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Houston to host Bengali fest

Anjan Dutt?s new 'crossover' film will premiere at the three-day annual event. Saibal Chatterjee has more details.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2006 19:42 IST

Kolkata musician-singer-actor-filmmaker Anjan Dutt’s third directorial venture, The Bong Connection, will premiere at the upcoming three-day North America Bengali Conference (NABC) in Houston.

Large portions of The Bong Connection, the first-ever feature film to deal with the Bengali immigrant experience, have been shot on location in Houston, with many Bengali-speaking denizens of the city putting in small on-screen appearances.

The new Anjan Dutt feature will screen as part of a Bengali film festival to be organized at the NABC, an annual event that is now in its 26th year. NABC 2006 kicks off on June 30 at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Returning to Houston after a full decade, the traveling Bengali conference is being held this year under the aegis of the Tagore Society of Houston, a cultural organisation set up in the early 1970s. NABC 2006 is funded in part by a grant from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County and is supported by the city’s Bangladeshi community, among others.

The Bong Connection revolves around two young male protagonists – one travels from New York to Kolkata, the other from Kolkata to Texas. The film seeks to reject the notion that cultural identity is rooted in geography.

The cast of The Bong Connection includes Victor Banerjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, Mamata Shankar, Raima Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee and the London-born, US-based actor and composer Samrat Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti has been seen in films like The War Within and Spike Lee’s She Hate Me.

Among Houston residents who play small roles in the film is the R&B vocalist Marko Dutta.

The NABC 2006 film festival will include a retrospective of veteran Bengali actress Sabitri Chatterjee, Sandip Ray’s Nishijapon (After the Night… Dawn), Bangladeshi writer and filmmaker Tanvir Mokammel’s epic 1999 partition drama, Chitra Nadir Pare (Quiet Flows the River Chitra), and the Roopa Ganguly-produced six-in-one film, Ek Mutho Chhobi (A Fistful of Films).

NABC, created in 1980 by the Cultural Association of Bengal, has grown from a gathering of local and regional Bengalis to include attendees, speakers and performers from all over the world. To emphasise its cross-cultural, this year’s edition will feature Mexican and Chinese dance performances.

“At the 2006 NABC in Houston, the conference hopes to ignite the mind and spirit in order to create a resurgence of Bengal’s role in the subcontinent and here in the US. Our goal is to shift the paradigm of the conference from a focus on socialisation and entertainment to more of an emphasis on the exchange of ideas to create a cohesive Bengali identity,” say the organisers.

Besides the film festival, NABC 2006 will host a youth conference, a business forum, academic lectures and a series of classical and modern music recitals. Besides an array of top classical Indian musicians, Bollywood playback singer Abhijeet, Rabindrasangeet and modern Bengali vocalist Indranil Sen and veteran pop artiste Usha Uthup will perform at the event.