Tag Archives: Bengali cinema

Harano Sur

Beautiful Bengali movie “Harano Sur” (1957) directed by Ajoy Kar and starring Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen among others.

Alok (Uttam Kumar) is in a mental hospital having lost his memory somehow. He is disoriented and Roma (Suchitra Sen) is treating him but she is not happy with the way another doctor Utpal Dutt is treating him. Alok escapes the hospital and somehow lands up at Roma’s house.

She spirits him away to her village Palaspur and starts on his recovery process. In the process she falls in love with him and marries him. Alok gets into another accident and recovers his original memory.

He heads back to Calcutta where he is a rich businessman. Roma somehow locates him at his office, but he fails to recognise him. She gets a job as a governess in his house, looking after his niece.

Its such a beautifully made movie and Suchitra Sen has done an absolutely magnificent role in the movie. Her soft touch acting is world class. Uttam Kumar has also done a superb role, very understated in his elegance. But it is Suchitra who carries the movie on her shoulders. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, besides looking sensationally beautiful in the movie.

Its an old script on you tube but watch it purely for Suchitra Sen. She is masterclass. IMDB 8/10

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Apur Sansar

Satyajit Ray’s magnum opus The Apu Trilogy of which Apur Sansar is the final part.

The movie starts with Apu (Soumitra Chatterjee) an unemployed youth having studied upto intermediate, does not find a job anywhere in Calcutta. He gets by giving private tuitions. One day his friend Pulu (Swapan Mukherjee) lands up at his house and asks him to accompany him to his cousin’s wedding in Khulna.

Out there tragedy occurs when the bridegroom turns out to a mad person and as per tradition if the bride Aparna (Sharmila Tagore) does not marry within the auspicious hour, then she has to remain unmarried her whole life. Apu comes to the rescue and marries her.

They have nice love life going on, when she has to return to her village for her delivery. She dies giving birth to a boy which shatters the life of Apu. It is from here that Satyajit Ray degrades the character from a happy go lucky loving smiling young man to a melancholy, depressed, anguished person ready to throw away all advantages. Its so brilliantly done which is the hallmark of Ray in most of his movies. He did that in Mahanagar and Nayak also.

Soumitra Chatterjee has given the performance of his lifetime, probably one of his best ever. I am surprised that he did not win any award for this movie. Its an extraordinary acting performance by Soumitra. Sharmila looks stunningly beautiful as the young bride with her dimpled smile, she is gorgeous in the movie.

The movie had to take an unnatural end with her premature death in the movie. In Pather Panchali also, young Durga dies leaving her parents disconsolate and here the same happens to Apu. Music by Ravi Shankar is very good as is the camera work, cinematography, direction by Satyajit Ray. Brilliant series. I am yet to watch the middle movie in the series, though.

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Avant garde neo realist movie by Mrinal Sen “Chaalchitra” (1981).

Young Dipu (Anjan Dutt) is a bright impressionable wannabe writer with stars in his eyes. He meets the leading editor of that time Utpal Dutt who offers him a chance to become a writer if he is able to bring in a story in two days’ time, the only condition being that the story should sell.

Dipu lives in a dilapidated chawl with his family and he sees every experience as a potential story. His mother uses coal for cooking which emits lot of smoke and is bad for the eyes and health. He then encounters the women who exchange new utensils for old clothes through extensive bargaining. He then meets a road side astrologer and interviews him to write a story.

But Dipu is not able to connect any of these stories and he is not able to put pen to paper. Two days are over and he meets the editor who is upset that he is not able to bring in a story. Dipu then narrates few themes to the editor who then becomes excited and urges him to build a story. But Dipu’s story has lots of ifs and buts upon which the editor comments that he is probably a communist.

In the end he gets a job in a newspaper not as a writer but as a technician in the press. He then finally manages to buy the much required for LPG gas for his mother. Most of the shots are closer to reality including the street shots of Calcutta. Mrinal Sen’s movie is a commentary on the state of affairs in Calcutta those times, when communism and its ideals don’t get you a job and money.

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Pather Panchali

Finally managed to watch the cult classic of Satyajit Ray “Pather Panchali” his first film and the first of the Apu trilogy made in 1955. This has been digitally restored in colour and has English sub titles.

Haunting story of Sarabajaya Roy (Karuna Banerjee), story of Durga Roy (Runki Banerjee/ Uma Dasgupta) – story of their plight and suffering in a rural Bengal mileau in the 1920s. Sarabajaya’s husband Haraihar Roy (Kanu Banerjee) is a priest but has to take up odd jobs in order to survive with his family. They stay with an old aunt Indir Thakrun (Chunibala Devi) and Apu (Subir Banerjee) is yet to be born. Chunibala Devi has done a delightful role as the old tootless bent but caring aunt.

Apu gets born and there is joy in the family due to birth of a son, and subtle degradation of Durga starts from that point. Anything Apu asks for or does is doted upon anything Durga asks or does is frowned upon. They don’t go to school, girls are married of at 14 itself.

The family has to suffer the taunts of their better off neighbours but some of them do help and commiserate with their plight. Harihar gets a job in town so leaves the family with hopes, but nary a letter from him for months reduces Sarabajaya to an abject despair. Meanwhile, the money starts running out so do the grains.

Heavy rain storms bring more misery to the family as their humble abode is completely wrecked while Durga and Apu enjoy the rains, being kids, Durga later on falls sick and there is an old wizened man to give his doctor’s verdict. Apply more wet cloth as the fever raises. Devastating scene when Harihar returns home and realises his darling Durga is no more. That scene when the father gives a sari which he bought as a gift for Durga to her mother and the mother crumbling down helplessly gutted me.

The silent suffering Sarabajaya magnificently played by Karuna Banerjee is the highlight of the movie. I am surprised she did not win any acting accolades for her role in the movie. It is absolutely one of the most beautiful roles played by any lady in any film in India. She is breathtaking. She makes the movie come alive with her raw emotions of suffering, despair, happiness, pain, anguish, worry, and love.

Uma Dasgupta playing the role of teenage Durga is the next best thing to happen in the movie. With her twinkling eyes, she enraptures the audience and behind that naughtiness is an emotion of understanding, of responsibility of caring for her little brother.

Apu played by Subir Banerjee with his naughty eyes, disheveled hair, sprightly running holds a mirror to what young kids be like irrespective of the cultures they are brought up in. There is a haunting scene, when immediately after Durga’s death the young Apu, comes out of the ramshackle house, neatly dressed, takes a comb and burnishes his hair properly, looks up at the sky to see if the rain beckons, goes inside the house to pick up an umbrella, tucks it under his armpits and goes out seriously. That is the scene when boy become man in the movie.

The movies is neo realist in the sense that locations are actual villages with farms, ponds, trees, etc. Music by Ravi Shankar is haunting, while cinematography and photography are breathtaking to say the least. Satyajit Ray has run a nice tight script and being his debut film which won the National film award and also the Cannes, it is highly commendable.

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Akaler Shandaney

Mrinal Sen’s haunting self critical classic “Akaler Shandaney” (1982) starring Smita Patil, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Sreela Majumdar, Rajen Tarafdar, a timeless cult classic.

Its a film within a film in the sense that a film unit goes into a village to shoot a movie about the great Bengal famine of 1943 killing more than 5 million people. The Director Dhritiman is a thinking sort of person ready to listen to the others point of view. They settle into an old decrepit run down mansion in which the owner is staying in one room tendering to her bed ridden husband.

Smita Patil plays the role of a housewife in the famine movie with sons and husband to take care of. The husband and his father do not want to part with their piece of land for Rs.50 (believe it or not) because they have pride in the land. Smita has to resort to other means by visiting a local contractor to get rice for the family. Ultimately all the villagers leave the village with their belongings on their head but at one point Smita turns around, looks at the village she is leaving by and breaks down and cries uncontrollably.

Meanwhile the film unit has an usual star problem with one lady star deciding to cut her hair, do her eyebrows which is not suited for a famine stricken women she is playing at. After some tantrums she leaves the unit in a huff, which renders them critically short of one actor. There is one lady Durga (Sreela Majumdar) who works in the film unit, sweeping floors and making tea and earning Rs.7 per day and one time meal. While she is watching the scene being enacted by Smita in which her husband is threatening to pick up the kid and throw it down, Durga suddenly reacts with alarm. Her husband has no job having lost his arm in a factory accident and she has a baby to take care of. Both these women, Durga and the other lady caring for her bed stricken husband are survivors of the great Bengal famine.

While scouting for a replacement actor in the vital part, Rajen Tarafdar suggests one village damsel who is apparently quite smart and suitable for the role. But when the girl’s father listens to the plot and the part that his daughter has to play that of a prostitute, he suddenly backs off, blaming the film unit for disgracing their lives. The villagers, thereafter, are up in arms against the film unit and they ultimately have to leave the village without completing the full shooting. The headmaster of the local village school reminds all the villagers of how they have profited from the famine.

In the last scene, the headmaster of the local village school tells the director that the fault is with both the parties. The villagers with their selfishness, greed, ignorance and the film makers with their inability to understand the sensitivities of the rural people. The dice is brilliantly thrown both sides by Mrinal Sen. For eg. there is one scene in which the film unit goes to the local village market and buys off all the vegetables and fruits for which a local villager accuses them of creating a mini famine. There is another scene in which the film unit people play games with photos of the dead people from famines or tragedies from different eras. So its like a brutally self critical film brilliantly made by Mrinal Sen.

Of the cast, Smita Patil, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Rajen Tarafdar and Sreela Majumdar have acted quite brilliantly.

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Ahaa Re

Beautiful Bengali movie “Ahaa Re” (2019) of much love, depth, understanding, affection, grief, guilt, anguish, poetry, caring, directed by Ranjan Ghosh. Farhaz Chowdhary alias Raja (Arifin Shuvoo) from Dhaka is a much acclaimed chef from Bangladesh lands up in Kolkata to be the chef of his friend’s fine dine restaurant. There while having meals delivered to him at home, he falls in love with Basundhara (Rituparna Sengupta). He does not know her background. He also has his own background at Dhaka with his parents.

The movie takes its own time to cook slowly, unravelling the plots and characters like a fine meal. Camera work and cinematography is quite breathtaking, music is very much in tune with the emotions of the movie. There is lot of guilt and then reconciliation towards the end, which is very deep and emotional. All the characters have acted very well, but it is Paran Bandopadhyay as Atanu Ganguly the senior in the house of Basundhara who has done the most beautiful acting all, getting in the skin of the character he was playing as the anguished old man with his grief hidden inside him. Rituparna does a good role as the restrained and matured older woman who breaks down in the end, and so has Arifin Shuvoo, the Bangladeshi actor.

Not revealing the plot too much, because this is a movie to be watched.

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This is the 1957 Bengali movie directed by Tapan Sinha and based on Rabindranath Tagore short story. There was a later Hindi movie made in 1961 starring Balraj Sahni. This Bengali movie won the National film award for the best Bengali film. Its a very powerful and moving story of an Afghan trader who comes down to India to trade his wares leaving behind his family in Kabul. He has a daughter of about 5 or 6 years old, whom he misses very much. So when he espies a similar looking 5 year old kid in Calcutta, he becomes very attached to the kid. He gets booked in an assault case and has to spend 8 years in jail before he is released and goes back to find that same 5 year old kid, who has now grown up to be a marriageable girl. Very emotionally gut wrenching movie towards the end. Its a simple story said in a simple style and directed very well. The music by Pandit Ravi Shankar is exemplary throughout the movie.

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Brilliant noir film by Satyajit Ray, “Nayak” (1966) explores the dark underbelly of a film star’s imperfections. Made in black and white and starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore as the central protagonists, the film is shot entirely inside a moving train except the opening shot and few sequences in his dreams/ recollections. Arindam (Uttam Kumar) is a huge film star going to New Delhi to receive an award in a second class train from Calcutta of those days. His arrival at the train station and inside the train creates a buzz amongst the passengers. Aditi (Sharmila Tagore) is a journalist writing for a women’s magazine and wants to interview him. Over the course of the interview which takes three to four sittings, Arindam degenerates his personality from a confident movie star into a insecure, distressed, unsure, nervous person due to ephemeral nature of his profession. All along his biggest fear is that three flops will take him down to the gutter. Satyajit Ray has interspersed the narration with three to four episodes from Arindam’s past such as his first ever day in the films, his betrayal of his friend who becomes a union leader, his inability to help a lady who wants a career out in the movies. In one scene he is seen desperately clutching bank notes as he is sinking deeper and deeper into a morass from which even his mentor Shankarda is unable to help him. Satyajit Ray has also added minor sub plots in the movie in the train itself with one lady wanting to act in the movies but whose husband wants her to inveigle herself to a potential client who is enamoured of her. That man’s wife and children are in the same coupe as Arindam and the daughter who is sick from the beginning of the train journey recovers towards the end. There is a Hitchockian touch to the movie. The to and fro between Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore is brilliantly done and Uttam Kumar’s character from a confident assured movie star to a distressed despairing insecure individual is brilliantly done by Uttam Kumar. Sharmila Tagore looks glamorous and alluring when she removes her thick glasses.  

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Classic Satyajit Ray movie “Mahanagar” made in 1963 in black and white once again a woman centric movie by the master, after “Kanchenjunga” which was made in 1962 also a woman oriented movie. Quite a genius to make a woman centric movie in the 60s, advanced thinking for the ages. This one is a beautiful film with traces of psychological drama in it, but Ray brilliantly picks it up towards the end. Brilliant performance by Madhabi Mukherjee in the main role of Arati the demure wife of Subrata Mazumdar, the banker who is just making by with his salary with old parents to take care of plus his kid and a sister as well. They live in a old ramshackle house with no fans and no cooking gas. His father is a retired teacher and likes to play the crossword in order to win some prize money. Then they decide that Arati can work to supplement the income of the family. She applies and secures a job as well and becomes quite a star performer in her company. Then all hell breaks loose because it is a patriarchal family system, how can a women go out and work, a silent war rages on between the elderly in laws and the woman. But pangs of jealousy and guilt start hurting the husband, this is where Anil Chatterjee as the husband has performed a bravura role. The wife starts earning more, starts wearing lipstick, sun glasses, appoints maid for the house, meets other gentleman in a cafe, all of which troubles the husband. The husband also loses his job because of a run in his bank. There is one shot in the movie, when Arati is eating and leaves the plate on the floor and asks her husband to do something in a subtly higher voice.  The transformation of Arati as demure, house bound, insecure woman to a confident, courageous, bold woman is quite brilliant and subtle and Madhabi has done her part quite brilliantly in that. At this juncture, Ray takes the script down to show the decay in the husband and when i think he would go for the complete melt down of the husband, but that does not happen. There is one instance in the end, when the husband says to the wife “if you succumb what will happen to us”. Ray has controlled the pace in the movie quite brilliantly. The final shot is fitting in that he pans over a city with tall buildings, the only time, the movie refers to its title “Mahanagar” meaning big city.  Beautifully made movie which has the master’s stamp all over it. 

Picture taken from the internet and not with an intention to violate the copyright. 

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