Utpal Borpujari

July 8, 2010

Haasan retro in Delhi sets IFFI anomaly right

By Utpal Borpujari

Superstar Kamal Haasan, who had refused to have a retrospective at the last International Film Festival of India (IFFI) because only three of his films were being shown there, has now been honoured with a special retrospective of seven films celebrating his 50 years in the industry.

The three-day retrospective kicked off at the Siri Fort Auditorium in the capital Friday evening in the presence of Haasan and Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, the occasion used by the former to announce his plans to direct more films in the near future.

While the last IFFI in Goa had restrospectives of Saumitra Chatterjee, Asha Parekh and Sharmila Tagore, all of whom had completed 50 years in cinema, Haasan had declined to have a retrospective since it would have just three of his films.

Both Haasan and the government, however, had valid arguments on the issue, which is why both sides had agreed to have a separate retrospective of the star incoporating seven films, a number insisted upon by Haasan.

While Haasan had argued that three films would not justify his wide repertoire, which includes films in all the four South Indian languages as well as Hindi, apart from his directorial ventures, the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), the organisers of IFFI, had expressed its inability to screen more than three films because of the tight schedule of the festival.

Immediately thereafter, Soni had announced that there would be a separate retrospective of the star in Delhi later.

Haasan, who flew in from Italy where he is shooting for his latest film, was at his gracious best at the inauguration of the retrospective with his film Hey Ram!, and said he hoped that the next decade would be the best years of his career as he was writing screenplays and planning to direct more films.

“I am not the one to languish about what has been done. I am looking forward to the next 10 years which I hope will be the best years of my career,” said the star who had started his acting career as a five year old in 1959 with the Tamil film Kalathoor Kannamma.

The retrospective comprises, apart from Hey Ram!, Anbe Sivam, Virumandi, Thevar Magan, Sagara Sangamam, Dasavatharam and Nayagan.

Giving a peek into his plans, Haasan said, “I will direct more films. I have done Hey Ram and Virumandi and there will be more… There are so many actors, people and talents, who haven’t got their moment of glory and if possible I would like to help all of them,” he added.

“This journey seems very short. I owe a lot to my supportive family and my gurus, who taught me what I am today. Especially, two of my gurus paid me to learn from them. I am made up of all those blocks they put in. It’s not humility. I have a talent of my own but I owe it up to them,” Haasan said a bit philosophically.

Soni, felicitating Haasan, described him as a pan-India phenomenon and said, “Haasan as an artist over a period of time has balanced cinema with realism. His portrayal of different characters created a pan India phenomenon, breaking the barriers of age groups, language and commercial interest. Some of his portrayals have left a deep imprint across all generations,” she said. 

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 04-07-2010)


November 9, 2009

A richly detailed sketch of life and cinema of Mrinal Sen

By Utpal Borpujari

It has been seven years since Mrinal Sen made a film. His last film, Amaar Bhuvan (This, My Land) was in 2002. Since then, the ageing maestro has been lying low, presumably not able to undertake the physical rigour that filmmaking demands of a director. Sen, along with Satyajit Ray and Ritwick Ghatak, forms the trinity of great Bengali filmmakers that took Indian cinema to great heights. Both Ray and Ghatak are long gone, the latter’s cinematic genius recognized much after his death. Sen, quite literally, remains the last link to the golden period of Bengali cinema, which saw Bengal speak for India at international cinema platforms. If Ray was the master of the narrative in true Hollywoodean style, Ghatak was the enfant terrible, and Sen the maverick, who never compromised with his beliefs for the sake of aligning with market demands. Dipankar Mukhopadhyay’s book brings alive that very Sen, recreating his journey as a filmmaker whose convictions about how he saw cinema was unwavering come what may.

This is actually not a new book, but a revised version of the author’s earlier “The Maverick Maestro” that came out in 1995. But it still makes informative, and in parts fascinating, reading, particularly the portions that go into the details of the famous Sen-Ray squabbles over different visions of what they believed cinema should be. Sen had made a less-than-laudatory debut with Raatbhore (The Dawn) (1955) after years of pursuing his dream to be a filmmaker even as he continued as a frustrated medical representative, but soon thereafter he found his touch, coming up first with Neel Akasher Nichey (Under the Blue Sky) (1958) to get local recognition and Baishe Shravan (The Wedding Day) (1960) that gave him international exposure. The book captures Sen’s life, from the time he was a little boy in Faridpur (now in Bangladesh) to his early struggles and then emergence as a great filmmaker.

The unrelenting principled vision, the struggles, the applause, the controversies – everything about his cinema is captured eloquently in this book, which with Mukhopadhyay’s insight as a government official who worked long years with departments that had to do with cinema, provides for a good study of the filmmaker’s career graph, particularly how he developed his various projects and went on to execute them.  And then there are interesting nuggets – such as how he got inspired to develop the title character of his most successful film, “Bhuvan Shome”, a typical hardboiled bureaucrat, from a Railway official of that name who accompanied him on a trip to the Moscow film festival in 1969.

But the most fascinating parts of the book are those that recreate in detail the infamous exchange of words, through letters in the media, Sen and Ray had, first after the latter strongly criticised Sen’s 1965 film Akash Kusum through a series of letters in The Statesman newspaper, and then in 1991, a “private letter” Ray had written to a “friend” criticizing Sen was leaked to an English daily, creating a major controversy. But then, it would be unfortunate if one reads the book just for this bit, because it provides in great detail how Mrinal Sen became Mrinal Sen the great filmmaker. For any film enthusiast, this is what makes compulsive reading.

(Mrinal Sen : Sixty Years in Search of Cinema; by Dipankar Mukhopadhyay; Harper Collins; pp 316; Rs 399)

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 08-11-2009)


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