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Kabuliwala becomes 1st Bengali movie to be screened in Auckland

A still from Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Kabuliwala

Auckland's first-ever Bengali movie screening proved to be more than just a cinematic event; it was a cultural milestone that unfolded at Capitol Cinema. Curated by Probasee Bengalee Association of New Zealand, the event on January 21 marked a historic milestone for the association and introduced Auckland to the enchanting world of Bengali cinema.

The chosen film, 'Kabuliwala', features the renowned three-time National Award-winning actor Mithun Chakraborty in the lead role. It is based on the 1892 classic short story by the same name written by Rabindranath Tagore. 

Pavitra Roy, President of Probasee Bengalee Association of New Zealand, says, “The movie, which was released in India in December 2023, depicts the timeless theme that love and affection transcends not just borders, but everything else, and humanity is the prime virtue of life.” 

The association expressed heartfelt gratitude to Bengali Cine Club Australia Pty Ltd for their instrumental role in bringing this cultural venture to fruition. The choice of Capitol Cinema, known for its historical significance and retro ambience, further elevated the experience. 

Reflecting on the response to the event, Probasee’s General Secretary, Shopan Dasgupta, expressed amazement at the turnout. Despite challenges posed by community members being overseas or back in Kolkata during this time of the year, the screening attracted an impressive attendance of more than 70 people, including Roopa Suchdev of Roopa Aur Aap.

"With a seating capacity of 132, having 70 plus attendees was a good turnout. It has given us immense confidence to keep this going; moving forward, we will screen more Bengali movies in the future," Dasgupta shares with enthusiasm.

Addressing the importance of such community events for the Kiwi-Indian community, Roy emphasised the role it plays in cultural preservation and exchange. 

"One question we all get asked at some stage, once we have decided to make New Zealand our home, is - how much of a Kiwi have we become? Have we been able to embrace the Kiwi lifestyle? 

“Hence, such community events are significant as they help the people here understand each other's values and what we stand for. It gives the Kiwi-Indian community a flavour of the East and the West and helps us understand each other better, " explains Roy.

The inception of this cultural initiative started nearly a year ago during one of the association's executive meetings. The idea of screening a Bengali movie in Auckland was born from the realisation that such an initiative had not been explored before. The entire process, from conceptualisation to execution, was described by Dasgupta as a "huge learning" experience.

Attendees, too, expressed immense joy at being part of this historic day. Rahul Sen, a senior lecturer in economics at AUT Business School in Auckland and one of the attendees, said, "A huge thanks to Probasee Bengalee Association of New Zealand for bringing us the first-ever screening of a Bengali movie here in Auckland. 

“Kabuliwala is relevant today and drives home the important message of embracing humanity before judging people based on their nationality, caste, or religion. We hope to get more opportunities to enjoy such meaningful and classic Bengali cinema here in New Zealand.”

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