Set around a Muslim community in a small village in West Bengal, Mrinal Sen’s AMAR BHUVAN is a comeback vehicle for the veteran director after a long hiatus. Deeply disturbed by the increasing violence in our society, Mrinal Sen has focused his lens on a theme of love this time around.

The film revolves around a triangle viz Meher(Kaushik Sen), Noor(Saswato Chaterjee) & Sakina(Nandita Das). Noor marries Sakina but soon seperates from her. He leaves for the Gulf and returns with pots of money and a wife after a few years. Meanwhile, Sakina has married Meher and they have three children. Meher somehow manages to eke out a livelihood through farming and other menial jobs. Noor and Meher are cousins, and Noor employs Meher on contract jobs because of his skill and efficiency. Meher also earns some money in the process.

The open shot of Noor moving in his swanky bike around the village highlights the social and economic changes in the lives of the rural folks. The director lovingly unfolds the love that permeates the existence of Meher and Sakina. Mrinal Sen is arguably the only Indian filmmaker who has attempted to capture the love and bonding that exists in the life of the downtrodden and carries it off with such finesse. While a streak of pessimism is generally woven into the narrative in any tale of the underpriviledged this work by Mrinalda is laced with warmth and unusual charm. One particular sequence that captures the transition between darkness and the first rays of daylight in two sequential shots is simply brilliant. Some of the lighter sequences like that of Meher fleeing from a money lender or buying a radio outside his means in order to make Sakina and his children happy contributes much to the charm of the film as a whole. A Rabindrasangeet by Srikanta Acharya has been knitted into the film. The actors perform credibly though Nandita Das looks much too urbane in many sequences.

The film also marks a departure from Mrinalian style of ambiguous ending and does have a complete story. The film also reinforces the belief that cinema can be an effective tool for social analysis. The guiding philosophy behind this work seems to be a Charlie Chaplin quote. A favourite of the director, the tramp had once commented: “In this age of hidden suspicion, I try to speak of human compassion.”

Family relationship and the centrality of children in making happy homes can be discerned from the narrative. The amity in Hindu-Muslim relationship can also be inferred from the sudden appearance of Chatterjee Chacha (Arun Mukhopadhyay) in the feast given by Noor for the villagers towards the concluding portion and the way everyone especially the kids stoop down to touch his feet as a mark of respect.

Controversy and criticism are part and parcel of all the works by Mrinal Sen. I was witness to a few snide comments from the audience after the show. I heard some pundit say “Mrinal Sen himself doesn’t know what he’s trying to say.” Whatdidyasay? I would like to ask critics like him “is it obligatory for a filmmaker to tell only stories, a complete story in films and leave nothing for the interpretive faculty of the viewer?.” It is apparent that subtlety doesn’t always resonate with the general audience nowadays increasingly fed on a diet of escapist fare. Fine, but why be so critical with works by directors who doesn’t bother to toe your line, perhaps?.

The film was shot in the West Bengal town Taki. The river Icchamati flows nearby.. .

The film fetched Mrinal Sen the Best Director and Nandita Das the best actress award at the Cairo Film Festival. This film celebrates the charms of the quotidian life.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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