Archive for the ‘Shyam Benegal’ Category

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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

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I watched a few films of Shyam Benegal recently viz., Ankur, Bhumika, Trikaal, Mandi and Nishant. ‘Nishant’ is the most intense film in this selection. The film has a strong cast comprising Amrish Puri, Girish Karnad, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Sadhu Meher, Mohan Agashe, Anant Nag and others.
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This fictional story based in 1945 in pre-Independence India in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, shows an uprising against the exploitative feudals. A school teacher (Girish Karnad) arrives in a village with his beautiful wife (Shabana Azmi). Soon she gets abducted by the sons (Mohan Agashe and Anant Nag) of the feudal landlord (Amrish Puri). When the school teacher’s attempts prove abortive even after running from pillar to post to free his wife from her captors, he tries to mobilize the villagers to revolt against the tyrannical Zamindar with the help of the village priest.

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I couldn’t comprehend the ending in its totality, especially the character of Shabana Azmi who is shown fleeing with the youngest son of the Zamindar (Naseeruddin Shah), who has a soft corner for her, when the villagers attacked the family of the landlord. Did she also develop a longing for Naseeruddin Shah? Benegal keeps it open-ended, and this I found to be disappointing. Otherwise, the film was riveting and powerful, and contained some memorable dramatic sequences, performed ably by Girish Karnad and Shabana Azmi and the rest of the cast. The cinematography is excellent.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

ANKUR (1973)

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Hindi films, Shyam Benegal

The film, based on a short story by the director himself, was shot in a village somewhere near Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. The protagonist speaks in a ‘Dakhini dialect’ close to Hindi, which in the words of Shyam Benegal, was chosen to have a wider appeal across the country. 

The tale of exploitation of the poorer section of society by the rich landlords is seen through the predicament of Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi), a maid who falls into a trap of an illegitimate relationship with the young landlord (Anant Nag) when her husband (Sadhu Meher) forsakes her for a while and goes off elsewhere to escape the humiliation he was meted out by Anant Nag for an innocuous act of petty stealing. The scene where Meher is shaved off his hair and paraded on a donkey across the village is a depiction of rural India much as it exists in reality. Shabana Azmi excels in the dramatic sequences towards the climax. The cinematography by Gobind Nihalani is excellent, and sequences such as rain pouring on a tin roof in village houses exude charm of the rural backdrop.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

BOSE: FORGOTTEN HERO

Posted: August 16, 2012 in Hindi films, Shyam Benegal

Shyam Benegal must be applauded for making the film “Bose: Forgotten Hero,” and almost succeeding in making it a memorable one. The film traces the journey and hardship undertaken by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, fleeing from the British from his Calcutta home and going to foreign shores to set up the Indian National Army (INA) to fight the occupying British forces in India.

One can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of this biographical film on the legendary patriot. But it does appear that the director has well-researched his subject. The action and war sequences are well choreographed, and do evoke a feel of the period, action and the times it has tried to capture.

The early life of Netaji is sorely missing from the narrative. One does understand the monumental task Benegal had on his hand while dealing with a subject such as Bose, but it would have added to the strength of the work if the early inspiration of Bose, the magnetism   that drew people towards him and his growing affinity for the nationalistic cause was woven into the narrative. Sachin Khadekar in the titular role puts up a good performance.

Benegal also avoids the controversy surrounding Netaji’s death, and ends the film emphasizing the contributory role Netaji’s violence movement played in quickening the process of granting freedom to India by the Imperial powers.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5