Archive for the ‘Bengali films’ Category

ajantrik
(PC:http://canvas.pantone.com/gallery/37730005/Graphic-Movie-Posters)
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.

alok

PIPASA was based on a story by Banophool. The film was directed by Tarun Mazumdar, music by Hemant Kumarand featured Sandhya Roy, Basant Choudhury, Anup Kumar, Pahari Sanyal, Anuva Gupta , Bhanu Bandopadhyay and others.

It is a tale of struggle at reformation for a courtesan (Sandhya Roy), Roshan Bai, when she gets enchanted with a scholarly Brahmin man (Basant Choudhury). The film outlines a new dimension of the courtesan with a golden heart (in contrast to Chandramukhi in Sarat Chaterji’s Devdas). While ‘All is fair in Love and Air’ may have been the guiding proinciple for cupid to bloom, that an inevitable fued would result when skeletons tumble out of closet, is a foregone conclusion. The two main actors, Sandhya Roy and Basant Choudhury, perform wonderfully in their roles. Anup Kumar is chilling in a negative character. The rest of the supporting cast, Pahari Sanyal and Bhanau Bandopadhyay perform remarkably well, especially Bhanu for some of the lighter moments of the film. The songs have a classical strain and a Rabindrasangeet ‘alok er jhorna dharey duliye dao…’ have been featured in the film.

Watching the film four decades later, one feels that the grip of prevalent orthodoxy in those times in society hindred the chances of a fallen woman to gain acceptance in a so called respectable league. While directors like V. Shantaram were making films on reforming criminals (Do Ankhen Barah Haath) , such exercises on disreputable woman was being ignored.

Rating: 3 out of 5

parashuram

(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

bhalo

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

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

Dvd titli.jpg

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

 

 

kap

There is a striking similarity in Ray’s KAPURUSH (a 1965 film) with the debut film APOROOPA (1982) directed by the renowned Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua. The Ray film featured Soumitro Chattopadhyay and Madhabi Mukherjee, while the Barua film had Biju Phukan and Suhasini Mulay in the lead roles. In both the films the lead player plays ex-lovers where the female lead is married to a tea estate manager.
The ex-lovers meet after a long hiatus via the tea estate manager who initially befriends the male lead. The similarity ends here. While the Barua film had a courageous lover, the one in the Ray film was a Kapurush (weakling). The Ray film was based on a story by Premendra Mitra.

Rating: 3 out of 5

drishtikone

DHRISTIKONE – A woman (Rituparna Sengupta) who loses her husband (Kaushik Sen) in a mysterious car accident hires a married lawyer (Praenjit Chaterjee). An adulterous affair ensue … there is intrigue in the plot at multiple levels – in the case the lawyer is fighting for his client and the relationship he gets drawn into. The wife (Churni Ganguly) gradually gets to know about the transgression of her lawyer husband. The other characters like the brother of the deceased (Kaushik Ganguly) , wheel-chair bound (he was in the same car with his brother which met with an accident), and his maid (Dolon Roy) have intrigue written all over the narrative.

The film touches upon issues of familial love and infedility, human greed and the resultant consequences & an irrational need to cling on to the departed. The end is satisfying containing an interesting twist in the tale. Well-directed by Kaushik Ganguly.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

BISARJAN is a heart-warming film in the sense that it depicts a magnanimous tale of rescue and growing bond between two unlikely protagonists – a Muslim man (Abir Chaterjee) from India and a Hindu widow (Maya Ahson) from Bangladesh. Both the protagonists are from the minority community in their respective countries. With the rise of fundamentalist forces across the two countries, this essentially humane story weaves in issues like loneliness, love and sacrifice, lust and betrayal, and the power of commune to reform individuals.

The filming qualities – of the unfolding of the narrative, the camerawork and the use of background songs are superlative bearing the stamp of a great filmmaker. Like Gautam Ghose’s SHANKACHIL this particular film weaves in sub-texts of Indo-Bangladesh ties across the border areas, though both the films are essentially human tales. The director Kaushik Ganguly acts in a supporting role of the suitor for the widow with elan.

Rating: 4 out of 5