These films don’t contain any Bollywood glitz or kitch. They are mostly in black and white. And the dialogue is usually indecipherable, in Italian, French or Russian. Yet, rural audiences in West Bengal are congregating in their villages to watch world cinema classics unspool before their eyes. Right from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin
, Charles Chaplin’s Great Dictator
to Vitorrio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief
. And with each screening, this band of young men are shrinking the distance between film-rich Calcutta and the cinema-starved villages of North 24 Parganas, Nadia and Birbhum in interior Bengal.
Using a hired projector and a clutch of classic VCDs, Drishya—a student film study circle set up by a few post-graduates from Calcutta and Jadhavpur University—has been travelling to villages to hold screenings, since October 2003. Says Drishya’s Chiranjeeb Mukhopadhyay, 26, "Research conducted by our friends showed how electronic media was challenging folk forms. Villagers were abandoning rich folk forms and travelling 12-14 km to see the...