In my earlier post on Hindi movie dialogues, a perceptive commenter asked about my favourite dialogue from Bengali films and put me in a quandary. The Bengali films I have watched all my life are not the coin-throwing, whistle-blowing, jumping-in-the-aisles variety. I have steadfastly avoided Posenjit and seen the star only as Prasenjit Chattopadhyay. In fact, I wrote a post on masala Bengali dialogues – mildly poking fun at them.
But when I thought about it, there were so many lines that have come to me and score highly on the parameters of Performance, Immediate Impact and Repeat Value that I had to excise mercilessly to keep the list down to a small number (11).
So, here is a list – in no particular order (except the last one) – of my favourite dialogues from Bengali films. I have given a bit of context and avoided translation. Why? Say the words “But I have mother” and you’ll realize why.
Unt ki knata bechhey khai? – Shonar Kella
Every line which Lalmohan Ganguly a.k.a. Jatayu (played by Santosh Dutta, in the best comic performance ever) said in this film deserves to be enshrined in a Hall of Fame for Cinematic Dialogues. But I will go with this non-sequitur which makes perfect sense in the context of the Bengali conversation where it appears.
BONUS QUOTE: Apnar Gyanpeeth phoshkey gelo. – Joi Baba Felunath
When Feluda realized super-popular novelist Jatayu did not know the meaning of sholko (fish’s scales), he pointed out that Jatayu is not graduating to Critics’ Choice in a hurry.
Ei romantic surroundings-ey tomar hoito money hochhey, love is the most important thing in the world. Kintu Kolkatai phirey giye tomar jodi kokhono money hoi prem-er cheye security boro kimba security thekey prem grow kortey parey, taholey amai janio. Kemon? – Kanchanjungha
I love this line because this was said by a character – which was the exact opposite of an ‘author backed role’. While the heroine was talking about the mists of Darjeeling and Tagore, he – an engineer (gasp!) – went on and on about bridges and dams. But then, he redeemed himself with this line. It was the most unromantic ‘proposal’ in the world but it had grace, it has simplicity and if not anything else, it had an element of realism that was the perfect counterpoint to the unreal magnificence of the Himalayas.
Ki madam, Bangla-medium boyfriend poshachhena? – 22ey Srabon
22ey Srabon had many lines that were clever, topical, layered and eminently memorable. But as a Bengali medium boy, I identify too much with this one. Every time a Modern (pun intended for Calcuttans only) girl gets exasperated with the set ways of her boyfriend/husband, this is the taunt. It has been said many times in real life. I was just glad it has been immortalized on film.
Don’t forget the funny frustration of the police chief (“amra ki kendriyo sarkar na PC Sarkar?”) or Prasenjit’s gentle but damning admonition to a late-comer (“Goto 12 minutey 8 ta rape hoye gelo deshey aar tumi goli-ta miss korey geley?”).
Janar kono shesh nei, janar cheshta britha tai. – Hirak Rajar Deshey
Intellectual Bengalis are raised with “lekha para korey jey, gadi ghoda chorey shey”, establishing a direct correlation between education and affluence. The King of Hirak felt education breeds revolution and convinced young students with a reverse logic. Since you are never going to finish learning, why bother?
Sheta ki bhalo na kharap? – Seemabaddha
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, Satyajit Ray was mostly about questions and seldom answers. Nothing exemplifies this better than this question of Seemabddha, where a corporate executive took the ‘right’ steps in his life & career but was forced to answer if that was good or bad. The question returned again and again as the answers kept getting tougher to face.
Tumi amai bolo Uttam Kumar. – Basanta Bilap
Women sometimes imagine their boyfriend to be Adonis. Or in the case of 1960s Bengal, Uttam Kumar. Only in the zaniest situation does the boyfriend imagine his girlfriend imagining him to be Uttam Kumar. And if that does not happen, then he makes it happen. One of Bengal’s best-loved Chinmay Roy was the exact antithesis to Uttam Kumar but with this line, he ensured that he had almost as many fans.
Ami Jhinder bandi noii. Ami Jhinder raja. – Jhinder Bandi
A rocking adaptation of Prisoner of Zenda, Uttam Kumar was recruited as a stand-in for the missing king of Jhind and an army of loyal retainers attempted to mould him. And just when the directions and training became a little too intrusive, he turned around and said what Bengal knew all along. He wasn’t a prisoner of fame. He was the King.
Rape aar molestation-er moddhey tofat-ta thik ki? – Dahan
Probably Rituparno Ghosh’s best film, Dahan was an amazingly real picture of modern society and its hypocrisy. When a couple was physically assaulted in full public view, a circus erupted. In addition to the attempts to shield the guilty, there was voyeurism from supposedly concerned parties. In this case, a husband’s colleague said this line and very subtly channeled his outrage to titillation.
Pratham inaam dewar adhikar grihaswamir. – Jalsaghar
Satyajit Ray’s forte wasn’t bravura. His characters were real, not prone to bombast. But they were never beyond showing an upstart his place.
Chhabi Biswas, Bengal’s most legendary character actor, gave a commanding performance as an impoverished zamindar. And at the end of a stunning performance in his jalsaghar, he flicked his ivory-encrusted stick to stop a nouveau riche rival from throwing money at the performer. The host has to do it first, he intoned. And with regal air intact, he handed over his last pouch of gold coins.
Lokey boley Cruci-fiction. Ami boli Cruci-fact. Karon ami toh nijer chokhey dekhechhi. – Mahapurush
He loved having roasted hippos. He edited the Manu Samhita. He knew Buddha when he was a chhokra. He was there when Nebu(chadnazzar) was a nabalok. He taught Einstein relativity. And he was there at the time of Nativity.
Many consider the film version to be inferior to the novel (Birinchi Baba) but I disagree – on the basis of this one line. Okay this one and “Kashi Benaras, not kashi khuk khuk”.
Dada, ami bnachtey chaai. – Meghey Dhaka Tara
And finally, this is the line I love most. You could call me a masochist but Ritwik Ghatak blurred the line between compelling and gut-wrenching with each one of his films and nothing demonstrates it better than this one line. A perfect ending to a perfect film, it is – on one hand – depressing. On the other, it is a message of hope.
Hamare yahaan Bidya Vidya shob ek hain, madam. – Kahaani
To lighten the mood, my post-final entry is from what I consider a Bengali film. This, for once, needs no context because everybody and their missing husbands seem to have seen the film (or at least the trailer).
Waiting for what? Write your favourites down also, no?
All of the above are from memory. Please excuse errors. (Will try to link from YouTube for some of them, if I get time.)