Archive for the ‘Bengali films’ Category

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The year 1965-66 is an interesting phase for Bengali cinema in terms of experimentation with the medium. Mrinal Sen’s AKASH KUSUM (1965), Tapan Sinha’s GALPO HALEO SATTI (1966) and Satyajit Ray’s NAYAK (1966) showcases the penchant of these titans to incorporate new devices into the narrative. In this Ray work, one sees use of surrealism in abundant measure – the scene of the actor (Uttam Kumar) drowning in a pile of money or the sequence of the seductive actress (Anjana Bhowmick) haunting the actor among others …

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There is also a commonality of NAYAK with the much later film PRAKTAN (2016), exactly fifty years after the first was made, in that both these films are based entirely on a rail travel.

The film narrates the compromises an actor has to make to scale heights of popularity and the regimentation binding him to keep it going. Just see the sequence where the actor’s friend (Premansu Bose) takes him to address a group of agitating workers in his company to provide a morale booster and the actor doesn’t accede to the request of his good friend.

The aspect of the mega-star with a feet of clay also found echo in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s GUDDI (1971)..

Rating: 3.9 out of 5

 

 

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PODDOKKEP highlights the loneliness faced by the elderly in our so-called modern society under transition from conservative values to newer liberal ones. The story is credited to the director Suman Ghosh (Nobel Chor, Kadambari) himself.
The film comprises of three acts: Act 1 is named SHASANKHA & MEGHA, Act 2 is TRISHA & Act 3 is titled THE FINALE.
Shasankha (Soumitro Chatterjee) is an elderly man living with his daughter Megha (Nandita Das) who works in a corporate office and an elderly spinster woman (Sabitri Chaterjee) – a relative of theirs. Soumitro has lost his wife around three years back in an accident. The lives of the protagonist delineates the conflict that exist between the new (daughter Nandita) and the old(dad Soumitro) through incidents about the kind of calendar hangings fit for walls of the living room (a rather cutesy scene this) or the Tagore fixation of Bengalis
Nandita: “Why’re Bengalis obsessed with Rabindranath Tagore? When you elevate a human being to the level of God, doesn’t it imply stagnancy of intellectualism?”
Soumitro: “He is timeless, just like Shakespeare”
Through course of interaction between the daughter and the father, we are given hints about the leftist leanings of Soumitro. When the daughter mentions of having watched a good film GOODBYE LENIN on collapse of Communism, the father questioned as to whether his daughter was mocking him.
A couple (Tota Roy Choudhury & June Malliya) has returned from America and is a neighbor of the father-daughter duo. The US returned couple has a 7 year old daughter Trisha. A strong bond develops between Soumitro and Trisha. Megha is in love with a Muslim colleague of hers, looks for opportunity and goes on a two-day visit with her paramour to Bangalore. When Soumitro makes a call to her when she was in bed with the guy, a male voice response informs the father of the relationship.
The film explores a gamut of issues – flight of professionals from the City of Joy to places like America and the Silicon Valley of India, the pangs of separation for the elderly and the challenge to adapt to liberal values in vogue, apprehension of forging alliances across religious divide. The sequence where Soumitro is shown playing with Trisha during a picnic and collapsing is reminiscent of the sequence of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, succumbing while playing with his grandchild in THE GODFATHER.
The film has quite a few poetic shots capturing the locales of Kolkata and its neighborhood with great finesse.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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MAHANAGAR was based on a story by Narendranath Mitra. The core theme of the disquiet caused when a Bengali homely lady Arati Mazumdar (Madhabi Mukherjee) steps out of her secluded domestic existence into the working world have been deftly portrayed by the director. I think Mrinal Sen’s PUNASCHO in the Sixties also dealt with the same theme but as per latest reports available that film is completely lost to filmgoers as no print of that film exists today.
Some of the sequences in the film are truly memorable:
The scene where Madhabi presses her first earning against herself and proceeds to watch her in an adjacent mirror
• The Anglo woman gifts Madhabi a lipstick and shows her how to apply it
• “Was he your boyfriend”? asks her Anglo colleague Madhabi points to Vermillion on her forehead
“Okay. Your husband.”
“Do you know this ring?” her Anglo friend queried “This means that I am married.” ( A beautiful scene on manifestation of marital status in two cultures)
The effect of the lady walking out of the orthodox household into the professional world on the husband (Anil Chatterjee) and the family can be summarized in the following dialogues/scenes that transpired in the film
“Kaaje amay chinte parbe na” (Madhabi) “Barite Chinte parbo to” (Anil Chatterjee)
• “Bouma, Sales girl?” (Anil Chatterjee’s father)
• “Taka thaklai Sansar a shanti thake na Baba aaj 3/2 maas amar sathe katha bole na.” (Anil Chaterjee talks of his equation with his father)
• The first day Madhabi goes to work, her child runs away from her as a protest

The weakness of the film: The forced situations where husband loses his job and is dependent on Madhabi’s job. The ending also appeared filmic to me. I, for one, can’t throw away job because of injustice being meted out to a colleague. You would agree that Arati’s of the world wouldn’t be able to keep any job in present day corruption ridden India.
The most interesting character to me was the patriarch – the father of Anil Chatterjee who represented the plight of retired teachers in the country
“jemon gorbo bodh kori, temon hingse hoi” (talking about his students)
• “Bhagwan er bidhan e kothai jeno gondogol royeche” (complaining about God’s injustice towards his ilk)
• “Amar bhoro obhab” (The old man cries and tells his eye specialist student ) “Chasma ta hobe amar Gurudakhina” (The student replies thusly)
• “sei jug aar ei jug ek noye” (Anil Chatterjee to his father)

There’re other sequences that characterize social milieu of that era
• Madhabi goes to sell knitting machines and start a conversation with prospective customers discussing personal problems – the ability of Bongs to start conversation with complete strangers
“Ei sob parar thakar anondo je nijeder radio kinte hoy na” (Anil Chaterjee tells his wife)
The supporting cast included Jaya Bhaduri, Haradhan Bannerjee and others.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Bengali cinema surprises us with gems once in a while. PHORING is one such film.

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PHORING (which is Bengali for Grasshopper) is an imaginative boy who lives in a village in North Bengal near Maynaguri. He flunks his exams and incurs the wrath of his alcoholic father who beats him mercilessly.

A pretty young female teacher (Sohini Sarkar) joins the school of the boy, and starts taking an interest in the boy and his studies. The bond between the boy and the teacher grows stronger. She calls the boy to her residence, celebrates his birthday and gifts him a smart-phone. This leads to suspicion and questioning of her code of conduct.

The present situation of unrest in North Bengal have been effectively captured on screen. The film touches issues of education, childhood obsession, involvement of promising youths in terrorism, and ruthless parenting.

The filming qualities are superlative, and the natural beauty of North Bengal have been lovingly captured by the cameraman Indranil Mukherjee. The film is directed by Indranil RoyChoudhury. The supporting actors are Ritwik Chakraborty and others.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

STREE features the two titans of Bangla cinema in a complex tale of unrequited love and trust, and frightening consequences of leading a life of debauchery. At some level, it echoes the Tagore story NOSHTO NEER (made into CHARULATA by Satyajit Ray)  where the heroine Mrinmoyee (Arati Bhattacharjee) resembles Charulata in that she is married to an aristocratic household and a hard-drinking husband (Uttam Kumar) who has no time for her. This becomes the pretext for the amorous relationship to flower with her ex-lover Sitapati (Soumitro Chattopadhyay) when they accidently meet once again.  At another level, the film is a sort of SAHEB, BIWI & GHULAM, the powerful Bimal Mitra story about feudal extravagance and decadence.

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Towards the end, when Soumitro finally walks out of the house, he looks back once in a sort of homage to the concluding scene in Mrinal Sen’s AKASH KUSUM. There’re several wonderful songs (‘Tomader konta asol konta nokol tomra nijey jano na … & others), fine performances by the lead cast (Soumitro, Uttam, Arati) & the supporting cast (Tarun Kumar, Subrata Chatterjee, Jahar Roy).

All in all, quite an absorbing fare directed by Salil Dutta.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

PONKHIRAJ narrates the tale of three struggling friends – Sankar (Soumitro Chattopadhyay), Robi (Samit Bhanja) & Sunil (Santu Mukherjee). They run a garage – International Motor works in an area infested by evil persons like Mota Ghosh (Utpal Dutt) and others who are involved in a racket that steal and deal in cars.

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The film echoes influences of several Bengali films – from Tapan Sinha’s APANJAN to Ritwik Ghatak’s AJANTRIK to the much later Sandip Ray film UTTARON based on a Satyajit Ray story about the inability of the weaker section of society to purchase expensive medicines.
It is a sheer pleasure to watch the two greats of Bengali cinema, Soumitro Chattopadhyay and Uttam Kumar, in top form in the film ably supported by the strong cast of Utpal Dutt, Samit Bhanja, Santu Mukhopadhyay, Tarun Kumar and others. There’s Chinmoy Roy for comic relief.
The film mirrors the relentless fight that ensues between the evil and the righteous. When Soumitro says “Ami struggle korte chai, ami criminal hote chai na…” you feel the genuineness of the utterance. Robi is a gifted singer and rescues small child from unscrupulous employers. There’re moments of love and tenderness involving the protagonist with fine songs pictured effectively. Issues of child labor and need of education for such children are highlighted.
There’s murder and intrigue and much else in this watchable mainstream Bengali film. The end provides the director’s comment on his film – “Ei osamajik manush gulo ke amra jeno grina na kori” (We should not hate these unsocial elements of society). The film was directed by Pijush Bose.
Rating: 3.6 out of 5

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A couple falls in love, gets married and thereafter separates. They meet quite unexpectedly fifteen years later on a train journey where the man (Prasenjit)’s second wife (Aparajita Auddy) befriends the former spouse (Rituparna Sengupta). A group of singers (Anindyo Chattopadhyay, Surojit, Anupam Roy), an elderly couple (Soumitro Chattopadhyay, Sabitri Chattopadhyay) & a newlywed couple on their honeymoon are also on this train bound for Kolkata from Mumbai.
The situation look somewhat implausible though the film remains immensely watchable. A highlight would certainly be that of Soumitro Chattopadhyay reciting Tagore’s poem HATATH DEKHA. A hilarious sequence is Sabitri Chattopadhyay’s attempt at speaking Hindi laced in heavy Bengali. In a TV show on Zee Bangla the Bengali director Prabhat Roy said “The technical qualities of PRAKTHAN is of a very high standard.” In the same TV show the actors who acted in the film revealed that the renowned art director Nitish Roy created such an authentic set that it looked like exactly like a real train.
The production work of the film was done entirely in Kolkata and use of drones were made of for the first time in Bengali cinema for high angle shots of landmarks of Kolkata. The supporting cast includes Manali De and others.

The film has been directed by the duo Siboprasad Mukhopadhyay – Nandita Roy.
Rating: 3.5 out f 5