Ashok Kumar

Posted: October 13, 2019 in Ashok Kumar

In my childhood days, I felt that an actor who indulged in theatrics and screamed endlessly on the screen were great actors. A few years later, I saw actors like Amol Palekar, Farooque Sheikh and Rakesh Roshan in characters that brought our everyday normal life to the fore. In some of these films, I found an actor playing a supporting role – as a lovable father-in-law kept under suppression by a domineering wife in KHUBSUROOT or a zany ex-colonel adviser to our hero in CHOTI SI BAAT. I am sure you have guessed by now whom I am talking about – the lovable ‘Dadamoni’ viz , Ashok Kumar who straddled several decades of Hindi cinema. His birthday falls on October 13, which he had stopped celebrating himself because his younger brother, the famous singer Kishore Kumar, died on this day.
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I haven’t seen much of his earlier works which earned him great fame. The films I have watched which gave him an ability to showcase his talent were those by Hrishikesh Mukherjee (HM) and Basu Chaterjee (BC) and a few others. He gave a stunning performance in a central role in HM’s ASHIRWAD and in a supporting role in HM’s Mili as a worried father saddled with the terminal illness of his daughter. In BC’s Shaukeen he plays one of the three elderly characters out on a hunt for dalliances with the opposite sex for fun. In BC’s Khatta Meetha as well, Ashok Kumar had a pivotal character.
Most of us possibly can’t visualize Dadamoni in angry roles, but just rewind to Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi and you will find that in a particular sequence, he unleashes a ‘box’ to quieten a character in that film.
I have seen him in a few Bengali films as well, notable among them being Tapan Sinha’s Hatey Baazarey where he plays a conscientious doc. Even in the film Hospital he played a doc. in love with leading lady Suchitra Sen.In Anand Ashram he played the character of an orthodox father of Uttam Kumar.
I read somewhere that Mrinal Sen was contemplating casting him initially in the character of the bureaucrat in the iconic film Bhuvan Shome but the role finally went to Utpal Dutt.
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Tapan Sinha & docs..

Posted: October 2, 2019 in Tapan Sinha

Happy b’day wishes to late filmmaker Tapan Sinha..

In quite a few of his later works, TS has shown an individual waging a relentless fight against the system. ATANKA, EK DOCTOR KI MAUT, ADMI AUR AURAT, ADALAT O EKTI MEY & WHEEL CHAIR cast the protagonist undergoing an ordeal but refusing to budge into submission.

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No Indian filmmaker has portrayed the profession of doctor and medicine with such sincerity like him. In the early fifties film HATEY BAZAREY, the protagonist Ashok Kumar plays a dedicated doctor who runs a mobile dispensary for the needy. In WHEEL CHAIR a handicapped doctor (Soumitro Chattopadhyay) puts up a relentless fight to bring relief to similarly disadvantaged people through his clinic. EK DOCTOR KI MAUT finds a doctor fighting the cruel academic system and losing out in getting recognition for his pioneering work on leprosy. AROHI & KHONIKER ATITHI too revolved around the Medicine man. In ADMI AUR AURAT the lack of medical facilities to the rural community is highlighted …

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Image  —  Posted: April 28, 2019 in Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Gautam Ghose, Mrinal Sen, Sandip Ray

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(Pix src: mrinalsen.org)

I recently saw the 1979 Mrinal Sen directed PARASHURAM on Youtube. It is generally considered as a lesser work in the ouvre of the veteran filmmaker. Watching the film, I found several strands which MS uses in this particular work, that find recurrence in many of his later films, some of which are considered to be among ‘his very best.’

PARASHURAM (THE MAN WITH THE AXE) is a tale of the sub-altern migrants in a city. Many of them were small time farmers who couldn’t sustain a livelihood back in the village. The influx into the city hasn’t improved their conditions, and they have been reduced to pavement dwellers in a city which prides itself on its moniker ‘The City of Joy.’

But does joy embrace the life of these have-nots, or wretchedness pervades their existence? No Indian director excelled in weaving humour around a central ‘grim narrative’ like MS, the light-hearted moments providing relief and yet contributing in the progression of the storyline, showcasing the dreams and aspirations of the protagonists. Probably this story-telling style is an ode to Charlie Chaplin, a favourite of the director. Though in his earlier CHORUS, MS had used a gimmicky style quite innovatively, some of the characters in that film were from the upper echelons of society. In PARASHURAM Sen has focused his lens on the pavement dwellers and brings in certain tenderness while narrating their life stories which are otherwise harsh – this technique was used in great abundance in his last film AAMAR BHUBAN. A particular shot of Sreela Mazumdar framed against a wall  is reminiscent of a similar shot of Shabana Azmi in KHANDAHAR (1983) which became iconic a few years later.

The non-returning of a woman to her home, which formed the main narrative of the masterful EK DIN PRATIDIN (1979), also finds appearance in a sub-plot in PARASHURAM. Allegorical use to represent class struggle and its inevitable destiny, surrealism that reflect the mental conditions of the protagonists and such devices, have been skillfully used to broaden the context – from the individual to the collective.

Through some of the characters in the film, the director seems to be making a critique on modern existence. When the elderly character of Bibhas Chakraborty narrates to our ‘Parashuram’ a tale of the missing girl being rescued and saved from a devastating flood in her early life, yet she couldn’t be saved from the magnetic pull of the cities (she elopes with her lover) later, the underlying social message does come to the fore.

Overall, such a grim subject on pavement dwellers runs the risk of being boring and sentimental, but it’s to the credit of the director that he elevates the film to become an authentic celluloid document of the homeless in our metro cities. The growing homelessness across the globe is a major challenge to cope with for developing / developed country.  For example, in the National Capital Region of India where I live, even now each year several homeless people die during the harsh winters – something that is a blot on our society.

As far as I recall, this is probably the only film the private Marxist filmmaker (as Mrinalda liked to describe himself)  has made that has a direct reference to the Hindu religion, the titular character being a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and though being a Brahmin was known for his warlike traits. Whether the protagonist in the film succeed in vanquishing all the adversaries like the character from Hindu folklore, one would refrain from divulging such details and would recommended watching the film, which despite the harshness remains a work brimming with hope and despair, cinematic novelty and an authentic portrayal of the marginalized, often viewed as the dregs of society.

SG

Rating: 4 out of 5

Excerpts from an Mrinal Sen Interview:

Tell us about your latest film.

Ans: My latest film – a kind of fiction- documentary combine- called PARASHURAM, depicts life on the city pavements. The pavement dwellers are mostly rural migrants who once were landless farmers and who are now reduced to the level of the sub-proletariat community. The leading character, not by any chance my protagonist, once killed a tiger with him axe while felling trees in a jungle. It was just on an impulse that he killed the tiger. But, as everybody knows, Parashuram’s crusade against the Kshatriya’s was an act of retribution. My job in the film was not to look for the militants among the rural migrants. It was just to make a few valid socio- economic points and, in the process, to be critical of the soul-killing system prevalent in our society and also to develop respect for the circumstances in which my characters live and perish.  In a way, the film also tries to portray the concept of an average man who, suffering humiliations all his life, indulges in pitifully impotent fantasies. I wanted the film to be funny and grim.

Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/metrolife/metrolife-move/auteur-mrinal-sen-indian-712015.html

Understanding my times

Posted: April 9, 2019 in Mrinal Sen, Shyam Benegal

https://www.cineaste.com/winter2018/understanding-my-times-mrinal-sen

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Image  —  Posted: March 17, 2019 in Hollywood, Uncategorized

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The film I saw yesterday was BHALO THEKO directed by Gautam Halder. BT has several layers – at one layer the film showed the exploitation and sacrifices of women for the family like Ghatak’s MEGHE DHAKA TARA. In another layer, the film depicted the torment the family undergoes when one of its member get involved in a revolutionary movement, similar to Mrinal Sen’s MAHAPRITHIBI. The impressive debut of the director is laced with a poetical treatment and emphasises the need for us to care for and live in harmony with nature. Vidya Balan plays the pivotal role and the supporting cast includes Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Joy Sengupta, Debisankar Halder, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Anusya Mazumdar and others.

Rating: 4 out of 5