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Documentary on Bengalis in London

Wednedsay, March 29, 2006

Kolkata(UNI): A unique docu-feature ''London-e-Probashi'', about the immigration of first generation of Bengalis from the culturally rich Bengal, is all set to be a part of the academic curricula for Asian Studies in Britain. ''London-e Probashi'' (At home in London) showcases the successful lives of immigrants from the undivided Bengal. The 50-minute film crafted by London-based Indian dancer, Bithika Raha, narrates the triumphs and trials of people from Bengal, who have settled in London.

Raha's Nrityakala - a dance and performing art academy founded in 1986 - had received a prestigious British grant, the Heritage Lottery Fund. ''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, roots, customs and traditions,'' Raha told UNI, during her trip to the city. The underlying objective, however, is also to sensitise the present generation of Bengalis based in Britain, about their ethnicity. ''We must know the early struggle of our parents or grandparents. It is through their stories that we understand and portray how life was before and is now for us, as a community,'' she said.

''In England the word Bengali spells confusion. They think Bengalis are all people from Bangladesh. Just a few are aware of a place called West Bengal. This is a stereotype I would like to break,'' she said. ''I am sure the film will generate respect for the Bengalis. Britons will understand that Bengal is different from Bangladesh though I do not mean to disrespect the neighbouring country,'' Raha added. The film is a collage of interviews of Bengalis from all walks of life in London, from a Bengali shopkeeper to a quintessential professor. ''The film also aims to make other communities more aware of Bengali cultural heritage and history and Bengal's contribution on national and international platforms,'' Raha said.

''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 the 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.

''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 is looking forward to the film's screening in Britain's House of Lords soon.

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