I have a friend that moved to New York, and the first thing she told us while visiting home is how she came across fellow NRI Bengalies wherever she went. I heard similar stories from my sister who had Bengali food at a Bengali restaurant run by Bengalies while she was in Paris. Bengalies are everywhere either travelling or settling. The newly launched web series ‘Sharate Aaj’ depicts the story of one such tightly knit community of such NRI Bengalies residing in London. Directed by the heartthrob of Bengali Girls’- Parambrata Chattopadhyay, ‘Sharate Aaj’ rightfully shows the craze surrounding Durga Puja and how NRI Bengalies will come together and leave no stone unturned in celebrating the festival, no matter how far they are from home.

The series has 6 episodes starting with Mahalaya- the advent of Durga Puja and ends with Bijoya- the last day of Durga Puja which is celebrated on the same day as Dussehra. The series has some powerful casting that includes Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Payel Sarkar, Riddhi Sen, Kanchan Mallik, Surangana Banerjee, Joydip Mukherjee, Bidipta Chakraborty, Soumya Sengupta and the likes. However, no Bengali series is complete without the rich cultural essence that Bengal has to offer and thus we have Sahana Bajpaie rearranging Rabindra Sangeet and Bengali Folk song for the series, a risky mix of Lalon and Rabindra Sangeet as Parambrata’s character Mahbub points out as the series goes on.

The story of Sharate Aaj revolves around the tightly knit Bengali community that includes both the ‘Bangal’ (Bengalies with Bangladeshi descent that came to India during the partition) and the ‘Ghoti ‘ (Bengalies that were in Bengal before the partition). They gear up for Durga Pujo amidst the terror threat, and while they do manage to get a permit to host the Puja, they become the target of the terror group. The high-security alert was already enough to make the daily lives of all immigrants in London hard, but staying true to their root, the community of NRI Bengalies come together to celebrate the festival that Bengalies wait for the entire year. The series also beautifully shows Bengalie’s craze for Durga Puja despite what religion they belong to.

The ‘Bangal’ and ‘Ghoti’ reference has long been a subject of healthy playful debate between the said communities, just 1 mention and all hell will break loose debating whose food is better, who is better at football and whose culture is richer. However, when they are in a foreign land, they unite together because at the end of the day they are after all Bengalies. And that’s what the series depicted, along with a subtle reference to food items of both the community at the beginning of the series.

The acting of the main characters was strong and wonderful, especially of Parambrata, Riddhi & Payel. Though I felt that the lip-syncing could have been better, there is no denying that their performance will leave you asking for more by the end of each episode. The series doesn’t lack in thrill or growing tension and suspense. The camera works also need applauding. It’s also noteworthy that ZEE5 released the series on 21st February – International Mother Tongue Day. And what better way there is to celebrate Mother Tongue Day than to binge watch an exceptional work done in your mother tongue?

Whenever Parambrata Chattopadhyay comes up with a new series or a new movie, be it him directing or just acting, you know it’s going to be different than mainstream Bengali movies and series, and ‘Sharate Aaj’ didn’t disappoint. Catch the episodes of the Sharate Aaj on ZEE5 now.

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