Archive for the ‘Two Hundred Bengali Cinema’ Category

parashuram

(Pix src: mrinalsen.org)

I recently saw the 1979 Mrinal Sen directed PARASHURAM on Youtube. It is generally considered as a lesser work in the ouvre of the veteran filmmaker. Watching the film, I found several strands which MS uses in this particular work, that find recurrence in many of his later films, some of which are considered to be among ‘his very best.’

PARASHURAM (THE MAN WITH THE AXE) is a tale of the sub-altern migrants in a city. Many of them were small time farmers who couldn’t sustain a livelihood back in the village. The influx into the city hasn’t improved their conditions, and they have been reduced to pavement dwellers in a city which prides itself on its moniker ‘The City of Joy.’

But does joy embrace the life of these have-nots, or wretchedness pervades their existence? No Indian director excelled in weaving humour around a central ‘grim narrative’ like MS, the light-hearted moments providing relief and yet contributing in the progression of the storyline, showcasing the dreams and aspirations of the protagonists. Probably this story-telling style is an ode to Charlie Chaplin, a favourite of the director. Though in his earlier CHORUS, MS had used a gimmicky style quite innovatively, some of the characters in that film were from the upper echelons of society. In PARASHURAM Sen has focused his lens on the pavement dwellers and brings in certain tenderness while narrating their life stories which are otherwise harsh – this technique was used in great abundance in his last film AAMAR BHUBAN. A particular shot of Sreela Mazumdar framed against a wall  is reminiscent of a similar shot of Shabana Azmi in KHANDAHAR (1983) which became iconic a few years later.

The non-returning of a woman to her home, which formed the main narrative of the masterful EK DIN PRATIDIN (1979), also finds appearance in a sub-plot in PARASHURAM. Allegorical use to represent class struggle and its inevitable destiny, surrealism that reflect the mental conditions of the protagonists and such devices, have been skillfully used to broaden the context – from the individual to the collective.

Through some of the characters in the film, the director seems to be making a critique on modern existence. When the elderly character of Bibhas Chakraborty narrates to our ‘Parashuram’ a tale of the missing girl being rescued and saved from a devastating flood in her early life, yet she couldn’t be saved from the magnetic pull of the cities (she elopes with her lover) later, the underlying social message does come to the fore.

Overall, such a grim subject on pavement dwellers runs the risk of being boring and sentimental, but it’s to the credit of the director that he elevates the film to become an authentic celluloid document of the homeless in our metro cities. The growing homelessness across the globe is a major challenge to cope with for developing / developed country.  For example, in the National Capital Region of India where I live, even now each year several homeless people die during the harsh winters – something that is a blot on our society.

As far as I recall, this is probably the only film the private Marxist filmmaker (as Mrinalda liked to describe himself)  has made that has a direct reference to the Hindu religion, the titular character being a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and though being a Brahmin was known for his warlike traits. Whether the protagonist in the film succeed in vanquishing all the adversaries like the character from Hindu folklore, one would refrain from divulging such details and would recommended watching the film, which despite the harshness remains a work brimming with hope and despair, cinematic novelty and an authentic portrayal of the marginalized, often viewed as the dregs of society.

SG

Rating: 4 out of 5

Excerpts from an Mrinal Sen Interview:

Tell us about your latest film.

Ans: My latest film – a kind of fiction- documentary combine- called PARASHURAM, depicts life on the city pavements. The pavement dwellers are mostly rural migrants who once were landless farmers and who are now reduced to the level of the sub-proletariat community. The leading character, not by any chance my protagonist, once killed a tiger with him axe while felling trees in a jungle. It was just on an impulse that he killed the tiger. But, as everybody knows, Parashuram’s crusade against the Kshatriya’s was an act of retribution. My job in the film was not to look for the militants among the rural migrants. It was just to make a few valid socio- economic points and, in the process, to be critical of the soul-killing system prevalent in our society and also to develop respect for the circumstances in which my characters live and perish.  In a way, the film also tries to portray the concept of an average man who, suffering humiliations all his life, indulges in pitifully impotent fantasies. I wanted the film to be funny and grim.

Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/metrolife/metrolife-move/auteur-mrinal-sen-indian-712015.html

bhalo

The film I saw yesterday was BHALO THEKO directed by Gautam Halder. BT has several layers – at one layer the film showed the exploitation and sacrifices of women for the family like Ghatak’s MEGHE DHAKA TARA. In another layer, the film depicted the torment the family undergoes when one of its member get involved in a revolutionary movement, similar to Mrinal Sen’s MAHAPRITHIBI. The impressive debut of the director is laced with a poetical treatment and emphasises the need for us to care for and live in harmony with nature. Vidya Balan plays the pivotal role and the supporting cast includes Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Joy Sengupta, Debisankar Halder, Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Anusya Mazumdar and others.

Rating: 4 out of 5

drishtikone

DHRISTIKONE – A woman (Rituparna Sengupta) who loses her husband (Kaushik Sen) in a mysterious car accident hires a married lawyer (Praenjit Chaterjee). An adulterous affair ensue … there is intrigue in the plot at multiple levels – in the case the lawyer is fighting for his client and the relationship he gets drawn into. The wife (Churni Ganguly) gradually gets to know about the transgression of her lawyer husband. The other characters like the brother of the deceased (Kaushik Ganguly) , wheel-chair bound (he was in the same car with his brother which met with an accident), and his maid (Dolon Roy) have intrigue written all over the narrative.

The film touches upon issues of familial love and infedility, human greed and the resultant consequences & an irrational need to cling on to the departed. The end is satisfying containing an interesting twist in the tale. Well-directed by Kaushik Ganguly.

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

BISARJAN is a heart-warming film in the sense that it depicts a magnanimous tale of rescue and growing bond between two unlikely protagonists – a Muslim man (Abir Chaterjee) from India and a Hindu widow (Maya Ahson) from Bangladesh. Both the protagonists are from the minority community in their respective countries. With the rise of fundamentalist forces across the two countries, this essentially humane story weaves in issues like loneliness, love and sacrifice, lust and betrayal, and the power of commune to reform individuals.

The filming qualities – of the unfolding of the narrative, the camerawork and the use of background songs are superlative bearing the stamp of a great filmmaker. Like Gautam Ghose’s SHANKACHIL this particular film weaves in sub-texts of Indo-Bangladesh ties across the border areas, though both the films are essentially human tales. The director Kaushik Ganguly acts in a supporting role of the suitor for the widow with elan.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Bengali cinema continues to spring a surprise now and then. It is heartening to find a brilliant film from the relatively new actor-turned-director Parambrata Chattopadhyay (PC). The film SONAR PAHAR (Mountain of Gold) features the return of veteran Bollywood actress Tanuja (Teen Bhubaner Parey, Adalat O Ekti Mey) to the Bengali screen and portrays her as a lonely widower who values her independent existence living by herself in an ancestral house. She has differences with her son (Jishu Sengupta) and especially her daughter-in-law (Arunima Ghosh). Enters a young boy from orphanage self-proclaimed to be afflicted with AIDS into her life through the iniatiative of her son’s friend (PC)…

The film traces the growing bond between the duo and how the lady tries to fill the vaccum in her life caused by the actual absence of her son in her life through the orphan boy. This is a touching film that deals with the loneliness of the elderly and the complexities that arise in human relationships and advocates the need to walk the extra mile to fill the void caused by the rift with one’s immediate family members.

Kudos to PC for a brilliant direction… The filming qualities are top-notch effectively capturing the sombre mood of the film with the much-needed lighter sequences in a neat package. The veteran actor Soumitro Chattopadhyay features in a cameo.

Rating; 3.8 out of 5

 

Image result for cockpit movie

It is heartening to find the new breed of promising filmmakers from Bengal breaking out of the Mrinal-Satyajit-Ritwik mould of intense filmmaking and tackle subjects that are fresh and unchartered. Srijit Mukherjee, Anjan Dutt, Aniruddha Rai Choudhuri & Kamleshwar Mukherjee are exploring themes on a broader canvas beyond conventional settings, though admittedly, have to show greater mastery at their craft to reach anywhere near the level of the masters of Bengali cinema.

COCKPIT directed by Kamleshwar Mukherjee featuring Dev as a born pilot encountering turbulent weather on one such occasion which progresses towards a near-death experience for the passengers before a gallant effort by the Captain Pilot saves the day and the aircraft from crashing. Though the film has commercial elements in terms of songs and romantic angles, this work inspired by real life incidents is quite watchable.

The director certainly deserves an applause for making a film (possibly the  first in Indian cinema) on on life-threatening turbulence encounter on the skies by an aircraft with onboard passengers. Don’t expect a SULLY but certainly worth a dekko.

The supporting cast includes Prasenjit, Koel Mullick, Rukmini Moitra, Paran Bandopadhyay and others.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Asi Te Asio Na

A neglected octogenarian (Bhanu Bandopadhyay) stumbles upon a miraculous discovery…Fed up with the ill-treatment meted out to him and his wife (Ruma Guha Thakurta) by his children, he longs for an escape from his dreary existence. Accidentally, he even finds a solution to all of his woes. He discovers a pond where on taking a dip one regains his youth. When he transforms into a handsome young man, many were forced to accept the miracle as real. Quite predictably, all hell breaks loose …

From a chemist keen to investigate the composition of the water in the pond, senior officers in the Govt. keen to cash on its benefits, the change in the behavior of the children and their wives towards the man, sundry characters trying to make the most of the situation – everything adds up to make this an absolutely laugh riot.

Bhanu Bandopadhyay and Robi Ghosh deliver sterling performances. The supporting cast which includes Ruma Guha Thakurta, Kamal Mitra, Renuka, Asit Baran, Tarun Kumar, Shyam Laha and others perform creditably.

Does Bhanu forever remain young? Could such a miracle really have taken place? Watch the film to know the answers …one of the most hilarious Bengali films ever IMHO.