Archive for the ‘Aparna Sen’ Category

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This morning I watched the Rituparno Ghosh directed film TITLI. This is probably the most romantic and poetic film in the repertoire of late Rituparno Ghosh. A rudimentary analysis of RG reveals his contribution to Bangla cinema in the following – adeptly using actors like Prasenjit and Dipankar Dey (Titli, Unishe April, Abhoman, Utsav) regularly, bringing big Bollywood stars to feature in his works, focusing his lens on women and the art world (Unishe April, Asookh, The Last Lear, Abhoman, Bariwali, Titli & others) and the fine exploration of intricate human relationships that permeates every single work of his.

In TITLI, through a chance encounter, a successful actor meets his ex-flame. Her daughter is obsessed with the star-actor. Though certain situations are forced, yet the beauty of the film can’t be denied and manifest in the manner the work deals with suspicion and pain that takes over when your loved ones keep a secret from you all through your life.

In this film, the mother (Aparna Sen) never revealed to her star-struck daughter (Konkana Sen Sharma) that she knew the object of her affection (Mithun). The love of the daughter for the star dissipates gradually – firstly when he discovered that her mother didn’t reveal to her that she actually knew Rohit the star-actor (Mithun) & finally when she hears of his marriage with a German journalist.

In the final sequence, she is shown hugging her mother ending the film which also makes a passing judgement about the need to lead a conjugal life.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

 

 

UNISHE APRIL marked the arrival of Rituparno Ghosh as a major filmmaker. Though it was his second film, it catapulted him into prominence winning quite a few National Awards in its wake. The strong point of UA is its performances – Aparna Sen and Debasree Roy act superbly in this mother-daughter tale of a missing bond between them. The film is inspired by Bergman’s AUTUMN SONATA.

The weakness of the film lies in part on the script – it is a bit strange to hear that when Aditi (Debasree Roy) is in deep love with a Delhi based boy (Prasenjit) and their relationship was on for quite some time yet the fact that Aditi’s mother is a Nationally renowned dancer is unknown to her paramour. The harping on suicide as a release from inner turmoil and the outside storm sequence during the night symbolising the inner turmoil of Aditi appear rather cliched (even Satyajit Ray did this in CHARULATA towards the climax) . The supporting cast includes Dipankar Dey, Boddiswata Mazumdar and others.

The story and screenplay of the film is credited to Rituparno Ghosh.

Rating: 3.9 out of 5

The 1991 Mrinal Sen film MAHA PRITHIBI bears resemblance to some of the later films of Ray like GANASHATRU, SHAKHA PROSAKHA & AGUNTUK. In these films the two master filmmakers are seen reflecting on the winds of change sweeping contemporary society. These have been shot mostly indoors and verbosity dominates unlike their other works.
MAHA PRITHIBI shows the maturation and brilliance of a filmmaker in telling an incidental story weaving in the external forces (World Outside) into the drawing room of a middle class Bengali family (World Within).The usual Mrinalian signature style is all there – oscillatory/flashback mode, the probing of human relationships, use of newsreel and such devices, politics and violence.
Some of the sequences also seem a continuation of scenes that we have seen in the past. The scene where Soumitro gives money to his naxalite son in this film before he begins his journey as a fugitive is reminscent of the last sequence of PADATIK where the ‘differing’ father extends solidarity to his son (Dhritiman Chatterjee).
Sen conveys a lot visually in this film in comparison to his other works. Whether it is the sequence of the foreign returned son (Victor Bannerjee) inspecting the room of his dead mother, the fan in which his mother ended her life, or the unfilling of liquor on a potted plant the scenes are quite poignant in its communication of feelings.

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In assessing the tumult of the times where violence is an integral part of our lives, nowhere Sen seems to be judgemental but in the sequence of the boy Tinni playing with his gun cutting into a preceding newsreel report on violence Sen seems to be hinting that seed of violence and gun culture are imbibed in children since an early age. And there is no escape from it.
Rating: 4.2 out of 5

 

                                                                     Jana Aranya, 1976 film, poster.jpg

There is a thematic similarity and continuation seen in the films of Satyajit Ray. The struggle of an individual to cope with unethical practices in his profession has been the leitmotif in several Ray works – Mahanagar, Seemabaddha, Jana Aranya, Ganashatru & Shakha Prosakha. Some sequences like that of the dinner table conversation between the father (Satya Bannerjee) & sons (Pradip Mukherjee & Dipankar Dey) could also be seen in later works of Ray like Shakha Prosakha.

Based on a story by famed writer Sankar, Jana Aranya (The Middlemen) is a probing work by Ray that delves into the innermost depth of the human conscience.

Some of the sequences of the protagonist Somnath Bannerjee (Pradip Mukherjee) scouring for a job & facing rejection amidst a huge number of applicants can also be traced in Mrinal Sen’s CHORUS (1974). But while MS adopted a playful approach in telling a topical tale about unemployment, Ray strikes a rather serious note and JANA ARANYA is bereft of any lighter sequences.

The supporting cast includes Lily Chakraborty, Robi Ghosh, Utpal Dutta, Aparna Sen and others.

Rating: 3.7 out of 5

 

 

MAHAPRITHIBI opens with a suicide committed by an elderly lady of a family (Gita Sen). Gradually, the unfolding of the reasons as to why she has committed suicide is divulged to us.

Gita Sen had three sons and a daughter, her eldest son got involved in the Naxalite movement and was gunned down by the Police. The death of her son greatly affected Gita Sen. Her daughter-in-law (Aparna Sen), from the marriage of her eldest son , becomes a widow. Before her marriage,Aparna Sen was in a relationship with her husband’s younger brother (Victor Bannerji). Soon after the death of his elder brother, Victor Bannerji leaves for Germany and finds a job for himself in that country.

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Victor Bannerji went abroad because his past flame Aparna Sen now lived in their house. This might have hurt Gita Sen, who possibly longed to be close to her other two sons, after her eldest son was killed brutally.The third child of Gita Sen was Anjan Dutta,and Anusya Mazumdar enacted the role of her daughter,with shades of insanity.The third son,Anjan Dutta,was also jobless and this further affected Gita Sen,who was concerned that her youngest son was unable to support himself. Soumitra Chaterji enacts the role of the husband and the patriarch with finesse.

Victor Bannerji encounters difficult times in Germany,with racial attacks,joblessness on the rise in Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. As in PADATIK, Mrinal Sen uses a lot of newspaper clippings to drive home the point to the viewers that unrest is sweeping Germany.But in his correspondences with his mother,Victor Bannerji gave no inkling of the fact that he is facing hard times in a foreign land. After getting the news that his mother had committed suicide,Victor Bannerji returns home. It is a homecoming for this son with the mother who pined for him now gone forever.

Victor Bannerji is welcomed by his family members,and together they try to wipe out their sorrow and finding solace in each other’s company.

Sen’s  MAHAPRITHIBI was on global changing social order.Based on the script by Anjan Dutta,it probed changing social values in those troubled times. Soumitro Chaterji,Gita De,Anjan Dutta,Aparna Sen,Anusya Mazumdar & Victor Banerji comprised the cast.Through this tale of a mother who commits suicide, Mrinal Sen in this film reveals his penchant for exploring fissures in human relationship(as in EK DIN ACHANAK) between individuals bonded by a close tie.The fall of the Berlin wall was knitted into the story. With the fall of communism across the world, Sen in one of his interviews said that he once took pride to call himself a private Marxist, but now he doesn’t have the same courage to call himself the same.

Rating: 3.7 out of 5

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SAMAPTI is the most romantic film of Satyajit Ray IMHO. Based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore, this film shows the maturing of a childish mischevous girl into a woman.

This is the first pairing of Soumitra-Aparna later seen in many successful films from AKASH KUSUM, CHUTIR PANDEY, BASANTA BILAP to the relatively recent film PAROMITAR EKDIN.

Both Soumtro and Aparna act credibly. Though the humorous sequences doesn’t always evoke a laughter, but overall the small duration film succeed in delivering the central theme quite forcefully.

 

From Amartya Sen’s THE ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN (Our Culture, Their Culture, Pg 124-125)

Words, too, have a function that goes well beyond the information they directly convey; much is communicated by the sound of the language and special choice of words to convey a meaning, or to create a particular effect. As Ray has noted, ‘in a sound film, words are expected to perform not only a narrative but a plastic function’, and ‘much will be missed unless one knows the language, and knows it well’.

Indeed even the narrative may be inescapably transformed because of language barriers, especially the difficulty of conveying nuance through tradition. I was reminded of Ray’s remark the other day, when I saw TEEN KANYA again, in Cambridge, Massachusetts,  where a festival of Satyajit Ray’s films (based on the wonderful reissues produced by the Merchant-Ivory enterprises) was being held. When obdurate Paglee – in the sparkling form of Aparna Sen – decide to write, at last, a letter to her spurned husband, she conveys her new sense of intimacy by addressing her in the familiar form ‘Tumi’ (as he has requested), rather than the formal and overly respectful ‘apni’. This could not, of course, be caught in the English subtitle. So the translation had to show her as signing the letter as ‘your wife’ (to convey here new sense of intimacy). But the Bengali original in which she still signs as ‘Paglee’ but addresses him in the familiar form ‘tumi’ is infinitely more subtle.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Ajantrik

Posted: January 27, 2016 in Aparna Sen, Ritwik Ghatak

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Mrinal Sen made Akash Kusum (Up in the clouds) in 1965. Akash Kusum was on the longings of a middle class executive to rise in stature and greater social acceptability. Soumitro Chaterji played the central role in this movie. Aparna Sen, Subhendu Chaterji, Jnanesh Mukherji, Sova Sen, Haradhan Banerji were the other performers. This had a rather straight-forward story with not much thematic novelty, but contained experiments with cinematic techniques like ‘Jump Cuts.’ It spawned a Hindi remake made by Basu Chaterji called MANZIL featuring Amitabh Bachchan (with slight alterations). The review of the film sparked a long running debate between Mrinal Sen and Satyajit Ray, which was prominently featured in a leading newspaper published from Calcutta.

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The story: Soumitro, a middle class executive, falls for Aparna Sen. Soumitro’s friend ( Subhendu Chaterji ) owns a good flat in Calcutta and Soumitro makes use of most of his friend’s possessions – telephones, cars and the flat itself. Soumitro introduces himself as the owner of the house of Subhendu to Aparna, and also makes the mistake of inviting Aparna Sen’s parents (Haradhan Banerji and Sova Sen) to the house. Certain scenes remains etched in memory. When Soumitro goes to a saree shop with Aparna Sen, and says that he has forgotten his wallet back in the office, rings back and starts blabbering something with no one at the other end of the phone – it was a hilarious sequence.

Soon Subhendu Chaterji’s mother comes to Calcutta to stay with her son. Another hilarious sequence was when Soumitro receives a phone call from Aparna in front of Subhendu and his mother and tries to evade Aparna on the phone with some lame excuses (such as ‘he has come to attend the phone while he was shaving, and which i.e shaving is now half done’).

Soon Soumitro’s lies get exposed. One day, Haradhan Banerji, father of Aparna comes to Subhendu’s house (which Soumitro has claimed as his own) and meets Subhendu’s mother. She tells Haradhan that Soumitro is the bosom friend of her son (Subhendu) and comes there everyday, and that Soumitro actually stays elsewhere. Haradhan returns home and tells Aparna that Soumitro is an imposter – a cheat. When Soumitro comes to meet Aparna at her residence, Haradhan commands Soumitro to leave the house and never try to meet Aparna again.

The last scene was quite memorable. Soumitro is seen leaving the house as Haradhan commanded, while at the gate he looks back and sees Aparna on the window, and soon both starts waving at each other, knowing that the curtain is falling on their relationship .

In Akash Kusum, Mrinal Sen used jump cuts and freeze shots a la Godard, and he was promptly accused of gimmickry.

Mrinal has often been seen to be somewhat critical of Indian film reviewers. It started from Akash Kusum. Sen has always made economical usages of still photographs in his films. In Akash Kusum in a situation where Soumitro realizes that all his efforts are in vain, at that moment Sen makes use of a still photograph. When darkness slowly fades in Gyanesh Mukhopadhay says ” He he he he … aaro kichu taka chai je sir.” (with a mischievous laughter, Gyanesh Mukherjee demanded more money) To depict such a cruel situation aptly, Sen was able to arrive with minimal cost and this he considers an achievement. He could not have depicted it in any other way. Reviewing this sequence and the film as a whole, the reviewer of the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika commented that “This is not a moving film. This is a still film.” Proves that a little deviation from set norms in Indian film making is bound to bring criticism to its maker.

Mrinal Sen introduced Subhendu Chaterji in this film. AKASH KUSUM was based on a story by Ashish Burman. Music was scored by Sudhin Dasgupta.

In the romantic world of Mrinal Sen – Baisey Shravan, Akash Kusum, Khandahar and Mahaprithibi (with the notable exception of Amar Bhuban) a happy ending doesn’t greet the viewers. Even in the non romantic man-woman relationship (Neel Akaser Neechey, Bhuvan Shome, Antareen) the warmth is short-lived. Love doesn’t manage to trump the counter currents and triumph at the end.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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SWET PATHARER THALA (SPT) is based on a story by Bani Basu and directed by Prabhat Ray. The film centers around a widow (Aparna Sen) and the hardship she faces in an orthodox Hindu family. She becomes an object of derision when she wears non-white saree (to please her small child used to seeing his Mother in colorful saris) both at home and when she goes out to work. In some sequences when the family members of her deceased husband (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) exploit the widow, one is reminded of Ghatak’s MEGHE DHAKA TARA. The supporting cast includes Indrani Halder, Dilip Roy, Deepenkar Dey, Bhaskar Bannerjee, Haradhan Bannerjee, Shakuntala Barua, Lily Chakraborty and others. This is the debut film of Rituparno Sengupta.

The painter as a protagonist has found favour in several Bengali films, from Pramathesh Barua’s MUKTI in the 1930s, to Anjan Das’s SHAJBATIR ROOPKATHARA to Prabhat Roy’s SPT.

Rating: 3.3 out of 5

 

Day before yesterday was Teacher’s day. My respect to all teachers – they’re indispensable and the real architects in building great societies and nations.

How has teacher been depicted in the arts? Well, we have had many films with the professor as the protagonist, but I can’t think of any film that captures so brilliantly the misplaced expectations from a teacher…

Ek Din Achanak (1989) 

“Ek Din Achanak” (1989) (Suddenly One Day) is an intriguing film by Mrinal Sen, an emotional drama about relationships in the narrative style of a mystery film. I can’t think of too many Indian films that portray the agony of changing values and times on an individual so effectively (Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane may be another).

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Ek Din Achanak” was based on a story by Ramapada Choudhury (Beej). It dealt with the pangs of a sensitive man in a cruel, insensitive and materialistic world. The protagonist of this film is an academically inclined Professor (Sreeram Lagoo). One rainy day, the Professor goes out of his house,and doesn’t return at night. His wife (Uttara Baonkar) and his two daughters(Shabana Azmi and Roopa Ganguly) are expectedly nervous at this. The film focuses on the year following the disappearance on the family.

Using flashback and oscillatory techniques throughout, the Director unfolds the family of the Professor before us. The wife (Uttara Baonkar) is a typical housewife, and somewhat unhappy with her present status. In one sequence, she accuses her husband of being selfish, and of being immune to the family’s needs. The wife said the husband never spared a thought for the family, and never tried to find a job for her. The Professor is also peeved with his only son (Arjun Chakravorty). He had high aspirations for his son and wanted him to follow in his footsteps. The son, however, was inclined towards business. The professor considered his son of being a wastrel, and in one sequence when the son asks him for some money, the professor chided his son for being so materialistically inclined. When he embarked to sign the cheque, out of anger the son leaves the house, without taking the money from his father.

The eldest daughter,Shabana Azmi, comes across as the strongest character. She is the bread-winner of the family, besides the amount of pension drawn by the Professor. She is also the one who was possibly closest to the professor. Through some sequences of poignancy, the Director delves into this beautiful father-daughter relationship. Even when the daughter re-examines her father’s capabilities and concludes that he was an average man, not an extraordinary person, she immediately feels guilty about it and confides to her sister that she has done a grave injustice to her father’s memory by belittling him.

The younger daughter, Roopa Ganguly, is a college going girl, and has some of the lighter sequences, like when she comes running to break the news that she has secured first class in her exams to her mother and sister. Even she considered her father of being a very proud man.

A few days after the disappearance, the family reconciles themselves with the incident. Shabana starts going to her office. Everyone seemed to have overcome the tragedy, the only exception being the wife of the professor.

The director employs shock sequences during the unfolding of the narrative. Early in the film a death is shown in a Calcutta street when a man is run over by a mini-bus and the incident occurring right next to Shabana’s office. At the time of the incident, Shabana jumps from her seat and runs towards the window fearing that it may be her father, and returns relieved when it turns out to be someone else.

Aparna Sen is a student of the Professor. The Professor develops a soft corner for her, revealed to us through a sketch drawn of her by the Professor, discovered much after the disappearance act. It was found quite accidentally by the wife while browsing through the books of the Professor after the incident. The wife informs the eldest daughter (Shabana) of her findings. Both re-examines the relationship between the two individuals (the Professor and his good-looking student Aparna).During the visit of Aparna to the house of the Professor the discussion were usually on academic topics, in which the wife couldn’t participate.

In a particular sequence, the vulnerability of the Professor’s character is revealed to us when Aparna reads out certain literary criticism of the Professor’s work by a reviewer at which the Professor started simmering.Perhaps Aparna too found flaws in the professor’s writings. Her statement thatthe professor has possibly written the article in haste is a revelation of her skepticism. However that she was enamored of the professor is revealed when she decides to capture the various moods of her professor in photographs, by skillfully using her hobby of photography.

When Shabana comes to know of her father’s soft corner for Aparna, she goes to meet Aparna. A lady opens the door and said Aparna had left the place and gone off elsewhere.

Soon after, Aparna pays a visit to the Professor’s house on hearing that Shabana had come to meet her.The wife opens the door and invites Aparna in. Gradually the wife discloses of her husband’s secret cravings for Aparna, and the sketch drawn by her husband was shown to her. Unaware of the fact and caught in an awkward position before the wife and Shabana, Aparna jumps off her seat and goes out of the house, in order to save herself from more embarrassment.

Anjan Dutta plays Shabana’s boyfriend and is generally seen around with her in some sequences. Mrinal Sen makes a dig at fake religious God-man in the film.When the wife had lost all hope of her husband’s return and a neighbor (Lily Chakravorty) informs her of a religious man with miraculous capabilities, the wife on persuasion goes to meet the sadhu.
A huge crowd had assembled to meet the man with extra-ordinary powers. At that claustrophobic gathering, people even fainted. That the God-man was a hoax can be gauged when his followers began accepting money from rich people and secretly took them to the God-man through backdoor, and when people actually fainted they were being recommended to the doctor and not to the man with great powers at his disposal.

A relation of the family, Arunbabu (Anil Chaterjee) is a depiction of a very practical person,who ties himself closely with the professor’s family when he could foresee some benefits for him ( he had opened a tutorial center and wanted the professor to take some classes) but in the hour of distress of the family, his help was not much on display.

A few months later the professor’s huge collection of books were arranged to be donated to a public library by the uncle (Manohar Singh) where it will be kept for public usage, and a mention of the donor will find a place somewhere.

The ending sequence is particularly poignant. Exactly a year after the disappearance, the wife and the two daughters is shown recollecting memories about the professor and discussing the void it had caused in their lives. Shabana Azmi reveals what her father had said to her once “That sadly we all live just once. The professor possibly longed for a second life as it would help him to correct the mistakes he made in this life and achieve a higher level in his field.”

The film ends on this wistful note. Interestingly, the Director Mrinal Sen, had said in an interview that on re-assessment of his corpus of work, he would have liked to start afresh from scratch.  “Ek Din Achanak”is a very ‘personal’ work of Mrinal Sen embodying his feeling that a second life would help to achieve greater heights.

In the words of Mrinal Sen “I wish I could start from scratch. I have done good, bad and indifferent films. I wish I could erase it all and start afresh like the Professor of “Ek Din Achanak” who walked out on his family in a rainy day without even as much as informing anybody. One of the characters says “one of the saddest things in life is that you live only one life.” However famous you are, you are aware of your mediocrity in certain respects. When you realize that, you face a crisis that is insurmountable. Though I have an enviable position as a maker of good,bad and indifferent films, I cannot escape this feeling of mediocrity within.Perhaps it happens because we are too immersed in our own selves.”

“Ek Din Achanak” featured at the 12th International Film Festival in1988. “Ek Din Achanak” also got an award for the Best Supporting actress category at the National film awards that year. Mrinal Sen won the OCIC Award and an Honorable Mention for “Ek Din Achanak” in 1989 at the Venice International Film Festival. Sreeram Lagoo, Aparna Sen, Uttara Baonkar,Shabana Azmi, Arjun Chakravorty, Rupa Ganguly, Anil Chaterji and Lily Chakraborty formed the cast.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5