Archive for the ‘Bengali films’ Category

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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

 

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In the era subsequent to Sen-Ray-Ghatak, Gautam Ghose has emerged as a true inheritor of their rich legacy. His films draw from the influences of these masters but nonetheless speak in a distinct, independent voice. His contemporaries like Aparna Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Rituparno Ghosh and Sandip Ray and others have distinguished themselves in certain genres and GG, in several ways, have treaded a different path. While the films of Aparna often deal with relationship and loneliness, the films of Rituparno dealt with Tagorean flashbacks and urban relationships, Sandip Ray has stuck to making Feluda films and other stories of his father, while Buddhadeb Dasgupta after a string of political films started his journey of a ‘very personal kind of cinema’ replete with magic realism, surrealism & other devices.

Gautam Ghose has made a long documentary on Satyajit Ray, and the influence of Ray can be seen in the way the strong emphasis on narrative he lays in his works. Making films on performing artistes (Mithun act as a ventriloquist in Gudia, the biopic Moner Manush) had been a recurring feature in the works of Ray (Joy Baba Felunath, Goopy Gane Bagha Byne, Hirak Rajar Deshe, Phatikchand). He also made a sequel on Ray’s ARANYER DIN RATRI as ABAR ARANYE. The deep social commitment of Mrinal Sen runs through in his oeuvre while Partition, a recurring feature in the films of Ghatak, is also seen in the works of GG (Dekha, Shankachil).

The distinct stamp of the filmmaker often surpassing his influences can be seen in the way he combines brilliant photography, good music and socially relevant subjects into a neat, integrated whole. He weaves the unifying vision of Tagore, Lalan Fakir, Kabir, Dara Shikoh and others strongly in the narrative of his recent works (Moner Manush, Shunno Theke Suru). Displacement of indigenous people and loss of tribal knowledge and heritage resonate in Shunno Theke Suru, while lack of basic health care and issues of partition form the backdrop of his most recent work ‘Shankhachil.’

Several award winning documentariesand fourteen feature films later, GG has emerged as a worthy successor to don the mantle of the triumvirate of art cinema.

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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  

 

Owing to his birthday being near, I tried reflecting on the films of Ray that have a contemporary ring, two and a half decades after his death. His APU Trilogy and his Tagore and Tarashankar novellas (Charulata, Ghare Baire, Jalsagar) are set in eras immediately preceding or following Independence – almost seven decades.

Among his works, his attack on religious superstitions (Devi, Mahapurush, Ganashatru) still resonate quite strongly. In SHAKHA O PRASAKHA he emphasised how corruption among the educated class was a catalyst in further rotting the system.

These apart, the film that I find has the greatest relevance in contemporary India is HIRAK RAJAR DESHE. I find tremendous similarity of our political leaders with Hirak Raja. Being in the academic profession, I have an affinity for the teacher (Soumitro Chatterjee) in the film who was forced to mouth (Janar kono sesh nai, janar chesta britha tai…Hirak er raja bhagwan … there is no end to knowledge, so its futile to acquire … King Hirak is God). In the film the miraculous powers of Goopy and Bagha helped in ending the tyranical rule of the despot king. Should we be optimistic that Hirak Rajas of our society would meet their nemesis and suffer humiliations for their misdeeds? Time will unfold, but it’s good to be optimistic …

 

 

BADSAHIE ANGTI is a fairly engaging thriller directed by Sandip Ray. A mystery thriller in the Feluda series created by Satyajit Ray, this story is based on a plot involving a ‘royalty ring’ weaving in historical fiction, murder, pilferage and threats against the backdrop of royal Lucknow. It is interesting to observe how several competent actors have donned the mantle of the detective through the years – Soumitro Chattopadhyay, Sabyasachi Chakraborty and Abir Chattopadhyay (who plays Feluda in this film).

This is an early Feluda story and so ‘Jatayu’ aka Lal Mohan Ganguly is yet to arrive on the scene. The rest of the cast contributes to making the film a watchable fare – Dipankar De, Biswajit Chakraborty, Paran Bandopadhyay, Bharat Kaul, Rajatava Dutta and others.

An observation I made from the Feluda films I have watched is that women hardly figures in the scheme of things whereas in the other films of Satyajit Ray they have strong roles.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

 

On a repeat viewing of MAHANAGAR, I felt that the strong message that Ray wanted to convey through the character of the protagonist Arati Mazumdar (  Madhabi Mukherjee) – her resignation from the job (as a protest against injustice towards a colleague) that was the sole bread winner for the large family is completely lost in our society. All of us who are salaried and work for a living are witness to gross injustices in our workplaces. Do we ever think about the need to leave the present employment and search for the ‘job where things are fair’? We all know that such jobs doesn’t exist in our country and we tend to compromise to adapt to prevailing norms and trends…even Ray was aware of the changing times as his last works – GANASHATRU & SHAKHA PROSAKHA spoke a great deal about decay and vice …

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This film explores interesting issues like loyalty in relationships, dedication towards duty vs. family, the differences of outlook in class divide (rich-poor), pangs of loneliness and its consequences, the complexities of choices one has to make in life. One could detect shades of Ajay Kar’s SAAT PAKE BADHA but the originality of the film is certainly unmistakable. I liked the way the film ended when one was expecting that all would be settled towards the end. The main cast includes Sabyasachi Chakraborty as the protagonist doctor, Debasree Roy as an ex-painter cum housewife, Chitra Sen and others.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5