Archive for the ‘Mamata Shankar’ Category

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It seems Bengali cinema is poised for good times with a number of filmmakers exploring fresh subjects and themes. MACHER JHOL directed by Pratim D Gupta falls in this category.

The film tries an attempt –to- return- to-roots of a successful chef (Ritwik Chakraborty) in France to Kolkata when his mother is seriously ill and hospitalized. The film has sufficient human drama and relationship subtext (father-son differences, left behind wife in Kolkata) to engage the viewer’s interests. Some aspects seem cliché though (the birth of a son kept as a secret)… the protagonist is flawed too. He accuses his father of being selfish, while he himself deserted his wife and went abroad and never bothered to ask about her during his telephonic talk back home with his mother.

I particularly think that the ending was unconventional where the chef returns to his French girlfriend when the viewers were probably developing a sense that the protagonist would stay back with his wife and son …besides Ritwik, the film features Mamata Shankar as the mother, Sumanta Mukherjee as the father, Paoli Dam as the wife in Kolkata and others…

Rating: 3.5 out of 5



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Ek Din Pratidin” (And Quiet Rolls the Day) remains an artistic triumph in the career of Mrinal Sen.

The gist: The narrative underlined what happens when a working girl doesn’t return home after work on a particular day. MS is one of the first to assess the changing position of women with industrialization and urbanization. Mamata Shankar, Gita Sen, Sreela Mazumdar & Satya Bandophyay comprised the cast.

Ek Din Pratidin was based on a story by famed Bengali writer Amalendu Chakravorty. A family of seven members with father (Satya Bandopadhyay), moher (Gita Sen), three sisters and two brothers are mostly dependent on the earning of a single member of the family, i.e. the eldest working daughter (Mamata Shankar).

The film opens with a long shot sequence of a hand-pulled  rickshaw entering a claustrophobic neighborhood. Thereafter, it cuts to a young child getting hurt  while playing, and taken to the clinic for treatment. One of the early sequence also shows a man urinating on the walls of the house where the family lived and the house-owner castigating the person concerned for the act – scenes of everyday life in Calcutta. MS always gave us such images from Calcuttan life in film after film.

The story unfolds slowly when the working girl doesn’t return home that night. At first, the family members kept silent hoping that she might have been working overtime, and will arrive late. The middle sister (Sreela Mazumdar in a superb performance) goes out to make a phone call to see if her sister might still be at the office. She returns home without being able to contact her.

Now the family members gets panicky, and the father goes out and watches the buses go by, without his daughter alighting from any of them. When the last bus also passes by, he returns home. Soon the inmates of the multiple storied building where both the landowner and his several tenants resided got wind of the fact that the working girl has not returned home that night.

The reactions from the various neighbors are depicted beautifully. Some makes acerbic comments, while others are more sympathetic. There are good Samaritan too who came to help the family in their hour of crisis. Two such characters, Shyamalda who stays in the same premise, and the scooter-owner friend of the brother goes out in search of the missing person. They head to the Police Station to lodge a complaint. Biplab Chaterji as a policeman, in a small role, excels. Biplab raids the family’s residence for basic inquiry, and extracts some facts about Mamata’s personal life (the type of garments she was wearing on that day). Sreela provided Biplab and his assisting officers with the necessary details.

Meanwhile, the brother and his friend check out the morgue to ascertain whether his sister’s dead body was brought there. The family also receives a news that a lady matching the description of  the missing woman lay badly injured in an accident in Nilratan Medical Hospital. The father, along with the good neighbour Shyamalda, set off for the Hospital to find out…

It was found that the girl was not his daughter. They return home relieved.

However, it was a harrowing time for the family during the night. In the wee hours of the morning, the small girl of the family sights her eldest sister (Mamata Shankar) coming back. Surprisingly, everyone in the family eyed her with suspicion. No one asks her as to where she had been the previous night…

The landlord alights the staircase and asks the father to vacate the house as soon as possible. He harped upon the fact that the locality is meant only for decent people.

The last sequence shows Gita Sen in the morning hours(who was keeping bad health the previous night) begin her preparation for her everyday household chores…

The film was released in 1979, and won awards at several International Film Festivals. The camerawork by K K Mahajan is brilliant capturing effectively the moods and emotions of the actors & the tense atmosphere of the surroundings.

Analysis: The critics may find faults. They may argue that in a big city where neighbors live like virtual strangers, neighbors discussing the non-returning of the girl to the house at such length is not a realistic portrayal of modern times, where people are mostly unconcerned about the lives of others. Maybe such debatable  issues apart, the novelty of the theme has never been explored in Indian cinema. Sen’s penchant to keep the audiences guessing as to where the girl disappeared is very much in evidence because he doesn’t offer any solution. Film Critic John W Hood finds an excellent example of the liberated woman in “Ek Din Pratidin”. “The heroine is her own boss. There is no answer to the question why she did not return home at night. Sen says it is her business where she had been.”

In an Interview, when Mrinal Sen was asked about his personal relationship with Satyajit Ray, Sen said that they never discussed each other’s films in great detail. Ray made some acerbic comment regarding this film, saying that the filmmaker doesn’t know where the women character had disappeared the previous night. Mrinal countered this and said that definitely he could have offered a solution in the film (the telephone call in the neighborhood medical dispensary late at night that went unanswered was an indicator of the missing woman trying to contact his family members) as to where the girl had disappeared, but that was not where the focus of the film lay. What he was trying to expose was the hollowness of our responses whenever misfortune befalls  someone.

When the core theme remains the same, it is interesting to unravel how two great filmmakers approach it. The theme in question – exploitation of women and the filmmakers – Ritwik Ghatak (Meghe Dhaka Tara) & Mrinal Sen (Ek Din Pratidin). The film EK DIN PRATIDIN came roughly two decades after MEGHE DHAKA TARA. In the Ghatak work, we find novelty in sound design & lighting patterns, the use of classical music in the unfolding of the storyline. In terms of narrative style, it was quite straight-forward. The Mrinal Sen film is an experimentation to convey the message under the guise of a suspenseful incident. MS also incorporates several strands of calcuttan life deftly in his cinema. They become a living document of the lives of the citizens of his favorite city.

The interview: In the book ‘Out of God’s Oven: Travels in a fractured land’ by Dom Moreas and Sarayu Srivatsa (Penguin Viking, Pg 118) there is an interview of Mrinalda with the authors and a Japanese gentleman Watanabe. When asked to speak about his films, Mrinalda smiled ‘Of course, of course. About my films, let me see. Yes, recently I made a film about a middle class family. A woman, twenty five years old, she does not come home one night. She comes home the next morning. That is what the film is about.’

Watanabe looked amused. Mrinalda laughed. ‘When she doesn’t return her family members become worried. The neighbors ask question. They react. The film is about their reaction. Their reaction tells you about the middle-class-ness of Indian families. At the end of the film, the landlord asks the family to leave the flat; go elsewhere.’                                                                                                                                                         Why?                                                                                                                                                          ‘Because everyone in the building say terrible things about the girl. If an Indian girl stays out of the house for a night, it is a very bad thing.’

Watanabe nodded slowly. ‘ Ah soo. Ah su desu ne. Rike Sita in Lamayana. I see now. Sita come home to God Lam , but she spend so many night out so Lam not accepting her. Hai, so desu ne, Lam was worried that Lavana would have touched Sita. So-so, the doubt was there in Lam’s mind. I see, I see. So, yo- a story based rittre bit on, Lamayana? Hai.’

Mrinalda digressed and said, “The film is about women, the inequalities that exist even now and how people treat women.’

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

shakha prashakha

The hallmark of a great director is that he is ahead of his times. Long before Corruption became a major issue in the country paving the way for the birth of a new party which came to power in the Capital of the country in 2014 riding on its promise to fight and end corruption, the master filmmaker Satyajit Ray made a full length feature film focusing on erosion of human and moral values in our midst.

Through the tale of an upright, successful man and his four sons, Ray highlights the loss of ethical values in our society. While the youngest sibling (Ranjit Mullick) resigns from his job as a mark of protest against corruption, the eldest son (Haradhan Bannerjee) is the practical one who has succeeded in life having no qualms accepting bribes and freebies in his job. The second son (Soumitro Chaterjee) lives with his father and is shown as slightly abnormal at times. He listens to Western Classical music and by extrapolation can be construed as a ‘pure soul.’

A cardiac arrest of their father brings the four sons together for a brief interval. What transpires in the aftermath forms the narrative of the film. This may not rank among the best works of Ray but for the anticipation of corruption breeding like Cancer in Indian Society the director deserves our kudos.

One is not sure whether the father has autobiographical elements of Ray. The resemblance between the actor and the director is quite striking. In the concluding sequence, when the other sons have left and the second son appears on the door, the old man lovingly calls out for him emphasizing a special corner for the slightly insane (Soumitro) child of his. Was Ray sympathizing with all those good people who are increasingly being sidelined in all spheres of life? Was Ray predicting doomsday for us where the talented and honest (like the second son) are destined to lose their sanity? Maybe cynical you may say, but Ray forces us to introspect and acts against the winds of change (like Ranjit Mullick in the film) in our society.

I am not exactly sure whether this film echoes Francesco Rosi’s THREE BROTHERS which was also about an interaction of a father with his three sons after the passing away of their mother. In his last films (Ganashatru, Shakha Prosakha, Aguntuk) Ray became highly philosophical. Did he have a premonition of an early death? Did it influence the choices of films he made in this period? After all many have lived beyond their Seventies…

Due to Ray’s failing health, outdoor shooting was kept at a minimum, at Sukna Forest near Siliguri.

The supporting cast includes Deepankar Dey, Mamata Shankar, Lily Chakraborty, Pramode Ganguly and others.

Rating: 3.9 out of 5


Kharij is simply a mind-blowing film by Mrinal Sen. The exploitation of servants by middle class have never been brought out in a better way in the cinemas. Anjan Dutt, a Sen favorite won accolades for his performance in the film. Mamata Shankar enacted the role of the wife of Anjan Dutt.

Kharij opens with a sequence where a small child comes to work in the household of a middle-class family. The couple have a small lovable child. A few sequences later, the scene of action moves to the kitchen. The kitchen is locked from inside. The previous night, the servant had gone to sleep in the kitchen ( usually he sleeps in the basement of the house) and is not answering the frantic calls of his master and other members of the household. After trying for quite a while, the door is broken and the boy is found to be lying in an unconscious state. The doctor is called, who announces the child to be dead.

As it is a case of unnatural death, the police is called. By now, inquisitive neighbors have already got wind of the incident, and have converged as a crowd in front of the couple’s residence. Some sympathetic neighbors comes to help the couple in this crisis. Police arrives and takes stock of the situation. They conduct their routine investigations, and takes the body of the boy for “postmortem.” The husband will have to report to Police Station in the evenings. A helpful neighbor, sensing it to be a complicated case, advises the husband to consult a reputed lawyer to prevent him from getting implicated in legal wrangling. When the husband goes to the lawyer, the lawyer exposes the husband’s false claims of treating the servant-boy as one of their family members.

When the deceased boy’s father comes to the couple’s house to take his son’s monthly salary, he receives the shattering news of his son’s demise from the other small boy working in the household. When the couple actually goes to meet the servant’s father, the man breaks down and naturally, is inconsolable. Some of the sequences are indeed very touching. When the deceased boy’s father has to stay that night in the couple’s house, the couple sets up a nice bed for him at night, full of warm quilt and thick mattresses. However, the boy’s father’s sentiments prevented him from availing of such luxury, and he said that he would like to sleep in the kitchen where his son was found dead sleeping.

Post-mortem gives verdict that the boy has died from carbon-monoxide inhalation. The boy had gone to a late night film show the previous night, and returned around midnight to the house. When he felt that it was cold, he went to sleep in the kitchen (normally he slept in the basement). There was no ventilation in the kitchen room, and the charcoal cooking item was dimly burning. Ignorant of the perils of sleeping without proper ventilation, the servant succumbs in his sleep. After the postmortem report, the boy is taken to the burning Ghat and set aflame.

The denouement sees the hapless father finally asking permission from the couple to return to his home in the village. Truly, an unforgettable film.

The supporting cast of Kharij had Charu Prakash Ghosh who played a conscientious lawyer. Sreela Mazumdar, another Mrinal favorite, has a small but significant role in the film as the helpful neighbor, who comes to the help of the couple in their hour of distress. The Director’s wife, Geeta Sen, does a cameo in the film as a helpful neighbor. Debotosh Ghosh had a memorable role in the film. Brief appearances by Sunil Mukherjee as a curious neighborhood onlooker featured in the sequences. The music for this film was scored by B.V.Karanth. Kharij was based on a story by Ramapada Choudhury.

Sen’s “Kharij” ( The case is closed ) won the special Jury Prize in 1983 at Cannes. Nitish Roy, the noted Art Director won the National Award for this film.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5