Archive for the ‘Tapan Sinha’ Category

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.

ponkhi
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

uphar

Directed by Tapan Sinha, the film deals with the struggles and hardship of the poor in this ruthless world. It boasts of an impressive star cast that (Bandopadhyay, Jahar Roy, Tulsi Chakraborty, Shyam Laha, Chabi Biswas and others.
A professor (Uttam Kumar) and his wife (Manju Dey) comes to live as tenants in the house of one Kanhali-babu (Kanu Bandopadhyay). They develop a soft corner for Krishna, the daughter of the landlord (Sabitri Chaterjee). Kanhali-babu eked out a livelihood from the rent that his house fetched. He was a strict father, and his daughter had no independence of her own.
Krishna used to pass on the nutritious portion of her diet surreptitiously to her father and subsisted on the remnants. The professor’s wife discovers it and replenishes her diet sparing something for her from their meal. Kanhali-babu’s nagging trait infuriates Bhola (Johar Roy), the Professor’s servant.
Krishna is in love with a certain gentleman (Nirmal Kumar) but her father has arranged her marriage to a retarded man in lieu of a paltry sum of money. After a lot of melodrama, Krishna unites with her paramour (Nirmal Kumar).
The film doesn’t rise to any great heights, but nonetheless remain watchable. Towards the end Krishna suddenly discovers that beneath the stern exterior, Kanhali-babu was a very caring father and had stashed away huge wealth in order to marry off his daughter in grand style. Why then did Kanhali-babu tried to marry off Krishna by accepting a paltry amount from the bridegroom’s family. Director sir, can you explain? ….
23.11.02

atithi

Tapan Sinha’s ATITHI bears a striking resemblance to Jatrik-directed PALATAK.  In both the films the protagonist is a wanderer intermittently escaping the bindings of family life and setting off to discover new people and places. The only difference is that the protagonist Tara in ATITHI is a small boy (played by actor Partha)  whereas in PALATAK it was a grown up man (Anoop Kumar).

Watching a film six decades after it was made in poor print quality reinforces the need to restore such classic films for posterity. ATITHI has a few lilting flute tunes of Tagore composition.

ATITHI takes us back to a world where a sense of the wonder lurked in the child about the unknown. They found joy and happiness in the simple charms that life offered – taking a dip in the village pond or gaping at the antics of the performer of a circus or Jatra (a kind of theatre in Bengal). This is one of the biggest losses mankind has suffered in the wake of the onslaught of 24×7 TV Channels and the Internet. That child in us with curiosity about the most mundane of things is now truly dead.

Ajitesh Bandopadhyay and Smriti Sinha act in supporting roles.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Innovative women roles in Indian films, especially mainstream cinema, are few and far between. Some creative directors, working within the mainstream format, however have given us some meaty characters. Several women-significant films were made in the early days of Indian cinema like “Achchyut Kanya,” which touched the theme of untouchability. Bimal Roy made a few films inspired by the novels of Sarat Chatterjee like “Biraj Bou”, “Devdas” and “Parineeta.” “Biraj Bou” was a film based on a selfless Indian woman, who endured hardship and pain for the sake of her husband. Films like “Ramer Sumoti,” based on a Sarat Chaterjee work, were remarkable and depicted the love and warmth which existed within the extended Indian joint family.

In later days, filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee gave us memorable heroine-oriented films in “Guddi,” “Abhimaan”, “Mili”, “Khubsuroot”, and “Majhli Didi”. “Guddi” and “Khubsuroot” were simple films in which the heroine matures from a chirpy girl into womanhood. “Abhiman,” inspired by “A star is born,” dealt with ego clashes when a woman’s musical talent and fame surpasses that of her husband. “Majhli Didi” was again based on a Sarat Chandra novel, about a woman’s compassion towards an orphaned child. Basu Bhattacharyya’s “Griha Pravesh” was a realistic depiction of the obsession of a married man for a much younger office colleague. Raj Kapoor’s “Prem Rog” was a convincing portrait of the agony of a young widow. A few years back, Basu Chaterji’s “Triyacharittar” was a powerful film on exploitation of women.

Bengali filmmaker Tapan Sinha has created strong female characters in several of his films viz “Jatugriho”, “Adalat O Ekti Mey”, “Apanjan”, “Nirjan Saikate” and others. “Jatugriho” dealt with marital discord, the bone of contention being the infertility of the woman. “Apanjan” was remade in Hindi as “Mere Apne” by Gulzar, and had an elderly woman as the protagonist who finds, in some unemployed street boys, a reason to live when her own relatives forsake her. “Nirjan Saikatey” dealt with the plight of five elderly widows, while “Adalat O ekti Mey” was on a rape victim shunned by everyone. Asit Sen’s “Deep Jele Jai,” remade in Hindi as “Khamoshi” was on a nurse who eventually becomes insane play-acting with a patient.

Strong female roles have also been witnessed in parallel cinema. Here, Mrinal Sen appears to have an edge over others. His “Neel Akaser Neechey” (1959) was a beautiful film about a brother-sister relationship between a Chinese hawker and a Bengali housewife. “Punoscho”(1961) dealt with the question of economic need of the heroine, a theme later tackled by Satyajit Ray in “Mahanagar.” The roles of the female protagonist in Sen’s “Bhuvan Shome”, “Khandahaar,” “Ek Din Pratidin”, “Antareen” and others have been an interesting mix of innovation and fresh characterization. Satyajit Ray’s films have female characters of substance. In “Pather Panchali” the relationship between Durga, an innocent but mischievous girl and her grandmother Chunnibala was beautifully depicted. “Charulata” based on a Tagore’s novel dealt with marital discord with much finesse. “Devi” was on religious bigotry when an elderly man starts thinking of his daughter-in-law as a Goddess after a dream.

Ritwik Ghatak’s “Meghe Dhaka Tara” and “Subarnarekha” are considered path-breaking films about the agony of the Bangladeshi refugees, shown through the eyes of the woman protagonist. Aparna Sen’s “36 Chowringhee Lane” is an unforgettable film exploring the loneliness of an elderly Anglo-Indian lady. Sen’s other efforts “Paroma” and “Sati” questioned the traditional roles of women in Indian society. Her latest award-winning work “Paromitar Ek Din” is also a women-centric film. Nabyendu Chaterji’s “Atmaja” had a power-packed role of a mother caught between the divergent ideologies of her two sons, enacted with conviction by Gauri Ghosh. Nabyendu Chaterji’s latest “Sauda” (Bengali) reveals negative shades of some women characters. In this film made in the 90s, the director, possibly the first in Indian cinema, portrayed how the wife and the daughters of an accident victim, now in the operation theatre of a hospital, craved for his death instead of his recovery, because the family has been promised a huge sum of money by an industrialist (Vasant Choudhury) as compensation, whose car was involved in an accident with the victim. The latest talent on the Kolkata filmmaking scene, Rituparno Ghosh, has women-related subjects as theme in all three of his award-winning films “Unishe April”, “Dahan” and “Asookh” and his latest “Bariwali” (featuring Kiron Kher). The women characters in the films of Gautam Ghose & Buddhadeb Dasgupta are equally intriguing. In Gautam Ghose’s “Antarjali Jatra” a young bride is forcibly married off to a dying Brahmin, while marital disharmony was the subject of films like Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s “Griha Yuddha” and “Lal Darja” and Aparna Sen’s “Yugant”. Sanat Dasgupta’s “Janani” featuring Rupa Ganguly was a poignant Bengali film about a woman who was ostracized and labeled a “witch,” but in the end sacrificed her life for her son.

Ordinary women characters, rising to extraordinary levels, were witnessed in films like Sushant Mishra’s “Aasha” (Oriya), Arinbam Shyam Sharma’s “Imagi Ningtem” (Manipuri) and Sanjeev Hazarika’s “Meemansxa” (Assamese). “Aasha” dealt with a courageous lady journalist hounded by corrupt politicians. “Meemansxa,” dealt with the agony faced by a woman when she moves to court after being molested by a powerful man.

Shyam Benegal in films like “Ankur”, “Sardari Begum” and “Mammo” have given us some unusual female characters. “Mammo” was an elderly lady who went through an ordeal when she comes to visit her relatives in partitioned India from Pakistan. Govind Nihalani in “Rukmavati ki Haveli”, “Dhristi”, “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa” has given us women characters of myriad hues. “Dhristi” was on marital discord, while “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa” saw Jaya Bachchan giving a fine performance as a woman trying to cope with the death of her son. Ketan Mehta’s “Mirch Masala” with the powerful actress Smita Patil demonstrated the strength of women, when a group of village women unitedly bring about the fall of a tyrant police officer. Muzaffar Ali’s “Umraao Jaan” gave Rekha one of her finest roles in her career as a ‘kotha ‘ dancer. A disabled dancer overcoming her problems to rise to great heights in her field was the subject of “Nache Mayuri,” with Sudha Chandran playing the lead role. Prakash Jha’s “Mrityudand” witnessed a new face of the educated Indian women, willing to rebel and fight for her rights.

Likewise, Deepa Mehta’s “Fire” brought to the fore hitherto taboo subjects like lesbianism to the Indian screen for the first time. Women characters in Mahesh Bhatt’s “Arth”, “Swayam”, “Kaash” and “Tamanna” were interesting. Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi gave great performances in “Arth” while in “Kaash,” the wife tries to cope with a failed actor husband who turns a derelict and a little son diagnosed with a terminal disease. Likewise Gulzar’s “Andhi”, Mausam” and “Koshish” and Kalpana Lazmi’s “Ek Pal” was noteworthy. “Aandhi,” was on the life of a lady politician and in “Koshish,” Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri gave mind-blowing performances as a hearing impaired couple. Sai Paranjype’s “Saaz” and “Sparsh” deserves a mention. Amol Palekar’s “Dayaara” and “Kairee,” too, are exceptional. “Dayaraa” dealt with the life of a transvestite. “Kairee” is about a little girl and her relationship with her aunt. “Rao Saheb,” “Chakra” “Mother India” and “Dahej” dealt with the theme of subjugated women who were exploited.

Yash Chopra’s portrayal of women have been extraordinary. Be it Nanda in the role of a murderess in “Ittefaq” or that of Rekha and Jaya Bachchan in “Silsila” women in his films have been consciously different from their peers. Recently the film “Astitva” ( featuring Tabu) explored sensitively a women’s role in a marriage when her husband discovers after twenty-five years that his wife had a sexual relationship with a man which resulted in an offspring, and the offspring is actually the same whom he had been considering his own son.

Lately in Assamese cinema several strong women characters was evoked, like in Bhaben Saikia’s “Agnisnaan”, Jahnu Barua’s “Firongoti”, Dr Shantanu Bordoloi’s “Adajya” and others. In “Agnisaan,” the female protagonist (Moloya Goswami) has a relationship with another man when her philandering husband crosses all limits. “Firongoti” was based on the life of a lady school teacher who tries to bring education among poor villagers.

In films from the South, K.S.Sethumadhavan’s “Stri”, Prema Karanth’s “Phaniyamma”, Girish Kasarvalli’s “Kraurya”, Balu Mahendra’s “Moonram Pirai” (remade as Sadma in Hindi) or Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s “Mathilukal” have intriguing female characterization. “Stri” dealt with the wife of a drunken man, who in spite of all her husband’s faults and their apparent differences, could never forsake her husband. It did carry the message “Pati is Parmeswar,” but in a beautiful way. “Phaniyamma” dealt with the agony of a young widow, whereas “Kraurya” dealt with the neglect of the elderly. In “Sadma,” SriDevi gave a fine performance as a girl whose mental condition reverts to that of a five-year-old when she meets with an accident. Because of my ignorance of films from this region, I will have to end this here.

In conclusion, several filmmakers have earnestly tried to portray women in a dignified, realistic, and an intriguing way and have succeeded considerably. Of this genre, filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Mahesh Bhatt, Amol Palekar, Tapan Sinha and Girish Kasaravalli and a few others seems to have given us the best of such women-significant films.

10-Mar-2002

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Films depicting contemporary reality without compromising is a rare commodity. That is why Tapan Sinha’s ATANKA hits you very hard. I can’t recall any Bengali film depicting the loss of Bengali heritage and high culture and constantly cautioning us about it in such a forceful manner as ATANKA. “Bangalir hathe chaku, bangalir hathe khoon, era kara?” – this dialogue from the film laments the decline of the community where political killings have become rampant.

In this film, an upright teacher (Soumitro Chatterjee) is witness to a murder committed by one of his ex-students (Sumanta Mukhopadhyay). The local goons start terrorising the teacher…the film highlights the dubiousness of the political class and how they misuse the local youths and the police. Soumitro Chaterjee is brilliant as the oppressed teacher and his expression with fear written all over exemplifies the nuanced performance one has come to associate with the veteran actor – a favourite of all Bengali arthouse directors. The supporting cast includes Prasenjit, Manoj Mitra, Anil Chaterjee, Arijit Guha and others.

Rating: 4.4 out of 5

 

 

Not too many films of yesteryears have survived the ravages of time. Thus, it was heartening to see that the print quality of this 54 year old Bengali film , an award winner @ Berlin Film Festival in 1962 in a good condition.
Watching the film one felt how the natural school of acting thrived in those days in the films of filmmakers like Tapan Sinha. It is a delight to watch actors like Chabi Biswas, Radhamohan Bhattacharyya, Manju Dey, Jahar Roy and others bring their respective roles alive with such finesse.

kabuliwala
Around late 50s-early 60s Bengali filmmakers like Mrinal Sen and Tapan Sinha made a foreigner in Kolkata as the protagonist of their films. Kali Bannerjee played a Chinese hawker in Sen’s NEEL AKASER NEECHEY & Sinha’s KABULIWALLAH showcased Chabi Biswas as an Afghani Pathan. Both the films play around with suspicions arising in the minds of people when a bonding develops between the foreigner with a local (the wife in NEEL AKASER NEECHEY & the little girl in KABULIWALLAH). Did the two writers, Mahadevi Verma (Neel Akaser Neechey) & Tagore (Kabuliwallah) ever found any similarities in their works? In both the films the ending finds the protagonist returning to his home country.
The child actor is superlative. Jeben Bose & Nripati Chaterjee act in supporting roles. The director uses a couple of Rabindrasangeet in the film. KHORO BAYU BOY BEGE is one of them. The music of the film was scored by sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Writing in the  South Asia Security Trends (Wed, Jul 09 2008)  Rahul K. Bhonsle  (Editor, Livemint) says

For most of us engrossed in our daily drudgery of potholes to work and late night outs on weekends, Afghanistan may be another land where a war-like situation prevails. But not long ago, the Pathan was a household name immortalized by Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwala, which can move even the hard-hearted to tears to this day. It also picturizes the harsh land that Afghanistan was then, and it is apparent that nothing much has changed.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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Watching JATUGRIHO one is likely to discover the chemistry between Uttam Kumar and Arundhuti Devi. Quite a few scenes in the film attest this fact. The pair also featured in other notable films like SUILI BARI, BICHARAK and others.
In the film the director Tapan Sinha seem to suggest that children are central to successful marriages and childless couples are doomed. I say this because I felt the director was trying to convey exactly this through the character of Anil Chatterjee and his family (Wife Kajal Chatterjee and kids) who inspite of financial hardship were shown to be happy with their lives singing Tagore songs and enjoying the charms of quotidian life.
I found thematic similarity of the film with the much later Rituparno Ghosh film ASOOKH. In both these films relationship crumble because the disease exist somewhere in the mind of their protagonist. The central text of infertility being the reason for the woman to walk out of the marriage is inconceivable in this age and times. Else all childless couples would have found their marriage on the rocks.
Interestingly the director never suggests adoption as a means to fill the void. Are we so obsessed that our progeny have to share our bloodline? The supporting cast includes Bikash Roy and others. The film was based on a story by Subodh Ghosh.

Rating; 3.5 out of 5

PS The writer Subodh Ghosh had once worked as a bus conductor, and thereafter as a truck driver to make end’s meet before making his marks as a writer whose stories have been the base of many timeless classic movies.