The Changing Face, Sorry Chest, of Bengali Cinema

Popular Bangla movies. There was a time when the problem faced by the hero heroine used to be —guy belongs to religion 1 and girl belongs to religion 2 , guy loses memory, guy rich girl poor, girl rich guy poor, rural-urban tension………..familiar, comfortable topics.

But breasts ? A Bengali movie where the point of tension between the hero and heroine is the expanse of cleavage ? Chobi Biswas and Pahari Sanyal, for whom a Hindu-Christian marriage would have been the thin edge of the wedge, must be turning like tops in their graves.

“Shunya E Buke” which translates to “Emptiness In the Chest” directed by Kaushik Ganguly handles this particularly prickly issue—-how much of our supposedly ‘pure white innocent” love, which old Bengali/Hindi movies glorify, is based on corporeal attributes like the size of a woman’s breasts ?

In “Shunya E Buke” (whose punch line is the very tacky: ” Bhora Buk Na Buk Bhora Bhalobasha” or ” Full Breast or Breast Full of Love?”) an artist, obsessed with mammaries, (also known as the typical Bengali male) on a visit to Khaujaraho becomes besotted by the stone carvings of impossibly voluptuous women that symbolize the Bengali male’s ideal female form. There he also meets a lady and falls in love with her. There is a distinction in their social class—-I suppose the director put that in so that there would be at least some small thing the Bengali audience would find familiar.

Because the rest of the movie sure as hell is not.

On the marriage night, the husband discovers that what he perceived as his wife’s full breasts were nothing but an illusion created by underwire and padding. All his dreams of “Bangalir Bodhu Buk Bhora Modhu” (Rabindranath—Do Beegha Jami) go out of the window.

He leaves her.

Is he being shallow and immature ?

Or is she culpable by having been “padded up” in the first place?

Actually when I first heard of the movie, I was a bit disgusted….my first reaction was—“Have Bengali movies come down to this?”

On second thoughts, maybe it is a good topic to bring up in the media.

I have been told that when prospective grooms come to “see” girls (for matrimonial purposes) they try to get sneak a peek so as to size up they are getting. And because of this, girls are also advised to get stuffed up by the “old ladies of the house”.

Sounds disgusting ! Of course it is. Because that’s what arranged marriage is—– a cattle fair !

Girls look at bulging wallets and guys look at other things that bulge . And based on such corporeal considerations, a match of “love” is made.

While we are comfortable accepting that guys “look” for a girl with fair skin and a convent educated background , we are very uneasy in considering that there are other “ignoble” considerations that affect the choices we make about our life partners—-considerations we know should not be included in the equation but come in, nonetheless.

Let’s not even consider marriage. Are men nicer to ladies who are tight in the right places? Do we always look at a girl’s face when we see her for the first time ? If we don’t, does that make us a lecherous villain or just a normal male? When men say about someone—“she is very good company” or “she has a very interesting personality” —how much of that judgment is a function of the female’s physical attributes ?

And let’s not kid ourselves that this “breast obsession” is a MTV-Channel V gen issue brought about by American cultural imperialism (Personally, as an agent of imperialism, I would prefer Pam Anderson to Lord Clive anyday)—-it’s always been there with us –except that we have packaged it in an idealized, feel-good wrapping of ethereal, non-physical love.

It’s encouraging to see Bengali movies pushing the envelope. And not by addressing “bookishly bold” topics like homosexuality or extramarital affairs (which is what Hindi movies are doing) but by dealing with issues that everyone knows exist but feel very uncomfortable accepting or discussing.

15 thoughts on “The Changing Face, Sorry Chest, of Bengali Cinema

  1. lol ok. here’s a comment!

  2. Hey quickdraw was quicker on the draw than me!

  3. 🙂
    nice. Hadn’t heard of the movie… but when I think abotu it, it doesn’t matter whether movies are made abotu these topics or not.. because, in the world of media, things have to be black and white, a normal impulse, hormone driven or not will have to be classified good or bad… just like you are attempting to 🙂
    Whether girl is well endowed does not make her an interesting personality and vice versa… there are words in the language that can be used for to describe everything… people do not use euphemisms to spare the listner or the object of the conversation.. they use euphemisms to save their own image 🙂

  4. hai purush! hai bidhata!
    bhora buk na bhuk bhora bhalobasha?…sotti kotha

    purusher ei obsession chirokaler…..choto bela theke dekhe eschi…era kotha bolbe mukh noi…buker dike takiye…ek bar toh boley diyechilam..” moshai o duto obola jib apnar kothar kono uttor dite parbe na….parle amar mukher dike takiye bolun”

  5. I protest!
    My husband married me because he thought (looking at my equitorial bulge) that he would, beside me, come across as tall, dark and handsome.

    I went into the holy state of matrimony thinking that when I will stand by his side, I will come across as slim, elegant and DOWNRIGHT beautiful.

    The marriage is still on. We don’t out with one another.

  6. Dhiraj Ramakrishnan November 1, 2006 — 10:48 pm


    Thatz a nice post .. especially the part about arranged marriages.

    It is a gamble for both the girl and boy. Earlier i think it was unfair to the girl. But nowadays i think girls do have an equal say in the selection of their mates.

    And girls are more intiutive than boys, i think they get a hang of a guy’s character much quickly and much better than guy’s ever can or ever will.

    So i think if the girl says yes to you i think she would have thought about it much better than you would have.

  7. @Dhiraj Ramakrishnan: You are thinking a lot dude… (5 “i think” ‘s in 6 sentences).

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  10. I read you website… a really Good Work keep it up, highlighting the aspects of bengali culture!!

    If there is any information needed about Bengali Matrimonial then I would recommend people to visit at least once. This has a good bengali Bride’s and Groom’s profile database.

    Hope this info will help others too…


  11. Wake up dear. there is nothing like LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. Love marriages also have a lot of ‘sizing up’ involved like arranged marriages. Thats why so many love stories don’t end up in marriages – all over the world. What’s your take in speed dating, match fixing web sites (like e-Harmony)? But it was good to see that Bong movies are turning so bold – wonder how the director handled the issue – need to see this film.

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