Posted May 14, 2013 under Feature Stories By Tathagata Ghosh

From "CALCUTTA 71" to Kolkata 13


ay, Ghatak and Sen- a film studies/appreciation class is still incomplete without these three names! Right from the time of the evolution of New Bengali cinema, or rather the birth of Indian cinema in particular, after the film society movements; one of the names which have kept cine buffs mesmerized with his pure cinematic treat is certainly Mrinal Sen!

“Akash Kusum”, “Akaler Sondhane”, “Calcutta 71”, “Interview” and many more such masterpieces to his credit, Sen has been instrumental in bringing modernism and also introducing the core Avant Garde film making techniques in the sphere of Bengal cine culture. Be it socio political films or films depicting the day to day middle class household, he has always left an indelible mark with his detailed story telling!

The most fascinating and striking aspect that needs to be discussed amongst his grand oeuvre of works, is the pattern or certain eras which separate as well as, tie his classics together. The political turmoil of the 70s, precisely the naxalite movements, has not only restricted itself to the various meetings, slogans of the revolutionaries. It spread to different zones of art and culture, also making its way to the scripts of the cine stalwarts of those times.

If Ray was making a “Pratidwandi”, Sen took up his film making sword to make his Calcutta trilogy- “Calcutta 71”, “Interview” and “Padatik”! This series of films did not only reflect his Marxist ideals, but also proved his mettle with this genre of films, which was not so visible with his earlier works.

Though heavily criticized by many, for the film maker’s biasness in depicting the then contemporary situations, the films strong in cinematic content and language has not failed to bewilder film lovers worldwide. The Godardian house of film making, which was then Hebrew in film culture and practice, was brought alive by Sen through these films. Jump cuts, freeze frames- terms associated with the French New Wave cinema, was introduced and later many of Sen’s contemporaries went onto adapt them in their own films.

With the failure of political movements in Bengal and fading away of the film making scenario prevalent then, Mrinal Sen took up another film making brush to paint his new series of thoughts on celluloid. The middle class series of films, as one can term them precisely, had sensitive portrayals of the crisis that torment a general middle class family. The issues, though at a glance, may appear to be trivial to many, had their roots deep down our daily normal lives.

Sen not only explored the crisis, but also showed how a minor issue can cause indifferences in our lives. The crisis, though resolved, the pathos and pangs remain, often leaving an indelible mark!

“Kharij”, “Akaler Sandhane”, “Chalchitra” can be cited as supreme examples as this section of films. An artist of extreme high order, Sen has continued his film making journey with his last released “Amar Bhuvan”; and with Cannes Film Festival honouring his classic “Khandahar” by placing it amongst their list of best 100 films of all times recently.

His film criticisms, various essays on films and the related craft, have only added to his gigantic personality. A relentless story-teller, Mrinal Sen has always succeeded in capturing the modern times in his own way and familiarizing the audience with the morbidities that they are surrounded by! Respect indeed! 

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