched the slow-mo boxing sequences in Chaamp.
Dev knew that he will be subjected to criticism if he makes a film on boxing, but that didn’t deter him.
Interestingly, this is the first time a Bengali actor has produced and acted in a film on boxing.
Dev, who is one of the most bankable stars in Bengali film industry, didn’t sign another film during the shooting of Chaamp.
He was on a strict no-salt-diet for the film, met boxers and trained himself for months to suit the part.
Before we hear from Dev why he agreed to produce a film on boxing, let’s get one thing straight.
While Bollywood has been flooded with sports films, Bengal hasn’t churned out too many films on sports.
Ask any Bengali movie viewer about the best sports film they’ve watched and they’d most probably end up saying, Kony.
Kony, directed by Saroj Dey, is one of the iconic Bengali sports films, starring Soumitra Chatterjee as Khid da.
This 1986 film revolved around a swimming coach (played by Soumitra) who teaches the sport to underprivileged kids.
Apart from Kony, Dhanni Meye, Mohanbaganer Meye, Saheb and Egaro are other Bengali films on sports.
“I had written the story years ago. I was looking for the right time to do the film. Shooting a sports film, especially boxing, is not an easy task. I approached many producers but then, I ended up producing it myself. I had to be fully prepared both mentally and physically to shoot a film of this magnitude,” said Dev, who is leaving no stone unturned to promote the film.
Chaamp has been in the news ever since Dev has announced the film.
Bengali actors and directors have been tweeting about the film since the day the teaser has been out.
And given the pre-release hype of the film, Chaamp seems on solid ground.
Let’s wait till Eid to find out if Chaamp emerges the champion of the box-office or not.