Archive for the ‘Utpal Dutta’ Category

Chalchitra / Kaleidoscope (1981, Dir. Mrinal Sen, India)

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This semi-comical snapshot of the middle class Bengali experience in Kolkata is apparently a minor work in Sen’s oeuvre. The story is slight; a young Bengali man Dipu (Anjan Dutta) aspires to be a journalist and as a sort of test of creativity, the editor of a newspaper (Utpal Dutta) asks Dipu to write a story based on his own middle class experiences. The story of Dipu trying to write is merely a pretext for Sen to remain connected with the urban landscape of Kolkata, a return to the richness of the city spaces, last probed with such pleasure since his Kolkata Trilogy. The socio-political urgency of Sen’s cinema after the aesthetic and thematic experiments of The Kolkata Trilogy never really went away from his work – he remained just as connected with the social milieu of the city. For instance, the uninhibited camera roaming freely through the fish market recalls Interview (70) when Ranjit meets his uncle, the first of many self-referential instances. Later, when Dipu tries to flag down a taxi in the bustling streets of Kolkata, Sen adopts an erratic editing style, articulating a blinding disorientation reminiscent of the street cinema of The Kolkata Trilogy, in which characters are liberated and imprisoned by the city in a scarring psychological duality.

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There is probably a consensus that Sen made two trilogies. The Kolkata Trilogy (1970 – 1973; InterviewCalcutta 71 and Padatik – although you could probably argue for Chorus too, which was released in 1974), and The Absence Trilogy (Ek Din Pratidin/And Quite Rolls The Dawn – 1979, Kharij/The Case Is Closed – 1982 and Ek Din Achanak/Suddenly, One Day – 1989).  I would argue Chalchitra is part of another trilogy, although much looser, but nonetheless important, which also includes Akaler Shandhaney/In Search of Famine (1980) and Khandahar/The Ruins (1983). The abiding theme in this trilogy is concerned with the media apparatus (film crew, photographer, journalist) and the role of the middle class in terms of mediating the politics of representation, exploitation and the gaze. In Chalchitra, Dipu’s urge to sensationalise the mundanity of the middle class experience constantly backfires on him because numerous opportunities for journalistic fodder are met with resistance from the people he encounters notably his mother (Geeta Dutt). It is only when a little boy poses the banal question: ‘How many ovens are there in Kolkata?’ does Dipu finally finds something to write about – pollution, smoke and coal. But this degree of obscurity points to something elemental about the middle class mentality and which results in Utpal Dutta enquiring if Dipu is a communist, a question first posed in Ray’s Pratidwandi (1970), and which seemingly never went away from the psyche of the older generation of Kolkata. Chalchitra features an elaborately staged but very comical dream sequence, clearly a manifestation of Dipu’s jumbled, anxious mind, and which features microcosmic imagery of smoke, women, the police and the press. There is a danger of dismissing Chalchitra as a minor, insubstantial work. However, once situated as part of a loose trilogy, the film takes on an added resonance and deserves a further look.

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There are certain films that you enjoy watching because of its rootedness, fine performances, social commentary, lovely songs and a light-hearted treatment while addressing issues of national concern. Inter-community marriages, the urgency of providing medical care in the villages, the need to adapt to changing social values have been woven into the storyline of ANAND ASHRAM.

The brilliance of Ashok Kumar as the patriarch, the chemistry of Uttam Kumar and

Sharmila Tagore, the able support by the supporting cast like Utpal Dutt, Moushumi Chatterjee, Rakesh Roshan and a memorable role for Asit Sen as a caretaker instrumental in raising the children of the orthodox family of Ashok Kumar are the highlights of this watchable film. The film was directed by Shakti Samanta.

Rating: 3.7 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

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

Path Bhola  1986 Tapas Pal, Prasenjit, Nayana Das, Utpal Dutta, Sandhya Roy, Abhishek Chattopadhyay, Nayna Das

This Tarun Mazumdar film narrates the tale of five youths running from the law. Their ignorance in reading the dubiousness of their employer engaged in adulterated pharmaceutical business played a cruel joke on them, and while trying to flee during a ‘cop raid’ in the factory where they worked, they had to bump off a cop or two during the gun battle that had resulted.  They take shelter in a remote village in the house of an elderly man (Utpal Dutta) who lives with his daughter-in-law (Sandhya Roy) and their ‘dumb’ servant.

What follows is a reformist tale – the youth are exposed to the duality of rural life which is a mix of extreme hardship and the joys and fellow-feeling among the tribal. Peppered with a liberal dose of patriotism through the invocation of the contributions by Khudiram Bose and Surja Sen and of the son of the elderly man who was shot while trying to escape from Andaman Jail, the director manages to make the film a message ridden watchable fare.

As usual, TM uses Rabindrasangeet like ‘Sedin Dujone..’  during the romantic sequence between Prasenjit and Noyana. Tapas Pal, Prasenjit and Noyana Das act in pivotal roles.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Utpal Dutta was one of the finest actors Indian Cinema has ever produced. In attempting to zero in on his top performances, I came up with the following list

    1. BHUVAN SHOME (1969)

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  • AGUNTUK (1991)

 

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  • GOLMAAL

 

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  • PADMA NADIR MAJHI

 

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  • APNE PARAYE

 

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  • SAHEB

 

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  • JOY BABA FELUNATH

 

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  • CHORUS

 

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  • HIRAK RAJAR DESHE

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  • PATHBHOLA

 

  • Path Bhola  1986 Tapas Pal, Prasenjit, Nayana Das, Utpal Dutta, Sandhya Roy, Abhishek Chattopadhyay, Nayna Das