Archive for the ‘1980-1990’ Category

Chalchitra / Kaleidoscope (1981, Dir. Mrinal Sen, India)

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This semi-comical snapshot of the middle class Bengali experience in Kolkata is apparently a minor work in Sen’s oeuvre. The story is slight; a young Bengali man Dipu (Anjan Dutta) aspires to be a journalist and as a sort of test of creativity, the editor of a newspaper (Utpal Dutta) asks Dipu to write a story based on his own middle class experiences. The story of Dipu trying to write is merely a pretext for Sen to remain connected with the urban landscape of Kolkata, a return to the richness of the city spaces, last probed with such pleasure since his Kolkata Trilogy. The socio-political urgency of Sen’s cinema after the aesthetic and thematic experiments of The Kolkata Trilogy never really went away from his work – he remained just as connected with the social milieu of the city. For instance, the uninhibited camera roaming freely through the fish market recalls Interview (70) when Ranjit meets his uncle, the first of many self-referential instances. Later, when Dipu tries to flag down a taxi in the bustling streets of Kolkata, Sen adopts an erratic editing style, articulating a blinding disorientation reminiscent of the street cinema of The Kolkata Trilogy, in which characters are liberated and imprisoned by the city in a scarring psychological duality.

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There is probably a consensus that Sen made two trilogies. The Kolkata Trilogy (1970 – 1973; InterviewCalcutta 71 and Padatik – although you could probably argue for Chorus too, which was released in 1974), and The Absence Trilogy (Ek Din Pratidin/And Quite Rolls The Dawn – 1979, Kharij/The Case Is Closed – 1982 and Ek Din Achanak/Suddenly, One Day – 1989).  I would argue Chalchitra is part of another trilogy, although much looser, but nonetheless important, which also includes Akaler Shandhaney/In Search of Famine (1980) and Khandahar/The Ruins (1983). The abiding theme in this trilogy is concerned with the media apparatus (film crew, photographer, journalist) and the role of the middle class in terms of mediating the politics of representation, exploitation and the gaze. In Chalchitra, Dipu’s urge to sensationalise the mundanity of the middle class experience constantly backfires on him because numerous opportunities for journalistic fodder are met with resistance from the people he encounters notably his mother (Geeta Dutt). It is only when a little boy poses the banal question: ‘How many ovens are there in Kolkata?’ does Dipu finally finds something to write about – pollution, smoke and coal. But this degree of obscurity points to something elemental about the middle class mentality and which results in Utpal Dutta enquiring if Dipu is a communist, a question first posed in Ray’s Pratidwandi (1970), and which seemingly never went away from the psyche of the older generation of Kolkata. Chalchitra features an elaborately staged but very comical dream sequence, clearly a manifestation of Dipu’s jumbled, anxious mind, and which features microcosmic imagery of smoke, women, the police and the press. There is a danger of dismissing Chalchitra as a minor, insubstantial work. However, once situated as part of a loose trilogy, the film takes on an added resonance and deserves a further look.

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Image result for shahar theke dure

There is a distinguishing feature in Tarun Mazumdar  films. Most  of his films revolve around village life. However, his films eschew the harshness depicted in the films of Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray, Gautam Ghose and Ritwik Ghatak when they make films that has the village as the setting.

The TM film SHAHER THEKE DUREY bears resemblance to his film PHULESHWARI. In PHULESHWARI a young man (Samit Bhanja) joins the Railway and gets a posting in the village. SHAHER THEKE DURE has a young doctor (Samit Bhanja) who comes to work in a village. In both the films, the young man falls in love with a village belle (Sandhya Roy in both films). There are many supporting characters in these films, high voltage drama interspersed with melodious songs. Actors like Bhanu Bandopadhyay, Anup Kumar & Robi Ghosh lend able support to make the film entertaining.

Rating: 3.6 out of 5

 

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VASUNDHARA focuses on the deep level of corruption in our villages. The film unfolds the exploitation in one such village through the protagonist, a conscientious BDO (Block Development Officer played by Soumitro Chattopadhyay) who arrives there to take charge after the transfer notice of his predecessor who couldn’t continue beyond three months.

The entire village is in the grip of two corrupt persons, a Muslim landlord Haji Saheb with political ambition and his accomplice, Mr. Saha (Rajen Tarafdar). They terrorise people, inflict torture upon them and swindle govt. funds ..
The film was directed by Shekhar Chatterjee who acted in films like BHUVAN SHOME. The supporting cast includes Lily Chakraborty, Robi Ghosh, Shekhar Chatterjee, Satinath Mukhopadhyay and others.

The film won the Rajat Kamal National Award for Best Bengali film in 1983.

Rating; 3 out of 5

Recently the versatile actress Geeta Sen passed away. Besides acting in the films of her husband Mrinal Sen, she has also acted in Ghatak’s NAGARIK and Shyam Benegal’s AROHAN. Kolkata DD showed her film CHALCHITRO recently as a mark of respect.

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The Mrinal Sen directed CHALCHITRO (Kaleidoscope, 1981) is a film that has not been screened in India previously as far as I know. It is a film that only a Mrinal Sen would have the courage to make. There is hardly any story so to speak, no attractive heroine features in it to make it pleasing to a viewer. But Mrinal Sen being Mrinal Sen, he has the rare ability to make the mundane the stuff of great cinematic material. Like Jean Luc Godard, MS captures life in everyday Kolkata with its vicissitudes, idiosyncrasies, humaneness and pettiness under the pretext of a storyline – the hunt of a print journalist (Anjan Dutt) for a story/scoop that is saleable. The editor of the newspaper (Utpal Dutt) likens modern life to a stock market – every aspect of it involve a kind of buying and selling.

“How many ovens are there in Kolkata?” The director also highlights environmental concern with rapid urbanization and use of unclean energy used for cooking during the late seventies. Gita Sen acts as the mother of the protagonist struggling to make ends meet for the family. The lives of several independent families all living under a common roof quibbling and sharing joys and miseries have been depicted aptly.

The film was screened at London and Venice Film festivals. Watching CHALCHITRO recently one felt sad for the demise of THE ACTRESS who brilliantly brought to life the quotidian characters in the films of Mrinal Sen, be it in CHORUS, EK DIN PRATIDIN or KHANDAHAR.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Path Bhola  1986 Tapas Pal, Prasenjit, Nayana Das, Utpal Dutta, Sandhya Roy, Abhishek Chattopadhyay, Nayna Das

This Tarun Mazumdar film narrates the tale of five youths running from the law. Their ignorance in reading the dubiousness of their employer engaged in adulterated pharmaceutical business played a cruel joke on them, and while trying to flee during a ‘cop raid’ in the factory where they worked, they had to bump off a cop or two during the gun battle that had resulted.  They take shelter in a remote village in the house of an elderly man (Utpal Dutta) who lives with his daughter-in-law (Sandhya Roy) and their ‘dumb’ servant.

What follows is a reformist tale – the youth are exposed to the duality of rural life which is a mix of extreme hardship and the joys and fellow-feeling among the tribal. Peppered with a liberal dose of patriotism through the invocation of the contributions by Khudiram Bose and Surja Sen and of the son of the elderly man who was shot while trying to escape from Andaman Jail, the director manages to make the film a message ridden watchable fare.

As usual, TM uses Rabindrasangeet like ‘Sedin Dujone..’  during the romantic sequence between Prasenjit and Noyana. Tapas Pal, Prasenjit and Noyana Das act in pivotal roles.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Films depicting contemporary reality without compromising is a rare commodity. That is why Tapan Sinha’s ATANKA hits you very hard. I can’t recall any Bengali film depicting the loss of Bengali heritage and high culture and constantly cautioning us about it in such a forceful manner as ATANKA. “Bangalir hathe chaku, bangalir hathe khoon, era kara?” – this dialogue from the film laments the decline of the community where political killings have become rampant.

In this film, an upright teacher (Soumitro Chatterjee) is witness to a murder committed by one of his ex-students (Sumanta Mukhopadhyay). The local goons start terrorising the teacher…the film highlights the dubiousness of the political class and how they misuse the local youths and the police. Soumitro Chaterjee is brilliant as the oppressed teacher and his expression with fear written all over exemplifies the nuanced performance one has come to associate with the veteran actor – a favourite of all Bengali arthouse directors. The supporting cast includes Prasenjit, Manoj Mitra, Anil Chaterjee, Arijit Guha and others.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

 

 

Skilful direction was provided by Buddhadeb Dasgupta in this Costa Gavra ( Z, Missing, Betrayal ) inspired filmmaking venture in the early eighties. GRIHAJUDDHA ( Crossroads ) is based on a short story Mach by Dibyendu Palit. In an interview the writer admitted that the film version was superior in many respects than his novel.

Mamata Shankar

The gist: Mr Ghosh is an employee in a certain big firm in Behrampur. An idealist minded person, he uncovers gross irregularities in several transactions made by the company he serves. He approaches and apprises the Ministry of these nefarious dealings. He also tenders resignation from the company. A few days later, Mr Ghosh is found murdered.

a still from the film GRIHAJUDDHA

Prabir Dutta is a trade union leader in the same company. Mr Ghosh was quite close to Prabir. Before tendering his resignation, Mr Ghosh provided Prabir some vital information about the company. Prabir threatens he would leak these vital information in the next meeting, which would expose the company’s involvement in murdering Mr Ghosh. Prabir Dutta’s right-hand man is Bijon Nandi ( Anjan Dutt ), who loves to play the harmonica. He is also romantically involved with Probir Dutta’s sister ( Mamata Shankar ).

An upright, honest reporter Subimol Ray ( Gautam Ghosh ) enters the scene, who was drafted into this assignment to probe Mr Ghosh’s murder by the newspaper’s editor ( Manoj Mitra as a lecherous character who is shown reading a pornographic magazine STRIPTEASE sitting in his chair during office hours.) Subimol meets Probir Dutta, who claimed he could provide crucial leads in Mr Ghosh’s murder case.

One day when Prabir and Bijon Nandi was returning from their office, they’re attacked by hoodlums and Prabir is murdered. Bijon runs towards Prabir’s house to convey to his parents the sad news. Prabir’s family consisting of his parents, two sisters and a brother also faces the wrath of these hoodlums, who arrives soon after and began breaking everything in the house. Bijon Nandi goes into hiding. Prabir’s family moves to Calcutta. Even here there’s hardly any respite. The police arrives to find out information about Bijon’s hideout. Prabir’s father finds a job. Soon, Prabir’s sister receives an offer from the company of his brother. Being jobless, she joins the company.

Subimol leaves no stone unturned to crack the case. He meets Mr Ghosh’s wife, who provides him with a threat letter issued to Mr Ghosh a few days before his death. Thereafter, he meets Prabir Dutta’s father, who was confused and couldn’t provide much help. Subimol also meets the management head ( Subrata Sen Sharma ) of the controversy ridden company, who claims there ain’t any corruption in the upper management level. Subimol also meets Prabir’s sister in this company, and gradually a good friendship builds up between them. Subimol’s earnest attempts to uncover the real facts impresses Prabir’s sister.

Years pass by. Bijon Nandi returns to Calcutta a very changed person. His ideals of yesteryears have vapourised. Now he hankers for materialistic gains. He has set up a flourishing business somewhere in Nasik. But his love for Prabir’s sister remained unchanged. Both plans to get married. Meanwhile, Prabir Dutta’s younger brother provides a vital clue. He could recognise Sital Das ( Sunil Mukherjee ), a goalkeeper of a football club, as one of the hoodlums who attacked their house just after Prabir’s death. Subimol meets Sital Das as an interviewer. While doing so, he tricks him into writing in his own handwriting in a paper. Sital Das’s handwriting matches the handwriting on the threat paper issued to Mr Ghosh. Sital Das is checkmated. He becomes panicky, and threatens Subimol. Everything builds up to a gripping and chilling climax.

GRIHAJUDDHA is a rivetting film from Buddhadeb Dasgupta, whose Bagh Bahadur, Charachar, Lal Darja and Uttara has won International acclaim.

Rating: 4.2 out of 5