On the late afternoon of 7 September this year, The Puttnam School of Film put together a film seminar with the inaugural Darpan Bengali Film Festival. This seminar offered students a chance to meet with celebrated media personalities from India and NYU Tisch Asia’s academics to hear their views and ideas. In the panel discussion were popular radio personality Mir Afsar Ali, Associate Dean of Tisch Asia Dr. Pia Aquilia, Associate Arts Professor of Tisch Asia Gabrielle Kelly and actor Joy Sengupta.
Darpan came to existence when 2 friends, Mir Afsar Ali and Sreyashi Sen were having a casual discussion over coffee in Kolkata, India. Whathas come to fruition is a team of dedicated volunteers from different ethnic backgrounds and from all walks of life brought together by the shared passion for cinema and the arts.
Over decades, Bengali cinema has indeed undergone a transformation from master filmmaker Satyajit Ray to contemporary Bengali filmmaker such as Srijit Mukherji, whose film Chaplin will be screened during the festival. The move by a few filmmakers to capture fresh, real, contemporary and everyday issues have not gone unnoticed in India and around the world. Darpan which means reflections aims to introduce a selection of these films to audience in Singapore not just those who are already familiar with Indian movies from Bollywood and Southern India but also a wider group of people who just love cinema.
Darpan aims to promote Bengali cinema and Singapore is where they first kick start this festival. Darpan believes that language is not a barrier and that cinema speaks a global language. With art and culture receiving so much impetus in Singapore a film festival showcasing such films for a varied range of audience, the ties between Singapore and Bengal are well etched in history. From Sir Stamford Raffles’ journey to the capital Kolkata in 1826 to seek permission from the East India Company to set up a trading post on the island to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose making Singapore his base to revitalize the Indian National Army to take on the British colonisers in 1943, the links between the two port cities of Kolkata and Singapore go back a long way.
Darpan celebrates this intermingling and interaction of cultures, people and ideas. It is an opportunity to take the excellent historical ties to a new level in the modern era and encourage the interaction of cultures and ethnicities through cinema as an art form.
During the workshop, the panel discussed a wide range of issues. From the pioneering of India cinema to the current status of Bengali films and future of films itself. It was once thought that only Hollywood produced the best movies but today that myth has been been broken and globally we are progressing to make a better film culture.
The panel believes that filmmaking is global-less and as filmmakers we can all come up with a film together even though we are from different nations. I believe that it is possible as film itself speaks a international language and there are collaborations happening already as the world moves to globalization. One of which is the Darpan film festival, although the films are in Bengali, it has finally swept into Singapore’s shores.
Lor Hui Yun is currently a first year student at The Puttnam School of Film and is a member of the Editorial Committee.