Saraswati Puja has given a massive boost to Bengal’s box office Laxmi. The Valentine’s Day-Saraswati Puja weekend saw houseful shows at Nandan. Others, such as Priya, Bijoli and Chhabighar, saw at least six-eight times rise in footfall. The moot point now is whether good content will be produced to help Tollywood hold on to the trend.
Oindrila Sen, the lead of ‘Magic’, was overwhelmed with the response from both multiplexes and single screens. “This trade figure is so important for the mainstream Bengali film industry,” Sen said. Arijit Dutta, owner of Priya, was happy with the jump in sales figures. “At Priya, there has been at least ten times jump over the weekend for both ‘Dictionary’ and ‘Magic’,” he said.
Suranjan Paul, the owner of Bijoli and Chhabighar, has seen at least six times rise in sales figures from Sunday onwards. “If I was selling 40 tickets for a show at Bijoli earlier, the figures went up to 280 on Saraswati Puja. That’s a minimum six times rise. Even at Chhabighar, which is only screening ‘Prem Tame’, there has been significant jump,” said Paul, adding the relaxation on seating arrangement has finally started making an impact on the footfall with many youngsters coming in to watch films in groups.
On Valentine’s Day, ‘Magic,’ ‘Dictionary’ and ‘Prem Tame’ sold 312, 752 and 866 tickets respectively at the 931-seat Nandan. On Saraswati Puja, figures for all three jumped even further. While ‘Magic’ sold 906 tickets, both ‘Dictionary’ and ‘Prem Tame’ ran houseful. “Unlike other cinemas with capacity of 300, a houseful at Nandan during these trying times is a big thing for the Bengali film industry,” said ‘Dictionary’ producer Firdausul Hasan. Navina, too, saw a surge on Saraswati Puja. According to Navin Choukhani, the owner of Navina, “On Tuesday, 433 tickets of the two shows of ‘Prem Tame’ were sold. Only 36 tickets were sold on Friday. People will come to the theatres to watch good content always.”
This interest in going to cinemas meant the big screen had increased the confidence of Bengali film-makers. Though Dadasaheb Phalke is often credited for having made India’s first full-length feature film, it was Bengal’s Hiralal Sen who deserves that credit as he made ‘Alibaba and the Forty Thieves’ in 1903 — ten years before Phalke made ‘Raja Harishchandra’. Kinjal Nanda, who plays the film-maker in ‘Hiralal’ that is releasing on March 5, is hopeful that his content-driven film will attract viewers. “Our period film sets the Indian cinema history record straight while documenting the life of person who was uncompromisingly passionate about the arts. We had offers from OTT platforms but have decided to go for a commercial release of our biopic on Hiralal Sen,” Nanda said.