Archive for the ‘Soumitro Chattopadhyay’ 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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Veteran actor Soumitro Chattopadhyay was recently conferred with France’s highest honor, Légion d’Honneur…

I remember an incident which occurred a few years back (maybe six/seven). I was travelling to Kolkata from New Delhi in a Jet Airways flight. Soumitro C (SC) aka Apu aka Feluda was in the same flight. I had sighted him at Delhi airport itself. It seemed like he was returning from a shooting schedule because I saw fellow actors of Bengali cinema, of whom I could recognize Biswajit Chakraborty, with him. I was amazed at the non-starry way SC carried himself. Very few people in fact recognized him, or showed an interest to click a picture with him. In comparison, see how recognizable mediocre Bollywood actors are in our society. I didn’t possess a smart phone in those days, hence there was no point requesting SC for a snap …

Out of his numerous memorable performances, I pick five of my favourites:

  1. GANASHATRU

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I really loved his work in this film by Satyajit Ray based on an Ibsen play ‘Enemy of the people.’  As a conscientious doctor in a small town who discovers contamination in a water source coming out of a crowd flocking temple and his discovery creating a furor leading to attack on him and his family by unscrupulous members of the temple trust and the town municipality which included his sibling brother, the seasoned actor was simply a delight to watch.

 

  1. DEKHA

 

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Directed by Gautam Ghose, it featured SC in the role of a Milton like blind poet. The subtlety of the performance matching gait akin a blind man, the nuances that brought out the essence of the complexity of the character of the amorous poet living in changing times showcased his brilliance at his craft.

 

  1. AKASH KUSUM

 

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SC has done comedy in several films but this Mrinal Sen directed film is one of his best. Longing can drive a man to desperation – SC epitomized his portrayal of such a character to perfection. Some of the conversations with his love interest Aparna Sen were simply hilarious …This role was enacted by Amitabh Bachchan in the Hindi version MANZIL directed by Basu Chatterjee.

  1. WHEEL CHAIR

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The central protagonist is an America returned wheel-chair ridden doctor (SC) who runs a medical care facility for destitute and poor of the society, and tries to help a rape victim.

 

  1. PARINEETA

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I really find this a heart-warming romantic film. The coy-and-quiet romance between Shekar (Soumitro Chaterjee) and Lolita (Moushumi Chaterjee) in the film reaches a level rarely reached in the Bengali and Indian cinemas.

The Ajay Kar directed film was based on a story by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

 

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UTTARON (Broken Journey) is a film based on a story and screenplay by Satyajit Ray, and directed by his son Sandip Ray. The film follows a Calcutta based doctor (Soumitro Chattopadhyay) who is successful treating the well-heeled of society. His teenage daughter is shown leading a reckless life giving rise to suspicion of being a drug addict.

The doc embarks on a journey to Jamshedpur to deliver a talk on ADVANCES OF MEDICAL SCIENCES IN LAST TWO DECADES in a Conference. En route his car breaks down in a remote area & he sees a man lying unconsciously in the field. The doc tries to lend a helping hand. What follows is a discovery of reality about lack of health-care facilities (dependence on witch doctor) and abysmal condition (lack of electricity) in the village. This leads to an awakening in the doctor & the realization of the futility & elitism of conferences when basic health care facilities elude the majority of the population.

The supporting cast includes Subalakshmi Munshi, Sadhu Meher, Subhendu Chatterjee, Lily Chakraborty and others.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

On Ray’s b’day, a brief note on JOYBABA FELUNATH ……

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I read some Feluda stories in my childhood. Since then I haven’t ventured towards the book of the ace sleuth written by Ray that have endeared him to millions across the globe. I have seen several films of the detective though, two directed by Satyajit Ray himself, and quite a few directed by his son Sandip Ray.

Among the multiplicity of themes that Ray explored in his films and in his writings, one often finds a thematic recurrence interspersed among his works. The core theme in JOYBABA FELUNATH – about a thriving business involving smuggling of heritage art objects from India to the West was also seen in his book KAILASHE KELENKARI, which has been made into a film by Sandip Ray. The penchant of Ray to showcase rare skills such as jugglery (Phatikchand) is again seen in this film in the spine-chilling act of a skilled marksman aiming at humans – it was filmed on ‘Jatayu.’

JOYBABA ..  is an engaging, suspenseful film from the master filmmaker. The film has the Hindu holy city of Benaras as the backdrop. Apart from a fine performance by Soumitro Chatterjee in the role of Feluda, the film was elevated several notches by the terrific performance of Utpal Dutta as Maganlal Meghraj – rarely has Utpal Dutta looked so menacing as a villain, his act in Bollywood films playing the evil man was mostly comical. The pivotal child character in the film, endearing called Captain Spark, brought out the child that used to reside in Ray who was enchanted by magic, mysterious occurrences & other aspects of the supernatural, besides his love of adventure.

Rating; 4 out of 5

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KAGAZER NOUKA is a topical film that portrays the contemporary reality of a corruption ridden society. Through the character of a freedom fighter (Victor Bannerjee), a Gandhian with strong idealistic values the film mirrors the decadence and frustration facing the elderly who had sacrificed everything to liberate the Nation. In that respect, the film echoes Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s TAHADER KATHA. Otherwise, it is a very different film from TK and revolves around the nefarious chit-fund business that rocked West Bengal and brought about its disrepute.

The versatile Soumitro Chattopadhyay in the role of an evil businessman controlling the chit-fund empire & a childhood buddy of the protagonist freedom fighter is competent as usual. The others in the cast includes Bidita Bag, Anusya Mazumdar, Rajesh Sharma and others. Victor B reprises the role of an Angry old man again after LATHI and act with aplomb. The film is directed by Partha Pratim Joardar.

The film was severely criticized by some critics, but somehow I liked the subject matter and the unfolding of events and don’t attest the critics viewpoint who gave it a rating of 1, or 1.5 out of 5 to this film.

Rating; 3.5 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

 

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