No. of screens381 screens in West Bengal and Tripura states of India (2023)[1]
Main distributorsSVF
Eskay Movies
Surinder Films
Grassroot Entertainment
Dev Entertainment Ventures
Windows Production
Bengal Talkies
Friends Communication
Camellia Productions
Produced feature films (2022)[2]
Total145 (Theatrical)
Gross box office (2023)[3]
Total66 crore (US$7.9 million)

Cinema of West Bengal, also known as Tollywood or Bengali cinema, is an Indian film industry of Bengali-language motion pictures. It is based in the Tollygunge region of Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The origins of the nickname Tollywood, a portmanteau of the words Tollygunge and Hollywood, dates back to 1932.[4] It was a historically important film industry, at one time the centre of Indian film production.[4] The Bengali film industry is known for producing many of Indian cinema's most critically acclaimed global Parallel Cinema and art films, with several of its filmmakers gaining prominence at the Indian National Film Awards as well as international acclaim.

Ever since Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali (1955) was awarded Best Human Document at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, Bengali films frequently appeared in international fora and film festivals for the next several decades.[5] This allowed Bengali filmmakers to reach a global audience. The most influential among them was Satyajit Ray, whose films became successful among European, American and Asian audiences.[6] His work subsequently had a worldwide impact, with filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese,[7] James Ivory,[8] Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan, François Truffaut,[9] Carlos Saura,[10] Isao Takahata,[11] Wes Anderson[12] and Danny Boyle[13] being influenced by his cinematic style, and many others such as Akira Kurosawa praising his work.[14]

The "youthful coming-of-age dramas that have flooded art houses since the mid-fifties owe a tremendous debt to the Apu trilogy".[15] Kanchenjungha (1962) introduced a narrative structure that resembles later hyperlink cinema.[16] Ray's 1967 script for a film to be called The Alien, which was eventually cancelled, is widely believed to have been the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's E.T. (1982).[17][18][19] Ira Sachs' Forty Shades of Blue (2005) was a loose remake of Charulata (1964), and in Gregory Nava's My Family (1995), the final scene is duplicated from the final scene of The World of Apu. Similar references to Ray films are found in recent works such as Sacred Evil (2006),[20] the Elements trilogy of Deepa Mehta, and in films of Jean-Luc Godard.[21]

Another prominent Bengali filmmaker is Mrinal Sen, whose films have been well known for their Marxist views. During his career, Mrinal Sen's films have received awards from major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago, and Cairo. Retrospectives of his films have been shown in major cities of the world.[22] Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak began reaching a global audience long after his death; beginning in the 1990s, a project to restore Ghatak's films was undertaken, and international exhibitions (and subsequent DVD releases) have belatedly generated an increasingly global audience. Some of his films have strong similarities to later famous international films, such as Ajantrik (1958) resembled the Herbie films (1967–2005) and Bari Theke Paliye (1958) resembled François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959). Other eminent Bengali filmmakers included the trio of Tapan Sinha, Ajoy Kar and Tarun Majumdar, collectively referred as "TAT". Their films have been well known for Best Literature Adaptation and displaying larger than life perspectives. Ajoy Kar directorial numerous films created many new milestones and broke existing box office records in the Golden Era.

The cinematographer Subrata Mitra, who made his debut with Ray's The Apu Trilogy, also had an important influence on cinematography across the world. One of his most important techniques was bounce lighting, to recreate the effect of daylight on sets. He pioneered the technique while filming Aparajito (1956), the second part of The Apu Trilogy.[23] Some of the experimental techniques which Satyajit Ray pioneered include photo-negative flashbacks and X-ray digressions while filming Pratidwandi (1972).[24]


Tollywood was the very first Hollywood-inspired name, dating back to a 1932 article in the American Cinematographer by Wilford E. Deming, an American engineer who was involved in the production of the first Indian sound film. He gave the industry the name Tollywood because the Tollygunge district in which it was based rhymed with "Hollywood", and because Tollygunge was the centre of the cinema of India as a whole at the time much like Hollywood was in the cinema of the United States.[4]

In that same March 1932 article, Deming was also considering the name "Hollygunge" but decided to go with "Tollywood" as the nickname for the Tollygunge area due to "Tolly being a proper name and Gunge meaning locality" in the Bengali language. It was this "chance juxtaposition of two pairs of rhyming syllables," Holly and Tolly, that led to the name "Tollywood" being coined. The name "Tollywood" went on to be used as a nickname for the Bengali film industry by the popular Kolkata-based Junior Statesman youth magazine, establishing a precedent for other film industries to use similar-sounding names.[25] Tollywood later went on to inspire the name "Bollywood" (as the Bombay-based industry overtook the one in Tollygunge), which in turn inspired many other similar names.[4][25]


A scene from Dena Paona, 1931
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The history of cinema in Bengal dates to the 1920s when the first "bioscopes" were shown in theatres in Calcutta. Within a decade, Hiralal Sen, considered a stalwart of Victorian era cinema[26] set up the Royal Bioscope Company, producing scenes from the stage productions of a number of popular shows[26] at the Star Theatre, Minerva Theatre, Classic Theatre. Following a long gap after Sen's works,[27] Dhirendra Nath Ganguly (known as D.G.) established the Indo British Film Co, the first Bengali-owned production company, in 1918. However, the first Bengali feature film, Billwamangal, was produced in 1919, under the banner of Madan Theatre. Bilat Ferat was the IBFC's first production in 1921. The Madan Theatre production of Jamai Shashthi was the first Bengali talkie.[28] A long history has been traversed since then, with stalwarts such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha, Ajoy Kar and others earning international acclaim and securing their place in the movie history.[citation needed]

Early development

Silent era: 1919–1930

Main article: List of Silent Bengali films

Hiralal Sen, India is credited as one of Bengal's, and India's first directors. These were all silent films. Hiralal Sen is also credited as one of the pioneers of advertisement films in India. The first Bengali-language movie was the silent feature Billwamangal, produced by the Madan Theatre Company of Calcutta and released on 8 November 1919, only six years after the first full-length Indian feature film, Raja Harish Chandra, was released.[29]

The early beginnings of the "talking film" industry go back to the early 1930s when it came to British India, and to Calcutta. The movies were originally made in Urdu or Persian to accommodate a specific elite market. One of the earliest known studios was the East India Film Company. The first Bengali film to be made as a talkie was Jamai Shashthi, released in 1931. At this time the early heroes of the Bengali film industry like Pramathesh Barua and Debaki Bose were at the peak of their popularity. Barua also directed movies, exploring new dimensions in Indian cinema. Debaki Bose directed Chandidas in 1932; this film is noted for its breakthrough in recording sound. Sound recordist Mukul Bose found a solution to the problem of spacing out dialogue and frequency modulation.[citation needed]

Rise of the talkie: 1931–1947

A scene from Seeta (dir: Sisir Bhaduri), 1933. Sisir Bhaduri, Amalendu Lahiri.

The contribution of the Bengali film industry to Indian film is quite significant. First Bengali talkies Jamai Shashthi (as a short film) was released on 11 April 1931 at Crown Cinema Hall in Calcutta and the first Bengali talkies as full-length feature film Dena Paona was released 30 December 1931 at Chitra Cinema Hall in Calcutta. The industry was based in Tollygunge, an area of South Kolkata, West Bengal that is more elite and artistically inclined than the usual musical cinema fare in India.[citation needed]Kanan Devi was a first star of Bengali Film.Chandrabati Devi,Molina Devi, Chhaya Devi was her one of the Competitors.Bengali Most Popular Male Actor was Sisir Bhaduri,Chhabi Biswas,Ahindra Choudhury, Dhiraj Bhattacharya and Pahari Sanyal . Popular Filmmakers are Nitin Bose, Premankur Atorthy, Premendra Mitra.

Golden era: 1952–1978

See also: Parallel Cinema

Satyajit Ray

Bengali cinema enjoyed a large, even disproportionate, representation in Indian cinema during this period. They produced directors like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha. Satyajit Ray is an Academy Honorary Award winner and the recipient of India's and France's greatest civilian honours, the Bharat Ratna and Legion of Honor respectively, and Mrinal Sen is the recipient of the French distinction of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and the Russian Order of Friendship.The revival in Bengali Mainstream cinema dates from the rise of directors such as Tarun Majumdar along with Arabinda Mukhopadhyay and Tarun Majumdar. Other prominent filmmakers in the Bengali film industry at the time included Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Ajoy Kar. The Bengali film industry has produced classics such as Nagarik (1952), The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959), Kabuliwala (1957), Jalsaghar (1958), Ajantrik (1958), Neel Akasher Neechey (1959), Devi (1960), Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Saptapadi (1961 film) , Jhinder Bondi (1961), Saat Pake Bandha (1963), Jatugriha(1964),Atithi (1965),Hatey Bazarey(1967),Malyadan (1971),Nimantran(1971),Shriman Prithviraj(1973), Calcutta trilogies (1971–1976), Mrigayaa (1976), Ganadevata(1978) etc. In particular,Calcutta trilogies,The Apu Trilogy,Shriman Prithviraj,Saptapadi are frequently listed among the greatest films of all time. [30][31][32][33]

Uttam Kumar

The most well-known Bengali superstar to date has been Uttam Kumar while Suchitra Sen is regarded as the most beautiful and influential actress of Bengali cinema. Kumar and Sen were known as "The Eternal Pair" in the late 1950s. This pair worked in the 1961 epic Romantic drama Saptapadi (1961 film) by Kar besides others. Suchitra Sen got her first International Award for Saat Pake Bandha (1963) by Kar . Apart from Sen, Sabitri Chatterjee and Sumitra Devi were very popular actresses of the 1950s. Soumitra Chatterjee is a notable actor who acted in many films in different genres. He was considered as a rival to Uttam Kumar in the 1960s. Soumitra is famous for the characterisation of Feluda in Sonar Kella (1974) and Joi Baba Felunath. Ganadevata, written and directed by Ray and Ganadevata(1978), Directed by Tarun Majumdar. He also played the adult version of Apu in The World of Apu (1959), directed by Ray. In 70's, Ranjit Mallick is famous for Youth Characterization of Interview, Calcutta 71. Rabi Ghosh and Anil Chatterjee is a notable actor for his Versatile Acting which impressed the Audience in short time. [citation needed]

Mahanayika Suchitra Sen
Suchitra Sen

In the 1960s, Bengal saw a host of talented actresses like Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sandhya Roy and, Supriya Deviand Jayashree Kabir. Aparna Sen was one of the most successful actresses of the Golden Era. She became the leading heroine of the 1970s and since 1981 she has been directing films. One of the most well-known Bengali actresses was Sharmila Tagore, who debuted in Ray's The World of Apu, and became a major actress in Bengali cinema as well as Bollywood. Despite Suchitra Sen being the greatest actress, Sharmila was the most commercially successful actress in history with films like The World of Apu (1959), Devi (1960), Nayak (1966), Simabaddha (1967), and Aranyer Dinratri (1970).[citation needed]

Utpal Dutt is internationally known for his acting in movies and plays, especially Shakespearean plays. Bhanu Bandopadhyay, Rabi Ghosh, and Anup Kumar were best known for their comic timing, and with their versatile acting talent they stunned the audience and critics.[citation needed]

The pioneers in Bengali film music include Raichand Boral, Pankaj Mullick, and K. C. Dey, all associated with New Theatres Calcutta. The greatest composers of the golden era included Robin Chatterjee, Sudhin Dasgupta, Nachiketa Ghosh, Hemant Kumar etc.Tarun Majumdar is well known for First time educational, cultural, and philosophical cinematic experiences for both a mass audience and a class audience, He abolished the division in taste between mass and class audiences. Majumdar is best known for such Evergreen films as Shriman Prithviraj, Ganadevata, Sansar Simante and Alo and Many more.[34]

Modern revival: 1978s–2007

West Bengal Film Center in Kolkata

The revival in Bengali cinema dates from the rise of directors such as Aparna Sen,Sandip Ray along with Rituparno Ghosh, Goutam Ghosh, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Anjan Das, Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, Prabhat Roy, Sekhar Das, Sudeshna Roy and Subrata Sen.[35] Rituparno Ghosh made his first film, Hirer Angti, in 1992 and dominated Bengali cinema until his death in 2013, winning numerous national awards for films like Unishe April, Dahan and Utsab. Aparna Sen made her directorial debut in 1981 with the internationally lauded 36 Chowringhee Lane, which looked at the lives of Anglo-Indians living in Calcutta. Her later films have also been celebrated: Paromitar Ek Din, The Japanese Wife, Goynar Baksho, and others. Buddhadeb Dasgupta is best known for award-winning films like Uttara, Mondo Meyer Upakhyan, Charachar, and Janala. Goutam Ghose is Internationally Acclaimed for Cult Classic films as Antarjali Jatra, Padma Nadir Majhi, Moner Manush and many more. Prabhat Ray is popular for Romantic Family drama for Lathi. Majumdar, Mukhopadhyay, and Choudhury were the pioneers in the mid-1980s to 1990s taste of Bengali films.[36][37]

In the 1980s and 2007s, the most popular male Bengali actors were Prosenjit Chatterjee,[38] Tapas Paul,[39] Mithun Chakraborty, Victor Banerjee,[40] Chiranjeet Chakraborty, Jisshu Sengupta, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Ranjit Mallick, Tota Roy Chowdhury and Abhishek Chatterjee,[41] each with a unique acting style. The 2000s marked the rise of many new actors, among whom Jeet and Dev became superstars.[42][43][44] After 2007s, new actors like Ankush Hazra, Abir Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Anirban Bhattacharya, Ritwick Chakraborty and Soham Chakraborty have gained popularity.[45][46][47][48] Actress as Debashree Roy, Rituparna Sengupta, Indrani Haldar, Rachna Banerjee, Mahua Roychoudhury, Sreelekha Mitra, Satabdi Roy, Raima Sen, Priyanka Upendra, Srabanti Chatterjee, Koel Mallick, Swastika Mukherjee and June Malia became popular.

Modern era: 2008s– Present

During this period, actors such as Prosenjit Chatterjee, Mithun Chakraborty, Dev, Jeet, Anirban Bhattacharya, Ankush Hazra, Abir Chatterjee, Yash Dasgupta, Vikram Chatterjee and Jeetu Kamal have been active.[49][50] Among them Prosenjit Chatterjee,[51] Mithun Chakraborty, Dev[52] and Jeet[53] have gained immense popularity and are considered as the superstars of this era. Actresses such as Nusrat Jahan, Subhashree Ganguly, Mimi Chakraborty, Madhumita Sarcar, Ishaa Saha, Susmita Chatterjee, Koushani Mukherjee, Ritabhari Chakraborty, Idhika Paul, Sohini Sarkar, Rukmini Maitra, Jaya Ahsan, Sauraseni Maitra and Tuhina Das have been active.[54][55]

In the recent years, a younger generation of directors has come to the scene like Sujit Mondal, Anjan Dutt, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury along with Kaushik Ganguly, Atanu Ghosh, Suman Ghosh, Atiul Islam, Shiboprosad Mukherjee, Raj Chakraborty, Srijit Mukherji, Aditya Vikram Sengupta, Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, Anik Dutta, Ishaan Ghose, Birsa Dasgupta, Indrasis Acharya, Soukarya Ghosal, Mainak Bhaumik, Anindya Chatterjee, Avijit Sen and Sujit Mondal.[56][57]

Many work in the domestic film industry, while others have gone to work in Bollywood.[58] Successful films by directors from this generation include Dostojee, Mayar Jonjal, Fotema, Baishe Srabon, Bakita Byaktigato, Boomerang, Cinemawala, Pradhan, Amazon Obhijaan, Yeti Obhijaan, 8/12 Binay Badal Dinesh, Shesh Pata, Cockpit, Praktan, Gumnaami, Aparajito, Chander Pahar, Kolkata Chalantika, Haami 2, Nagarkirtan, Once Upon a Time in Calcutta, Ballabhpurer Roopkotha, Tonic, Byomkesh O Durgo Rahasya and many others.[59]

Detective films and family drama films have been the most popular and successful genre in this era. The success of detective films largely owes to the film adaptation of popular fictional characters like Kakababu, Byomkesh, Kiriti Roy, Mitin Masi and Tenida.[60][61]

Successful Bengali films are getting Hindi remakes in Bollywood, Marathi remakes and Malayalam remakes (Rahgir, Balika Badhu, Hemlock Society, Ramdhanu, Bhooter Bhabishyat, Praktan, Rajkahini).[58] Also, Bengali films have in the recent times have turned the cinematic spotlight on Kolkata, introducing the city to a wider national and global audience (Kahaani, Piku, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!). After the digital film era, Bengali directors who have found artistic and commercial success in contemporary Bengali films include: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Kamaleshwar Mukherjee, Sujit Mondal, Aniket Chattopadhyay, Anjan Dutta, Raj Chakraborty, Mainak Bhowmick, Srijit Mukherjee, Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee.[62][56]


Many of the most critically acclaimed Bengali films were low-budget films, including Satyajit Ray's famous The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959). The first film in the trilogy, Pather Panchali (1955), was produced on a shoestring budget[63] of Rs. 150,000 ($32000)[64] using an amateur cast and crew.[65] All his other films that followed also had low budgets, with his most expensive films since the 60's being Saptapadi (1961 film) by Kar, Jhinder Bondi(1961) by Sinha,Saat Pake Bandha by Kar, The Adventures of Goopy And Bagha (1968) at Rs. 600,000 ($80,000)[66] and Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) at Rs. 6 million ($230,000).[67]

Bombaiyer Bombete, produced by Ramoji Films at a cost of Rs 8 million, recovered its costs within three weeks and earned 20 million in all. The movie has brought back the concept of family entertainment with Sandip Ray's gambit of contemporising the plot paying him a rich dividend. Admitting that he did not expect this success, he told Life that he was now lining up another such film for release next year. Earlier, a film by award-winning director Buddhadeb Dasgupta's Mondo Meyer Upakhyan (The Tale of a Fallen Girl) produced by Arjoe Entertainments netted nearly Rs 7  million through the sale of overseas rights against a cost of Rs 0.6  million. Haranath Chakraborty His film Sathi (Companion) created a record by recouping over five times its production cost, although the film Chokher Bali, with big names like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rituparno Ghosh and Tagore, failed to yield expected results. The movie, billed at Rs 16.5 million (the highest among Bengali films).[68]

Hollywood houses like Columbia TriStar have made their debut in distributing Bengali movies. According to industry experts, several issues need to be addressed to build on this resurgence and consolidate it. These include inadequate infrastructure, which often compels moviemakers to go outside the State for facilities pushing up costs, poor marketing and distribution, and increasing competition from Bangladeshi films.[69][70]


A number of Satyajit Ray films appeared in the Sight & Sound Critics' Poll of all-time greatest films, including The Apu Trilogy (ranked No. 4 in 1992 if votes are combined),[71] The Music Room (ranked No. 27 in 1992), Charulata (ranked No. 41 in 1992)[72] and Days and Nights in the Forest (ranked No. 81 in 1982).[73] The 2002 Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll also included the Ritwik Ghatak films Meghe Dhaka Tara (ranked #231) and Komal Gandhar (ranked #346).[74]

In 1998, the critics' poll conducted by the Asian film magazine Cinemaya included The Apu Trilogy (ranked No. 1 if votes are combined), Ray's Charulata and The Music Room (both tied at #11), and Ghatak's Subarnarekha (also tied at #11).[75] In 1999, The Village Voice top 250 "Best Film of the Century" critics' poll also included The Apu Trilogy (ranked No. 5 if votes are combined).[31] In 2005, The Apu Trilogy was also included in Time's All-Time 100 Movies list.[33] In 1992, the Sight & Sound Critics' Poll ranked Ray at No. 7 in its list of "Top 10 Directors" of all time,[76][77] and Days and Nights in the Forest (ranked No. 81 in 1982).[78]

National Board of Review (USA)

The Annual Academy Awards (Oscars)

National Award

Main article: National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali

The National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali is one of the National Film Awards presented annually by the Directorate of Film Festivals, the organisation set up by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India. It is one of several awards presented for feature films and awarded with Rajat Kamal (Silver Lotus).

The National Film Awards, established in 1954, are the most prominent film awards in India that merit the best of the Indian cinema. The ceremony also presents awards for films in various regional languages.

Regional awards

Cinema-related organisations

See also


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