Venturing wayward from the realm of full length feature films, shorts films are a brilliant exploration of the dynamics of cinema. There is content on offer within a time frame that seldom can be monotonous, but is nevertheless enriching. And indeed, short films have very often tended to be an artistic experience more rewarding than a full length run in the theater. Compact and concise, a short film lets you on with the entertainment while serving your wandering spirit. And Bengali short films, with their wide range of traditional feels skillfully weaved within the appeal of the wide world of cinema, are a distinctive category altogether. Here’s listing many a short Bengali film for you to watch if you always relish a good movie experience-
In being a silent film, Two perhaps would pass of as a universal short tale but hail the man behind the name and you will stick to calling it a Bengali masterpiece. A 1964 film by the iconic Satyajit Ray, Two was part of a trilogy of short films from India. As a prelude to another Ray film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Two also is essentially an anti war film acted out through two children constantly on the try to outdo one another with display of their toys.
Made during the Vietnam war, the film essentially draws elements from the war setting, invoking the images of a rich kid and a poor one perhaps personifying the imperialist capitalist First World, the USA and the exploited Third World of Vietnam. By Ray’s own admission, Two ‘packs quite a punch’ making it therefore one of the absolute best among Bengali short picks.
Bouma is perhaps one among the most unique short films that has been made. Even in its typical short film genre adhering humorous spirit laced with dark undertones, the 2019 Bouma makes for quite an unconventional watch. The premise is nothing unreal, a beautiful wife taken for granted by an ironically insecure husband is what you experience right through until the end when the now deceased man’s lifeless body is given over by his submissive wife to a doctor for some sort of research.
While that indeed might be something you can view as socially progressive subject to perception, Bouma attempts to be much more. In having her husband succumb to a fate somewhat predetermined at her disposal, the leading lady ensures that Bouma emerges to be more than just a tale of relatabilities and transcends to make for a watch that leaves you satisfied in this satirical right of the wrong.
From the genius cinematic brilliance that Satyajit Ray is, Pikoo is an offering that perhaps would also be among the earliest of Bengali short film. ‘A very complex film’ in the words of Ray himself, Pikoo can be as heart wrenching an experience as its ‘amoral’ crudity. The film spans a day in the life of the six year old Pikoo, however all that happens in the course of that day, only some few hours to be precise, is nowhere the crux of the story. The film is more about the lead up of events leading to some tragedy, even when what plays out on screen is just 25 minutes of events. For all it is worth in all its complexity and the depiction of a bickering heart in its desire, this 1980 pick commands absolute mention in the archives of best Bengali shorts ever.
There’s no mentioning Bengali short films without a lauding of the Sujoy Ghosh directorial Ahalya. A modern adaption of the mythical story of Ahalya from the Ramyana, what sets the 14 minute gripping thriller apart from numerous such adaptations is the unmistakable feminist undertone that characterise this superb production.
With Radhika Apte playing the titular role of Ahalya, there is a sense of haunting eeriness to the film. One of those actors who have always dazzled in unconventional roles, Apte’s 2015 film Ahalya with the legendary Soumitra Chaterjee indeed has to be one of the best Bengali short films ever.
Ahalya explores the investigation about a missing man by a police officer that leads the latter on a path gone awry. Suspense and intrigue keeps viewers hooked in this edge of the seat thriller which ends a riddle as open ended as it was at the beginning.
The directorial debut of ace filmmaker and actor Konkona Sen Sharma, Naamkaran is what can pass of as a modest short film, in it being lesser heard of and therefore lesser seen. While even in its plot that revolves around a teacher and her pickpocket sibling, we would perhaps be doing Naamkaran well in not passing it off as riveting. It in fact is still a familial film, but somewhat oblivious to the sweet tone encompassed by on screen depictions as these. Naamkaran rather is a tart movie, thereby ruling out the scope of drama for its peculiar unfolding, which perhaps make it all the more unconventional a movie to live along with. Intricate even in its brevity yet not exhausting, Naamkaran makes for a rather crisp film to watch and wonder at.
A recent foray into the realm of Bengali short film has been the heartwarming flick C/o Chatterjees, which is yet another of the infinite projects emerging out of the current lockdown. With stalwarts like Soumitra Chatterjee and Sabitri Chatterjee in one frame, the venture by Sugam Homes does not tread on any facade of the larger than life familial bond that movie jargons are so loaded with. Instead it dwells on a relationship forged out of love and compassion, and most importantly of humanity, which is the ultimate need of the hour in crisis situations like the present. Socially relevant but not too much in your face, C/o Chatterjees is just the filmy dose you need to rekindle the compassionate spark in your heart in these gloomy times.
Another short Bengali thriller, Queen’s Gambit is understandably a tale about what it should be- Chess. What however forays beyond the realm of the obvious is a deadly spin around the game one particular night between two strangers that has secrets tumbling out along the way even as a spine chilling culmination has you gasping short of breath at what just unfolded on screen with this Bengali short film.
A short film that’s all about Durga Puja– quite sums up the Bengali essence in its most indispensable way of typical life. And this sweet and poignant film Debi is exactly a work on not just the fervour of the pujo festivities but also the connected emotions. After all, festivals would never have been half the fun if there would’t be family, friends and loved ones to celebrate them with.
Exploring such nuances of the special nostalgia that the mere mention of Durga Ma evokes in every Bengali household is the 2015 offering Debi. At play here is the daughter’s homecoming- both in the way the film opens up to its protagonist returning home after a good twenty years or the metaphor sought to be invoked by the descend of Goddess Durga on earth. A simple tale of emotions and togetherness explored within the cultural ambits of existence, you should watch Debi for being as possibly real a tale as it could be.
A 2016 Bengali short film about a woman living in parallel worlds, Elixir is a spinning tale of something that cannot be termed supernatural but surely conjures up an image of transfixing means. Somewhere dwelling on the line of being a exploration of the psychological genre of film making to fluently translating into the many dichotomies of life itself, Elixir mounts on a narrative that stumbles along its way to realisation with numerous intertwined elements at play. Paradoxical in the elixir being the means to her turmoil rather than her being a saving grace, it is this play of the unfathomable that makes this Cannes selected short film an absolute must watch among Bengali titles.