The principal filmmaker at Madan Theatres during the silent era, Jyotish Bannerjee played a key role in shaping both the studio’s and Bengali cinema’s foundations. He directed many of the theatrical and literary adaptations that would come to define Madan’s signature style.
Born in 1887 in Bihar, Jyotish Bannerjee began his career as a typist at Madan Theatres. He later became a member of their core filmmaking team which also consisted of Priyanath Ganguly, Jyotish Mukherjee, Amar Choudhary, B J Rajhans, Abdur Rehman Kabuli, Jyotish Sarkar and T Marconi. He made his first film Mahabharat in 1920. He also assisted Eugenio De Liguoro during the making of two successful films Nala Damayanti (1920) and Dhruva Charitra (1921). He also worked with C Legrand in Vishnuavtar (1921). Some of his early films were Bishabriksha (1922), Matri Sneh (1922), Nartaki Tara (1922), Mishar Rani (1924), Jaler Meye (1925), Dharmapatni (1926), Chandidas (1927), Indira (1929) among others. His films in the early 20s were mostly adaptations of stage productions by the Elphinstone and Corinthian companies. In the late 20’s, when Madan acquired the rights for Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s works, he made several adaptations of those. Also adapting the likes of Girish Ghosh, Rabindra Mohan Maitra and Romesh Chandra Dutt, his films set the tone for the literary films in Bengal, which also became Madan Theatres’ signature genre. After 1933, he became a freelancer. He continued this style of adaptation in the 30s as well, making films like Krishnakanter Will (1932) and Manmoyee Girls’ School (1935). The latter was an adaptation of successful Star Theatres comedy and ended up a huge success, particularly due to a bravura performance by Kanan Devi. The film later enjoyed multiple remakes in Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi languages. Later in his career he worked in Radha Films, Bharatlaxmi Pictures and Indrapuri Studio.
Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema. Ed. Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.