Bangla cinema refers to the films made in the Bangla language in the Bengal region of Asia. It is one of the earliest film industries in India. The Bangla film industry is based in two areas: in Tollygunge (an area in South Kolkata, West Bengal) and in Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh).
It traces its origins when the “bioscopes” were set up as added attraction to stage plays in the 1890s. The Royal Bioscope Company established by Hiralal Sen, is credited to have started the industry. Later on in 1918, Dhirendra Nath Ganguly established Indo British Film Co. It is the first Bangla owned production company.
At first, the early incarnations of Bangla cinemas produced scenes and dance sequences for Bangla plays at the Star Theatre, Minerva Theatre, and Classic Theatre.
The first full-length Bangla cinema was Billwamangal, a silent film made in 1919 and produced by the Madan Theatre Company of Calcutta. But since this is a silent film, perhaps technically, the distinction goes to the Jamal Shashthi, a talkie or sound film released in 1931. Popular Bangla film directors at this time included Pramathesh Barua and Debaki Bose.
In the 1950s, the Bangla film industry pioneered the “Parallel Cinema” movement. Also known as the Indian New Wave, this movement characterized films with serious content, realism, and depiction of the social-political climate of the times. Starting with Bangla natok, the movement spread on to the rest of the other film industries in India, providing an alternative to the mainstream fare.
Classic Bangla films include Nagarik (1952), Jalsaghar (1958), Ajantrik (1958), Neel Akasher Neechey (1959), Devi (1960), Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), the Apu Trilogy (1955-1959), and the Calcutta Trilogy (1971-1976).
Notable Bangla film directors include Satyajijt Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha, Budhhadeb Dasgupta, Rajen Tarafdar, Gautam Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Utpalendu Chakrabarty, Rituparno Ghosh, Sandip Ray, and Raja Sen.