(Updated: July 14, 2020) Bengal has often been associated with fine arts in the colonial and post-colonial periods. The region possesses a certain affinity towards creative processes and art forms. So, it’s no surprise that many motion pictures that have been made in Bengal have also garnered international recognition and appreciation. Let us take a look at the best Bengali movies on Amazon Prime streaming right now:
Some of the titles below may not be available to the Amazon Prime audience in India. We’ve recommended other online platforms, free and paid, where you can access them.
1. Pather Panchali – Song of the Little Road (1955)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray’s first and most famous work (of art), Pather Panchali ranks as one of the greatest directorial debuts in cinematic history. It was the movie that first put India on the map as a leading force in cinema. Yes, filmmaking in India had been well established at that point. But what Ray brought to the table with Pather Panchali was something very different from the signature Bollywood melodrama/musicals. The realist narrative style of Pather Panchali was influenced by Italian neorealism and the works of French director Jean Renoir. Ray assisted Renoir in his 1949 film The River when the Frenchman arrived searching for locations to shoot his film. It was here where Ray disclosed to Renoir about his dream to shoot Pather Panchali. Renoir encouraged him to proceed.
But the real inspiration came from the treatment of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief, which was shot on location with non-actors playing lead roles. A scene involving a train in Pather Panchali is proof of Ray’s vision and genius. A scene so simple, without any camera tricks or staged stunts. Yet, a scene so beautiful that captures the natural landscape of rural Bengal for the viewers to behold. He changed the landscape of Indian cinema with his first film. Pather Panchali is an adaptation of the 1929 novel of the same name, which follows the protagonist Apu, growing up in rural Bengal.
Following the success of Pather Panchali, Ray continued Apu’s story with Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959), which depict Apu’s life as a student in Calcutta, and later on as an adult. The Apu trilogy remains his greatest and most famous accomplishment.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (outside India), YouTube, Eros Now, Jio Cinema
Recommended: 4 Best Marathi Movies on Amazon Prime
2. Teenkahon (2014)
Director: Bauddhayan Mukherji
Image Source: Upperstall
Bauddhayan Mukherji‘s mystery thriller Teenkahon is a three-fold presentation. It is divided into three separate segments. And each segment has something special and different about it. Teenkahon is less of a movie and more of a social document whose purpose is to spread awareness among its viewers. It is an arthouse film that tries to capture the essence of the changing times and the adverse effects it has on people. The movie is a nostalgia-driven ride that yearns for the good old days and mourns the negative effects that modernity has brought with it.
It despairs at the way in which morality has been shaped up by contemporary society. The movie tries to reminisce a world that had morality at its core. It illustrates the changing social fabric of Bengal through the three stories.
3. Chaar (2014)
Director: Sandip Ray
Image Source: bookmyshow
Chaar, as the name suggests, is an anthology film based on four short stories by three writers. Directed by Sandip Ray, it is an adaptation of the stories Bateswarer Abodan by Parasuram, Porikkha by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, Kagtarua and Dui Bondhu by Satyajit Ray.
There is something magical about this anthology. Each story is a masterpiece in itself. Combine it with some extremely talented actors and what you get is a simple story, narrated simply and yet it has the power to move your soul. Chaar stands as an exemplary work because of the expertly handled execution and cinematography. This breaths new life into the stories and makes them relevant in today’s time. The combination of art, friendship, betrayal, and love altogether provide us with an experience that is nothing short of sublime.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (outside India)
4. Jalsaghar – The Music Room (1958)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Image Source: Asian Movie Pulse
Starring Chhabi Biswas, this film set in the 1920s, depicts the last days of a landlord (or zamindar) in Bengal, who tries to uphold his family prestige after the zamindari system was abolished by the Indian Government. Roy, Biswas’ character’s name, shuts himself in his grand home, taking refuge in his beloved classical music while the winds of change raged through the outside world. This was a tale of a man unwilling to change with the times, one who sacrifices everything to get back his family prestige. Jalsaghar, which received mostly poor reviews in India on its release, became a critical and financial hit in Europe and the United States. This film is a testament to Ray’s vision and attention to detail, especially in set locations.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (outside India), YouTube, Eros Now
5. Hemlock Society (2012)
Director: Srijit Mukherji
Suicide is a grave subject often unapproachable. But Hemlock Society completely flips it on its head. The dark romantic comedy follows a man who prevents people from committing sloppy suicide. He presents himself as if his goal is to aid in their suicide so as to make it successful. He wants to turn attempted suicides into committed suicides. The man opens an institution named Hemlock Society where he and others teach people different techniques of suicide and how to commit it properly. On the surface, it is an extremely interesting concept which has a lot of fun with itself.
But deep down, the movie is a psychological and philosophical debate about the existence of life that may seem meaningless. The comic element is intelligently used to actually draw out the fear of death. The infusion of the press and media so deep into our lives has almost desensitized us to suicides and deaths. But this amazing dark comedy makes fun of death at every chance it gets, letting us experience the value of life and reacquainting us to the melancholy of death. It is a brilliant piece of art that has the potential to display the inescapable nature and inevitability of death while asking us to live free from its clutches.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (outside India), Hotstar
6. Dhananjoy (2017)
Director: Arindam Sil
A riveting watch, Dhananjoy dares to ask tough questions. Arindam Sil’s courtroom drama draws from the true story of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard who was labeled as a rapist-murderer. The court proceedings in the film come very close to the real thing. The movie gives us a chance to redeem ourselves, presenting mass hysteria as one of the prime reasons for the hanging of a suspect who wasn’t proven to be the criminal.
It’s a touching tale of a man whose several attempts to prove himself innocent all amount to nothing. The film questions whether the poor have any real rights in a country that harbors a flawed judicial system. It is also a deep study into how a mob operates. The concept of mob mentality and the process of converting the innocent into the guilty is illustrated with vivid yet grounded imagery. The film pierces through the fabric of society and dares to look at and show us the truth, no matter how unbelievable it might be. One of the best Bengali movies Amazon has to offer, Dhananjoy is a must watch.
7. Vinci Da (2019)
Director: Srijit Mukherji
Srijit Mukherji’s Vinci Da is an artistic psychological crime thriller. It tells the story of a struggling make-up artist who is funnelled into becoming an accomplice of a justice-crazed serial killer. The story is like no other you have ever seen and leaves some poignant images in the viewer’s minds. The solid performances and the crisp dialogue are what hold the film together during most of the second half. But it is amazing to witness such artistic talent and strokes of brilliance in what is essentially a crime thriller.
Watch Vinci Da on Amazon Prime
8. Aparajito – The Unvanquished (1956)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Image Source: Time
Following the success of Pather Panchali, Ray decided to take Apu’s story a step further with Aparijito. The movie, not being as critically acclaimed as the first and third part of this trilogy still ranks as one of his great achievements. This is a coming-of-age story, which acts more as a link between Pather Panchali and Apur Sansar, the third in the Apu trilogy. One of the finest classic Bengali movies Amazon Prime has to offer, Aparajito won a Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (outside India), YouTube
9. Kadambari (2015)
Director: Suman Ghosh
Written and directed by Suman Ghosh, this biopic on Kadambari, who was the wife of Rabindranath Tagore’s elder brother, stars Konkona Sen Sharma in the lead role. A rather intelligently made film, it is sure to keep you glued to the screen for the entirety of its length. In this fictionalised biopic, Ghosh explores the events leading up to Kadambari’s death using the facts and sources available to him. What is interesting about the film, although, is steering clear of sensationalisation. At that, the makers succeed effectively.
Other than the historically accurate depiction of the society at the time, the film also clearly reveals the subtleties of the character feeling trapped within the household, ever since her marriage at a tender age. While we can see resemblances to the Rabindranath-Kadambari relationship in the recent film, Bullbul, we wouldn’t make any outright claims. [Related: Bulbbul (2020) Review: A Feministic Tale Of Love, Betrayal & Redemption]
10. Herbert (2005)
Director: Suman Mukhopadhyay
The Suman Mukhopadhyay directorial is based on Nabarun Bhattacharya’s Sahitya Akademi award winning novella Herbert. Herbert traces the life of two characters primarily, the protagonist and Calcutta, the city that he lives in. Laden with heavy political undercurrents, the film has a reputation for upsetting those with puritanical values. It boasts of a non-linear story structure. Defined by the MOMA as an ‘astounding, encyclopedic parable: part magical-realist fable, part allegory of cultural imperialism’, the film revels in its quality of oscillating back and forth in time to show the socio-cultural and socio-political affects incurred by both our protagonists upon enduring the vicissitudes of life.
Without alienating the message, the director employs the various tools of the medium along-with his inspirations effectively. The packaged story, when delivered, is sure to leave the viewer absolutely riveted.
Watch Herbert on Amazon Prime
11. Asha Jaoar Majhe (2014)
Director: Aditya Vikram Sengupta
“It is unlike how Bengali films are made today. It reminded me of the kind of films made in our time,” said Soumitra Chatterjee on Asha Jaoar Majhe. Cinema started as a silent medium that was complemented with live music. Directed by Aditya Vikram Sengupta, the film stars Ritwick Chakraborty and Basabdatta Chatterjee as an unnamed couple. The director’s desire to do away with language in the film is particularly interesting and thought provoking. Without any dialog, the film conveys its message, much like the early silent films did.
Relying solely on visuals and sound design, it is made with keen sensitivity, with the spirit of investigation into the ordinary lives of a couple. But, inevitably so, the magical and the extra-ordinary is found and conveyed to us in an extremely unhurried fashion. Every shot in the film is aesthetic and communicates on a subliminal level. It will leave you fill with the urge to watch a Kiarostami film. Asha Jaoar Majhe is more than just slice-of-life; it is watching life unfold at its own pace.
12. Jyeshthoputro (2019)
Director: Kaushik Ganguly
Among the new Bengali movies Amazon has added to its library is Jyeshtoputro. It revolves around Bengali film superstar Indrajit Ganguly, who upon coming to know of the sudden demise of his father, reunites with his family after 12 years. The events that unfold after are what make up the story. What is absolutely commendable about the treatment is the way in which the film attempts to talk about human insecurities. Starring Prosenjit Chatterjee, Ritwick Chakraborty and Gargi Roychowdhury in lead roles, the film is unabashedly confrontational. It goes on to reveal the complexities of the human psyche with extreme sensitivity and sensibility.
Following a duel that takes place between two brothers, the film reveals how much of a bubbled existence a human being could be in. It is a fascinating and riveting take on the modern family dynamic, and definitely a must watch as it marks the first time Prosenjit and Ritwick came to share the screen.
There we are! These are some of the best Bengali movies on Amazon Prime Video.
By Deepjyoti Roy, Aditya Sarma, Sanghmitra Jethwani
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