A clique of Bengalis
The group, ‘Bengalis in Hyderabad’ (BiH) began its journey more than 10 years ago to provide a platform for Bengalis residing in the twin cities to connect, celebrate and cultivate their cultural attributes, which would lend more diversity to an increasingly cosmopolitan city such as Hyderabad. The organisation also religiously acts towards the culture exchange between Bengalis and other communities of the twin cities, through its socio-cultural activities like a film festival, theatre, music, periodical magazines, etc.
“Initially, it was an informal virtual space on Orkut where members joined in and discussed various things. This forged new friendships and gradually, progressed towards the first meet. Once that happened, plans to organise more events were quickly set in motion, and the group flourished.
Now, it’s one of the biggest communities of Bengalis in all of Asia and a repository of information, hub of varied discussions and active instrument behind some of the biggest events in Hyderabad. From 2013 onwards, it’s also a registered cultural organisation under AP Society Act,” shares Partha Pratim Mallik, General Secretary, Bengalis in Hyderabad.
BiH is arguably the only Bengali community group in Hyderabad, which has something for everyone. “BiH is a socio-cultural platform, without any discrimination and bias on the basis of race, religion, language, sexual preferences, political choices, etc. We are not involved in any Pujas (like Durga puja), unlike other Bengali clubs in the city. We are committed to making the socio-cultural upliftment of the society, of the twin cities,” Partha says.
“There’s a travel club (BBBC) for people who love to pack up and leave at the slightest opportunity, a ladies wing (Adwitiya), which meets every so often, a philanthropic wing (Sporsho) that works tirelessly for the betterment of underprivileged kids focusing on nutrition and education, a football team (Red Devils) and a book club (Boikhor Club) for all the bibliophiles,” he adds.
Apart from focused events conducted by the clubs, the entire group comes together and celebrates its flagship event, the Hyderabad Bengali Film Festival (HBFF). “This is the first ever completely curated and competitive Bengali film festival in India. Other activities include the culture of theatre and performing arts through our theatre group, Dramebaaz. The members of Dramebaaz are majorly from the IT hub and perform Bengali, Hindi and English plays. A celebration of Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday with cultural activities, publication of “Kolaj”, an annual bilingual magazine, picnics, outings, etc are the other activities,” Partha informs.
About the idea behind starting the Bengali Film Festival in Hyderabad Partha says, “Hyderabad Bengali Film Festival is the first ever completely curated and competitive Bengali film festival in India with a motto of bringing Bengali cinema to the city. At the same time, we want to create a platform for cultural exchange through cinema. That's why every year we include guest languages and invite films/filmmakers from other Indian language films. In HBFF 2018, we had Telugu and Marathi films.
We also had Bengali films from Bangladesh. In the short film and documentary segment, we had films from 13 Indian languages including Bengali, and seven countries other than India. During the 5th year, HBFF has reached a place where we can satisfactorily say that it is a Bengali Film Festival to offer beyond languages. Many of the films are indie films. We are also committed to offering the platform to the indie filmmakers, like any other serious film festivals.”
For the upcoming Navrathri and Dusshera, BiH is planning to organize a “Pujo Parikrama”, which will be followed by “Hyderabad Sharod Somman”, where members will be taken around the city in buses to visit all the Durga Pujas being organised by various clubs. In this event, they will also be voting on the best puja among them all. “Once the votes are in, we will felicitate the winning Puja committee. A part of the donations received from members, who will be participating in the Parikrama will count towards our philanthropic wing, Sporsho.
We will visit an orphanage soon after and use the funds to procure much needed nutritional and educational necessities for the kids,” The group currently boasts of more than fifteen thousand members. Cumulative social media presence, including all platforms, would be more than 50,000. “Any Bengali residing anywhere in the twin cities can join the Facebook group and participate in our activities.
However, if they want to get more involved and also wish to lead the group at some point by being a part of the executive committee, we offer a premium membership program (annual and lifetime) which extends special privileges such as discounted rates across all our paid events and the chance to nominate oneself as a contestant at EC elections,” Partha concludes.