All posts filed under: Mrinal Sen

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

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 …

KHARIJ / THE CASE IS CLOSED (Dir. Mrinal Sen, 1982, India)

A cold front has swept across the city of Calcutta, bringing it to a near stand still. But it’s not just the weather too blame for the prejudices harboured by a middle class family residing in Calcutta. One day an impoverished father, Hari (Dehapratim Das Gupta), comes to their home with a proposition; will the family take on his young son Pupai (Indranil Moitra) as a child servant? At first, the family are reluctant. They criticise the last child servant who only remained with them for a few months before absconding. Eventually they agree and Hari tells them he will return at the end of each month to collect the wages for his son. As the cold snap continues, one morning Pupai is found dead on the kitchen floor. The death comes as a shock to the family. A police investigation is opened into the death of the boy and the family are scrutinised for failing to properly care for the child servant. As the investigation progresses it becomes evident Pupai died from carbon monoxide …

AKALER SANDHANE / IN SEARCH OF FAMINE (Dir. Mrinal Sen, 1981, India)

It is clear to see Mrinal Sen’s 1983 film Khandhar is in fact an extension and a companion piece to his 1981 film Akaler Sandhane considered by many to be his masterpiece. Thematically both films use the figure of the artist – in this case a film maker to interrogate the conflict between the old and the new, tradition and modernity and the lower and privileged classes. The introspective film maker (Dhritiman Chatterjee) is perhaps the closest Sen came to representing his own anxieties about the film making process. Similarly like Khandhar the journey from the urban to the rural is a central motif as it permits Sen to question the legitimacy of the film crew in their exploitation of an impoverished Bengali village for suitable cinematic mise en scene. The narrative follows a film crew attempting gallantly but ultimately failing to make a film on the Bengal famine of 1943 (genocide perpetrated by the British empire and World War II) that resulted in the deaths of at least three million people. The crew arrive …

KANDAHAR / THE RUINS (Dir. Mrinal Sen, 1983, India)

                    The gaze of the photographer Subhash (Naseeruddin Shah) is one that shows little compassion for the predicament of those imprisoned in the past. Whilst the initial reaction to marry Jamini (Shabana Azmi) is motivated by sentiment, it holds no actual validity or merit when the decisive moment arises. Subhash sees reality through the lens of his camera – it is a critical distance that stops him from becoming emotionally involved with the subject. The image of Jamini he captures frozen in the milieu of the feudal ruins transforms her plea for escape into a ghostly memory akin to the photos hanging grotesquely in the photo studio of Subhash. He is strictly an observer and preserver of reality which is an aspect of his flawed and troubling personality that Jamini is unable to comprehend. Additionally, Subhash views the feudal past through a tourist like perspective. Jamini is rendered a prisoner of the past by simplifying reality through his photographic lens which essentially cannibalizes rural India and …