Archive for the ‘Ritwik Ghatak’ Category

Bengali cinema is unlucky to have lost some of its most prodigious talent before they could reach anywhere near the end of their career – Ritwik Ghatak, Rituparna Ghosh, Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, Nabyendu Chaterjee and … Anjan Das. The last named is the director of SANJHBATIR ROOPKATHARA.

This film starts on a predictable note. One was beginning to feel that it was just another ‘exploitation of women’ kind of film about the protagonist daughter Saajhbati (Indrani Halder) of a well-known painter (Soumitro Chattopadhyay). Midway through the movie, the film unfolds an unexpected development and thereafter the film becomes a powerful exploration of the perils of fame, the father-daughter relationship, love and betrayal, lust and insanity, hope and longings, setbacks and comebacks.

The performances are praiseworthy. Indrani Halder in the titular role is convincing. After Pramathesh Barua’s MUKTI in the 1930s, we have the painter as a major character in Bengali films like SWET PATHARER THALA & this one. The supporting cast includes Paran Bandopadhyay, Ketaki Dutta, Firdaus and others.

Rating: 4.1 out of 5

 

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Image result for ek din pratidin

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

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

Recently the versatile actress Geeta Sen passed away. Besides acting in the films of her husband Mrinal Sen, she has also acted in Ghatak’s NAGARIK and Shyam Benegal’s AROHAN. Kolkata DD showed her film CHALCHITRO recently as a mark of respect.

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The Mrinal Sen directed CHALCHITRO (Kaleidoscope, 1981) is a film that has not been screened in India previously as far as I know. It is a film that only a Mrinal Sen would have the courage to make. There is hardly any story so to speak, no attractive heroine features in it to make it pleasing to a viewer. But Mrinal Sen being Mrinal Sen, he has the rare ability to make the mundane the stuff of great cinematic material. Like Jean Luc Godard, MS captures life in everyday Kolkata with its vicissitudes, idiosyncrasies, humaneness and pettiness under the pretext of a storyline – the hunt of a print journalist (Anjan Dutt) for a story/scoop that is saleable. The editor of the newspaper (Utpal Dutt) likens modern life to a stock market – every aspect of it involve a kind of buying and selling.

“How many ovens are there in Kolkata?” The director also highlights environmental concern with rapid urbanization and use of unclean energy used for cooking during the late seventies. Gita Sen acts as the mother of the protagonist struggling to make ends meet for the family. The lives of several independent families all living under a common roof quibbling and sharing joys and miseries have been depicted aptly.

The film was screened at London and Venice Film festivals. Watching CHALCHITRO recently one felt sad for the demise of THE ACTRESS who brilliantly brought to life the quotidian characters in the films of Mrinal Sen, be it in CHORUS, EK DIN PRATIDIN or KHANDAHAR.

Rating: 4 out of 5

The older generation would recall the criticism of the late actress Nargis against our most celebrated filmmaker internationally, Satyajit Ray, saying something along these lines “Ray exports India’s poverty to the West.” The eminent filmmaker Mrinal Sen says “Poverty is a fact of life in India. My business as a filmmaker is to understand Poverty.”
Roughly around 70% of our country lives in poverty. How truthfully have our filmmakers captured poverty in the right perspective and depicted the resulting consequences of a life lived in penury?
I was watching the Satyajit Ray films APARAJITO & APUR SANSAR recently. The films are like an elegiac verse on celluloid. While unfolding the tragedy that befell Apu at several stages in his life, from a rather young age losing his sister Durga to the loss of his parents and thereafter his wife, the tenor of the films and the visual imagery in particular has a poetic quality about it. How does poverty and poetry merge into a cohesive whole in a realistic depiction can be open to debate. But we must not forget that feature films are not documentaries, and storytelling ought to incorporate several other devices – be it fantasy, lyricism or surrealism to communicate with viewers in newer and newer ways.

Ray as a pioneering depicter of poverty went the lyrical route in THE APU TRILOGY, while in his ASONI SANKET (Distant Thunder, 1973) he was more stark, probably influenced by the films of Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak.
With the exception of his last film (Amar Bhuvan) poverty as shown in the films of Mrinal Sen have a despairing tone (Baisey Shravan, Calcutta 71, Oka Orie Katha ..) even when he attempted narrating them in a light hearted manner (Chorus, Parashuram). Ritwik Ghatak was likewise bleak (Meghe Dhaka Tara, Subarnarekha) as was Gautam Ghose (Paar, Antarjali Jatra), Buddhadeb Dasgupta (Neem Annapurna) and Nabyendu Chaterjee (Aaj Kal Parshur Galpo) and a few others. Mira Nair captured the plight of street urchins of Mumbai to much critical acclaim in her SALAAM BOMBAY. Some of the films of K.A.Abbas, Raj Kapoor and Bimol Roy (Do Bigha Zameen) also revolved around the theme of poverty, though at times these filmmakers made use of commercial devices like heightened melodrama and songs to rope in a larger audience. The joys and hardship of the street children were effectively portrayed in Madhur Bhandarkar’s TRAFFIC SIGNAL.
In several films poverty has been shown to lead to debasement of the individual (Bicycle Thieves, Oka Orie Katha, Akaler Sandhane, Asoni Sanket) but did we really see a film where the characters rose above their misfortune to a higher strata in society? (Okay, the Dhirubhai Ambani inspired Mani Ratnam’s film GURU is a rags-to-riches story as are numerous commercial flicks like DEWAAR & their clones)
In the final analysis, poverty is a blur on our society. Filmmakers who use cinema as a weapon for social change can do a kind of association mining of how poverty correlates with debasement, and use the medium to contribute towards creating an awareness and possibly help the cause of alleviation of the social malaise. After all, cinema can truly act as an ‘agent provocateur’, and can bring about a positive social change.

One looks forward to a new Gautam Ghose offering with great expectation. The Indo-Bangladesh production SHANKHACHIL , the newest from the veteran director, has his signature style written all over – the marvelous photography, great music and terrific performances from the lead cast. Prasenjit is wonderful in the role of a teacher in a village in Bangladesh bordering India. It is a performance worthy of a National award and overlooking the tremendous work by this maturing actor over the past several years at the National awards is highly unjust.
Like Ghatak (to whom the film is dedicated) GG rues the plight of Bengalis segregated into two Nations. Through his Muslim protagonist Badal (Prasenjit) we get a glimpse of the deep reverence for Tagore that exist in that country. In an early sequence, the farcical division that was created between the two Nations is highlighted. The protagonist Badal lives a happy life in Bangladesh with his wife and daughter Roopsa. Roopsa is a bright girl, inquisitive by nature and always seen with a magnifying glass in her hand. She falls seriously ill and need to be immediately hospitalized. The nearest hospital is in the town of Taki in West Bengal in India..’
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Can’t helpless people living in the border areas be allowed medical facilities in the neighbouring country on humane ground? Why do we have to conceal our identities and illegally avail of medical expertise in that country? How has partition improved the lives of citizens of the country, especially those living in border areas? The narrative unfolds at a sedate pace. The story is simplistic but heart-rending and the film progresses through some great cinematography. No one can match GG in technical finesse which has been the hallmark of several of his award winning works.
The film succeed in making some forceful statement. In an initial sequence Badal says “Our biggest identity is not our religion, but our language. We’re Bengalis, not only Muslims. When India was partitioned in 1947, Bangladesh became a part of Pakistan. The following year Jinnah promulgated that Urdu would be made the National language of Pakistan, and other languages relegated to a subordinate level. This formed the seed of the war of liberation in 1971 over the issue of language and the formation of Bangladesh.”
The film is a bit patchy in parts but overall it is engaging. I would have liked it more had it ended on a positive note. btw, when Roopsa was undergoing treatment in hospital, what did that out of place nightly bike sequence implied?
The concluding sequence showing birds freely moving across the fence at the border is a directorial assertion that chaining humans and segregating on basis of nationality in modern times reek of dominance by the regressive forces of such Nations. The film won the Best Bengali film at the National awards this year. Dipankar Dey and Mukul Vaid act in supporting roles.
Rating: 4 out of 5