Archive for the ‘100 remarkable Indian films’ Category

ajantrik
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AJANTRIK (1958, Bengali, d:- Ritwik Ghatak) After four serious films(Calcutta 71/Pather Panchali/Piravi/Paar), I was looking for a film with strong content using a somewhat humorous approach in the narration. Bhuvan Shome, Chorus, Khosla ka Ghosla and a few others came to mind. Finally I settled for AJANTRIK by Ritwik Ghatak. Based on a story by Subodh Ghosh, it’s a tale of affection of a Car mechanic cum driver Bimal (Kali Bannerjee) for his crumbling Chevrolet ( Jaggaddal ). The car was the source of livelihood for Bimal and his unusual attachment for the inanimate object is a reflection of gratitude for the vehicle that was his constant companion and bread winner for several years. The lens capture the rural landscape beautifully, and Ghatak showcases tribal dances much before Ray popularised it in his films. A couple of scenes seem exaggerated, but these are minor blemish in a novel, pioneering work. Brilliant acting by Kali Bannerjee
Rating: 4.4 out of 5

Calcutta 71

If I am asked “which film has moved you the most?,” my reply would be ‘Calcutta seventy-one.’ This film had a deep impact on me, when I first saw it about ten years ago. I am not fully sure how I would like it now, but I guess it would be the same. This analysis is based on my first viewing.

CALCUTTA 71 is an indictment against violence and corruption throughout the ages. The film was directed by Mrinal Sen. Made in Bengali, CALCUTTA 71 is based on four short stories by writers of repute, each different from the other but all connected or interlinked to bring out a powerful statement. The stories are by Manik Bandopadhyay, Probodh Sanyal, Samaresh Basu and others.

A searing study of the political turmoil of the seventies, CALCUTTA 71 is very harsh in documenting the agony of calcuttans. It had moments of high intensity rarely reached in Indian cinema. Stylistically, it bears the influence of Chris Marker. Sen had been collecting raw footage for this film since 1966. He did this for about five years or so. The film was released in 1972. It was a critical and commercial success, and ran for months in Calcutta.

The first story in CALCUTTA 71 deals with the fall from grace of a middle class family. Against the background of atrocities and turmoil of the fifties and sixties, what misfortune befalls on a middle class family is depicted here. The family has a small house with hardly any roofings. When it rains, the family has to wage a grueling battle to stay afloat and protect them from rain. This episode was enacted by performers who makes rare appearances in films. The sequence where the girl sits with the umbrella trying to stop the rain water from entering inside will forever remain etched in memory. Also when the man i.e. the head of the family agrees to take his family members to a safer place to Mr. Sarkar’s house, after much cajoling from his family members, and upon reaching there when he finds he has to occupy the same room with Bhulu, the same dog who used to disturb him at nights by barking and quarreling with other canines and also hundreds of people from lowly families, it was a shattering experience for him, but he has no other choice before him. He had to reconcile himself to this hobson choice.

In the second story, well-known performers like Madhabi Chakravorty, Binota Bose (who was the leading lady of the path-breaking film UDAYER PATHEY directed by Bimol Roy) and Anuva Gupta enacted the central characters. How necessity can compel even a mother to overlook her children’s’ wrongdoings is depicted here.

The third episode deals with an incident taken from everyday life. In those days, young boys were compelled to smuggle rice out of necessity. They used to commute by train while doing so. The law machinery, trying to grab them, was always hot on their trail. One of these boys who use the local train for their nefarious activities become the victim of a braggart. Of course, in the last memorable sequence, the boy manages to avenge and pay back the bully in his own coin.

In the fourth story, corrupt politicians are the object of banter. Ajitesh Bandopadhyay as the politician was credible. Satirical sequences where a new generation is emerging i.e. street-children while the politician is indulging in speech-making is very subtly presented.

Paar
PAAR is a tale of arduous struggle for survival. It narrates the story of a harijan couple (Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi) who flee from their native village in Bihar to escape from the wrath of the upper caste tyrannical landlord (Utpal Dutt) & his men. The landlord’s brother (Mohan Agashe) was killed to avenge the death of the Gandhian school teacher (played by Anil Chaterjee) who worked tirelessly for upliftment of the oppressed villagers.
The initial part of the film, especially the character of the school teacher, invokes the spirit of the Gandhi-Ambedkarite struggle of dalit upliftment. The second half of the film portrays the hardship the couple faces in the city of Kolkata romantically bestowed with an epithet – The City of Joy. The couple finds no such joy in the city but an odd job to drive a herd of pigs across a river with a lure for earning money to finance their travel back home.
Exquisitely filmed, backed by terrific performances, this is one of the greatest films ever in Indian cinema. Om puri does a cameo as a village sarpanch.
Rating; 4.5 out of 5

piravi

The 1988 Malayalam film PIRAVI marks a high point reached in Indian Cinema. The film has fetched the highest number of prestigious International awards than any other Indian film. Rarely has pathos been so memorably etched on screen with such visual finesse and sparse dialogue. The longing of a father awaiting the return of his sole late born son on the occasion of marriage of the sister is conveyed initially through the trips the old man makes to the bus terminus, waiting till the last bus arrival, and subsequent return to his home only to return the very next morning to the same place. When he reads in the papers that his son has been held by the police for political activism, he visits the city for his release. Premji, a theatre actor, in the role of the father is outstanding. The lyrical beauty of the countryside has been filmed exquisitely capturing the monsoon and other details with poetic brilliance. Besides the element of human drama which pervades the mood of the film, the muted political commentary resonates to a crescendo. I found some traces of influence of the Mrinal Sen directed EK DIN PRATIDIN (1980) on this film in the character of the son who is missing throughout the film, yet is pivotal to the narrative, like the working girl of EK DIN PRATIDIN.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

party

Nihalani estabhlished himself as a distinguished filmmaker early in his career with films like ‘Akrosh’ and ‘Ardh Satya.’ But speaking personally, I find his third film PARTY to be more stylistically orchestrated, brimming with social commentaryand successful in exposing the dubiousness of the rich and the famous from the Cultural fraternity.
Under the guise of celebrating a recent honor bestowed on one Dr. Barve (Manohar Singh) a party is thrown by one of the female friends (Vijaya Mehta) of the feted writer. Several people arrive in this party and gradually their personal lives get unfolded before the viewer. Wannabe writers, actors from the theatre, social climbers and social activists & gate crashers mingle freely in the midst of free-flowing snacks and drinks. The discussions ranges from whether Political commitment contribute towards a writer’s greatness or the atrocities committed by the State on tribals in the name of development, and the fate that befalls those who speak as voice for the marginalized. In this respect one does find similarity of Gobind Nihalani with filmmakers like Mrinal Sen and Gautam Ghose who seek to address such topical issues in their works. Fine ensemble acting by Amrish Puri, Om Puri, Shafi Inamdar, K. K. Raina, Rohini Hattangady, Deepa Sahi, Pearl Padamsee, Mohan Bhandari, Soni Radzan & Jayant Kripalani add to the strength of the film.
Rating: 4.3 out of 5

shabdo

I have watched Kaushik Ganguly’s SHABDO umpteen numbers of times. I rank this film very highly and feel this is as ground-breaking a work as Ray’s PATHER PANCHALI & Mrinal Sen’s BHUVAN SHOME. The two main protagonists in the film are a dedicated foley artist and a lady doctor, who is trying to diagnose the debilitating condition of the foley artist, where the foley man seems to be lost in his own acoustic world, unable to appreciate and communicate in real world situations. The doctor too is extremely dedicated and the deteriorating situation of her patient affects her tremendously.

The film gives an insight into technicalities and contribution of sound engineers in filmmaking. Ritwik Chakraborty and Churni Ganguly enact the protagonist. The supporting cast includes Victor Bannerjee, Raima Sen, Srijit Mukherjee and others.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Today is the late filmmaker Tapan Sinha’s birthday.  Recepient of the highest cinema award of the country Dadasaheb Phalke, he has made over forty films in a career spanning more than four decades. Some of his outstanding films are APANJAN (remade by Gulzar as Mere Apne), GOLPO HOLEO SATTI (remade as BAWARCHI by Hrishikesh Mukherjee), NIRJAN SAIKATE and many others.  For compiling the seventy list of greatest Indian films, I would pick this Hindi film by him featuring Pankaj Kapoor and Shabana Azmi based on the life of a real doctor …

Ek Doctor Ki Maut, 1990 film.jpg

The story is credited to Ramapada Choudhury.

jal

Ray had an eye for details, and an uncanny ability to pick the best and create memorable films. The brilliance of Tarashankar Bandopadhyay (writer), Subrata Mitra (cameraman) and Chabi Biswas (actor) and their association with Ray could only have resulted in a film like JALSAGAR – a film praised highly by the renowned photographer Hans Cartier Bresson for its exquisite imagery. The film touches upon decay of royalty and embedded pride about lineage refusing to come to terms with changing circumstances. Chabi Biswas carries the entire film on his shoulders with great elan. The supporting cast includes Padda Devi as the wife and a few others.

Quite a few long shots, like that of the feudal mansion captured at dusk, have a lingering effect. The scene where Chabi Biswas re-opens his closed Jalsagar towards the end and sees himself (after a long time) in the dusty mirror gaping at his own mirror image in disbelief is brilliant. The psychological probity of the Zamindari system has given us two more works from Ray – DEVI and MONIHARA.

Writing in the book “Portrait of a Director – Satyajit Ray” (Dennis Dobson, London), the author Marie Seton says “Jalsagar represented the 1920s with a central conflict not dissimilar to that in John Galsworthy’s play THE SKIN GAME. Ray commenced work on this film in 1957 shortly after completing APARAJITO.” Seton also writes “In the original story, the kathak dancer was the mistress of Biswambhar Roy (the character played by Chabi Biswas). Ray eliminated this aspect of the Zamidar’s life. Some people attributed this to prudery on Ray’s part. I left it out because it was melodramatic. Its elimination makes the film more austere, was Satyajit Ray’s explanation, which seem a valid one.”

Marie Seton further comments “In the context of Indian cinema, including the previous styles developed in Bengal, the most uncompromising aspect of JALSAGAR was Ray’s use of the strictly classical music of the noted sitar player, Ustad Vilayat Khan, in place of the more fluid musical approach of Ravi Shankar who had collaborated on the music for the Apu Trilogy.”

JALSAGAR remains one of the finest works of Ray…

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

 

Movies on father-son relationship bring out facets of life in various hues. Some notable works like Wender’s Paris Texas, Ray’s Apur Sansar or Anjan Dutt’s Dutta vs. Dutta comes to mind that had this relationship at the centrality in the narrative. Atanu Ghosh’s National award-winning film Mayurrakshi (2017) is a welcome addition to the list …

Mayurakshi: A must watch for all gen

In this film the father (Soumitro Chattopadhyay) plays a widower and a retired Professor of History (an erudite person possessing knowledge in music and many subjects) suffering from old age problems and dimentia. A caretaker (Sudipta Chakraborty) looks after him. The son (Prasenjit Chattopadhyay) arrives from Chicago to see his ailing dad … dad has suffered memory loss and longs to meet Mayurrakshi, his student and the girl/woman the son had spurned in marriage when the alliance was suggested by the father … the film explores dimensions of love and loneliness, the plight of the ambitious younger generation living in a separate country having ailing parents back home and the connect/disconnect that exist between them… the sombre mood of the  film incorporates exquisite imagery and fine story-telling to make this film a memorable work.

The acting of the two lead performers is top notch. Indrani Halder does a cameo …the film is directed by Atanu Ghosh (Angsumaner Chobi, Abby Sen). The film was adjudged the Best Bengali film at the National awards this year.

Rating: 4.2 out of 5  

 

sa

The film SANABI (The Pony) draws us into the lives of ordinary people in a remote village in Manipur. The village is at some distance from the capital city of Imphal. The main characters are a petty cattle thief (Mangi), a divorcee woman Sakhi who works in the State Dance academy whom Mangi loves, and the family of Sakhi including her father who owns ‘Sanabi’, a pure-bred Meitei pony – a rarity nowadays in Manipur which has a rich tradition of playing polo since time immemorial, and in one sequence, Sakhi’s father claims that ‘Polo’ is Manipur’s gift to the world …

Sanabi gets stolen and this makes Sakhi’s father heart-broken – he used to love and care for the pony like his own child. Will Sanabi return to her master? Watch this beautiful film from North-East India to find out. Love, Jealously, Loyalty, Kindness, Misunderstandings intermingle in the storyline and succeed in etching the characters in grey especially of Mangi, rather than in black and white. The camerawork and editing is of International class. The film was directed by Aribam Syam Sharma, and based on a story by Binodini Devi.

Rating: 4 out of 5