As legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen in his death left behind a legacy perhaps not possible to imitate, a battery of political leaders paid their tribute to the departed soul.
“The passing of noted filmmaker and Padma Bhushan, Mr. #MrinalSen marks the end of an era. A Dada Sahib Phalke Awardee, his extraordinary storytelling made his films defining pieces of cinema. A great loss to the Indian film fraternity. My condolences to the family,” tweeted former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
“Saddened by the demise of veteran filmmaker #MrinalSen…From Bhuvan Shome to Mrigayaa, his films were beautiful depictions of social realities on the silver screen…His passing away is the end of an era, and an irreparable loss for the Indian film industry,” wrote Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore.
One of the Doyen of Bengali cinema Mrinal Sen passed away on Sunday morning, at the age of 95. The legendary filmmaker breathed his last at his Bhwanipur, Kolkata residence.
Sen was a contemporary of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak and was celebrated for pioneering the way for parallel cinema in Indian film history with his masterpieces.
The legend behind the camera leaves a rich legacy of films that were socially and politically relevant.
His master-creations include ‘Bhuvan Shome’ ‘Mrigaya’, ‘Ek Din Pratidin’, ‘Khandahar’, ‘Kolkata 71’, ‘Akash Kusum’, ‘Padatik’ and ‘Neel Akasher Neechay’ which was Sen’s directorial venture will always be remembered for his unique story telling. ‘Neel Akasher Neechay’ is also being the first film ever to be banned in independent India. In this film Sen depicted the bond between a housewife, Basanti and a street vendor, Wang Lu and the film was banned for its deep political overtones.
The monochrome film was set in India’s 1930 backdrop under the British Raj that showed an India where the bourgeois, rich and socially progressed people did not care about the disadvantaged even though they lived under the same blue sky. Hence, the title is apt for the film ‘Neel Akasher Neechay’ that means ‘under the same blue sky’. Sen who was himself a Communist, his film was carrying a Communist message and that was too uncomfortable for a socialist regime like that of Nehru.
Mrinal Sen made his directorial debut with a feature film, ‘Raat Bhore’ in 1955, which starred famous actor Uttam Kumar.
Sen, much like his contemporary filmmaker Ray, often depicted the Indian society’s poverty issue in his many of films. But without walking down to the same street with Satyajit Ray, he tried to portrayed poverty as a tragic burden on human lives. The filmmaker has depicted it as a social menace inflicted by class differences and his ability of depiction of socio-political context through the lens has made him unique as an on screen story teller.
When he was just eight, was arrested for participating in a protest march. Perhaps, it was also the same year, when Sen watched his first film Charlie Chaplin’s Kid, which sparked his love and interest for cinema. He never made films on politics, but if you go through his films, that will surely take you on a political ride. His body of work is a classic example of political satire. The way he has presented socio-political issues wrapped in humor really amazes cine-intellectuals.
Sen’s film trilogy (Interview, Calcutta 71 and Padatik) is also worth to mention.
‘Interview’ (1970) was the first in that trilogy, which stars famous Bengali actor Ranjit Mallik. The film is based on India’s colonial hangover. After the British left, the middle class society continued with their own enigma, their traditions and the fact that protagonist Ranjit realized after being rejected for a job, just because he doesn’t owned a formal suit. In this film, Sen used newsreels, images of the Vietnam War and the African-American movement. He also put the Brektian-style of filmmaking and made his protagonist talk to the audience directly.
‘Calcutta 71’ (1972) is undoubtedly Sen’s one of best creation in terms of style and narrative. In this film, he uses his characters not as individuals, but as representatives of a certain class or section of the society. The story will show you the angry, ruthless and at the same time passionate phase of a class. It has several different story threads which are all woven by a common narrator.
Then third and last part of the trilogy is one of his masterpieces of work ‘Padatik’ (1973). Sen used to believe in Marxism. And the director raises questions about the left movement in this film.
Talking about his last film ‘Amar Bhuvan’ (2002), during the shooting Sen had said that his work drains out almost all his energy. “After I make a film, I feel like collapsing but then I wake up again,” he said. ‘Amar Bhuvan’ highlights the issue of tolerance and pluralism in a segmented society. The film won Best director award at Cairo and Best Actress for Nandita Das.
Apart from winning National Awards several time, the film maestro received country’s highest film honor, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005.
He was also awarded India’s third highest civilian award, Padma Bushan in 1983.
Retrospectives of Sen’s films have been shown in many countries across the globe. He was also recipient of French government’s Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters Award.
As the news came out, tributes for the iconic director have started pouring in on social media. While President Ram Nath Kovind called his death a loss to world cinema, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore too have condoled his death.