Remembering The Rebel Filmmaker

Birth anniversary of Mrinal Sen: His films maintained a true balance between Indian urban and rural values. A socialist by ideology, Sen delved into Bengal’s political psyche and created celluloid images of a reality many were afraid to portray. He rebelled against hackneyed forms of commercial cinema which he considered trepid

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Ranjan Das Gupta
Ranjan Das Gupta
is a Kolkata-based independent journalist. He has been doing freelance work for more than 3 decades and writes on arts & culture, cinema, politics, healthcare and education

During the shooting of his thirteen-episode telefilm, Kitne Paas Kitne Door, Mrinal Sen said he discovered that the language of television was different from that of cinema. In fact, he stated that television had its limitations but it was an interesting experience to experiment with it.

Along with Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen formed the grand trio of Indian cinema. Together they brought international acclaim to the country which no other filmmaker has now been able to. Mrinal Sen was neither versatile like Satyajit Ray nor were his films drenched in the pathos of our partition like the cinema of Ritwik Ghatak.

Yet the maestro held his own sway in comparison to his illustrious competitors. His films maintained a true balance between Indian urban and rural values. A socialist by ideology, Mrinal Sen delved into Bengal’s political psyche and created celluloid images of a reality many were afraid to portray. He rebelled against hackneyed forms of commercial cinema which he considered trepid.

Govind Nihalani still marvels at the use of freeze and zoom shots in Mrinal Sen’s Akash Kusum. Adur Gopalkrioshan fondly remembers the restless political scenario of Bengal so perfectly highlighted in Mrinal Sen’s Kolkata Trilogy, Calcutta 71, Padatik and Interview. Padatik has excellent montages created in black and white in prosaic form. The jump cuts of Calcutta 71 mingled with mime acting in certain scenes remain a lesson in direction. The undercurrent of a feudal society that starts getting moribund is remarkably discussed in Bhvan Some.

 

Filmmaker mrinal sen bengali cinema
The legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen with his photo frame | Courtesy: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Film Heritage Foundation

Mrinal Sen won awards at Cannes and also served as a jury member in the Mecca of film festivals. He termed Cannes his second home. During his lifetime he affectionately recollected his interactions with Akira Kurasawa, Richard Attenborough and Jean Luc Goddard. He confessed to the influence of Goddard on his filmmaking style.

Playing with colors, light and shade and poetic images enriched Khandahar. The agony of poverty struck people awed to see the shooting of a film in their village during an almost famine-like situation in Akaler Sandhane still has no peers. After Mrinal Sen’s requests, director Rajen Tarafdar’s wife convinced the latter to act in Akaler Sandhane. Rajen Tarafdar gave a lifetime’s performance, being a reputed director himself. 

It was not a cakewalk for Mrinal Sen in his film career. His directorial debut, Raat Bhor starring Uttam Kumar was a damp squib. Though Neel Akasher Niche and Baishe Sraban earned his fame, he became internationally famous with Bhuvan Some.

Goutam Ghose says that Mrinal Sen was compelled to write scripts for directors like Ajay Kar’s Kanch Kata Heera. He also wrote Jora Dighir Chowdhuryr Paribar to earn a decent living till he became famous with his Calcutta Trilogy and there was no looking back for him. 

Kaushik Ganguly, modern-day reputed Bengali film director admits he was deeply impressed by Mrinal Sen’s work and is currently directing a sequel to the legend’s Kharij with the same cast, Anjan Dutta and Mamata Shankar.

An avid reader of Karl Marx, Frederick Angeles, Rabindranath Tagore and Munshi Premchand, Mrinal Sen was always a down-to-earth and affectionate person. Like Satyajit Ray, he avoided a large section of the media that was glamour struck. His ode to Charles Chaplin was in the form of a book penned by him brilliantly.

Mrinal Sen always confessed his sense of music was not as good as Satyajit Ray’s. Speaking about the unforgettable title song of his Neel Akasher Niche, he smiled and said the Hemanta Mukherjee rendered numbers in a way that reflected his philosophy. Mrinal Sen strongly believed countless people living with sorrows under the blue sky would wipe their tears and smile on the day a classless society would be born.

Ranjan Das Gupta
Ranjan Das Gupta
is a Kolkata-based independent journalist. He has been doing freelance work for more than 3 decades and writes on arts & culture, cinema, politics, healthcare and education

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