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Film on London's Bengali diaspora

Bithika Raha's 'London-e Probashi' will showcase the successes of immigrants from West Bengal.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 11:32 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

A film on first generation Bengalis in Britain - "London-e Probashi" (At home in London) - will showcase the successful lives of immigrants from West Bengal.

The 50-minute film presented by London-based Indian dancer Bithika Raha will narrate the triumphs and trials of people from West Bengal who have settled in London.

"The film offers a glimpse of some talented, hard-working Bengalis who have made London their home but are striving to hold on to their culture, their roots and customs and traditions," Raha said.

The film - shot by Kolkata-based filmmaker Tapas Sengupta and supplemented by Abhijit Banerjee's camera work - is a collage of interviews of Bengalis from all walks of life in London, from the Bengali shopkeeper to professor.

"The film aims to make other communities more aware of Bengali cultural heritage and history and Bengal's contribution on national and international platforms," Raha told IANS.

The underlying objective is also to sensitise the present generation of Bengalis who are British citizens unaware of their ethnicity.

"We must know the early struggle of our parents or grandparents. It is through their stories that we reminisce how life was before and how it is now for our community," she said.

"In England the word Bengali spells confusion. They think Bengalis are all people from Bangladesh. Few are even aware of a place called West Bengal. They have stereotyped ideas about us."

"I am sure the film will generate respect for the Bengali. Britons will understand that Bengal is different from Bangladesh though I do not mean any disrespect to the neighbouring country," Raha added.

"I am very happy with not just the film but the fact that it is being accepted by the academic circles in Britain as well. SOAS University (School of Oriental and African Studies) wants to put it in their MA course in Bengali studies," she said.

"Oral history is the recording of people's memories, feelings, attitudes and experiences for posterity. It is first-hand evidence of the immediate past by word of mouth."

"So far it has always been in audio and hence we can claim that this effort (on film) is a novelty," said Raha, a mother of two.

"What comes out through the film full of dances and Rabindranath Tagore songs is how the Bengalis in London preserved their culture," said Raha who went to London after marriage in 1974 and devoted herself to cultural activities.

Raha's Nrityakala - a dance and performing art academy founded by her in 1986 - had received a prestigious British grant, the Heritage Lottery Fund. Raha is looking forward to the film's screening in Britain's House of Lords soon.

First Published: Mar 21, 2006 11:32 IST