Pick up any of the various disciplines of the art of cinematic; and it’s impossible to find some or other Bengali artist missing among its major contributors. Whether it’s music, direction, acting, mainstream or parallel cinema the artists of West Bengal are to be found everywhere. Music composers like Salil Chaudhary, singers like Manna Da, directors like legendary Satyajit Ray or Ritwik Ghatak or Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chaterjee etc are a few among the long and illustrious array of the notable Bengali artists.
The history of Bengali Cinema goes back to the inception of the cinema in India. Hiralal Sen use to produce scenes from popular stage shows in early twentieth century. It’s in 1919 that the first Bengali movie Billwamangal was made under the banner of Madan Theatre, Since then Bengali Cinema has never looked back.
1952-1975 is considered as the Golden Era of Bengali Cinema, it was during this period that the globally acclaimed The Apu Triology (1955-1959) of Satyajit Ray was made, with which Sharmila Tagore started her career. After that Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen were the stalwarts of the parallel cinema in India. Till recently Bengali filmmakers like Rituparno Ghosh have given offbeat movies like Raincoat to the Hindi Film Industry.
It’s not just art and parallel cinema but movies like Golmaal, Chupke Chupke, Abhiman, Chhoti si Baat, Rajanigandha and the all time great Anand were like a breath of fresh air for the mainstream Indian Cinema. These movies depicted day to day life of a common Indian man in a lighter way different from exaggerated drama and action, and are counted among the best movies of Indian Cinema. Also is the contribution in the field of music. The Burman father-son duo along with Kishore Da and Manna Da can sweep away most of the all time hits of Hindi music industry ranging from classical, to romantic, to ghazal, to rock.
Interestingly the name “Bollywood” for Hindi Cinema too is inspired by the name “Tollywood” for Bengali cinema which in turn was inspired by “Hollywood”. Most of the Bengali movies are made in “Tollygunge”- a locality of South Kolkata. In 1932 an American engineer “Wilford E Deming”, who was also involved in the production of first Indian sound film, used this chance rhyming of the two words “Holly” and “Tolly” and coined the term “Tollywood” in his article in American Cinematographer. In near future this term “Tollywood” inspired the term “Bollywood” for the Cinema that was being made in Bombay, which in turn has inspired many similar names.