Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Masters of Indian Cinema

Masters of Indian Cinema

SATYAJIT RAY

"The quiet but deep observation, understanding and love of the human race, which are characteristic of all his films, have impressed me greatly. ...I feel that he is a "giant" of the movie industry."
- Akira Kurosawa

Satyajit Ray, an Indian filmmaker and among the dozen or so great masters of world cinema, is known for his humanistic approach to cinema. He made his films in Bengali, a language spoken in the eastern state of India - West Bengal. And yet, his films are of universal interest. They are about things that make up the human race - relationships, emotions, struggle, conflicts, joys and sorrows.
The Master Storyteller
Satyajit Ray, the master storyteller, has left a cinematic heritage that belongs as much to India as to the world. His films demonstrate a remarkable humanism, elaborate observation and subtle handling of characters and situations. The cinema of Satyajit Ray is a rare blend of intellect and emotions. He is controlled, precise, meticulous, and yet, evokes deep emotional response from the audience. His films depict a fine sensitivity without using melodrama or dramatic excesses. He evolved a cinematic style that is almost invisible. He strongly believed - "The best technique is the one that's not noticeable".

Though initially inspired by the neo-realist tradition, his cinema belongs not to a specific category or style but a timeless meta-genre of a style of story telling that touches the audience in some way. His films belong to a meta-genre that includes the works of Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Chaplin, David Lean, Federico Fellini, Fritz Lang, John Ford, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel, Yasujiro Ozu, Ritwik Ghatak and Robert Bresson. All very different in style and content, and yet creators of cinema that is timeless and universal.
Impressive Oeuvre
Satyajit Ray's films are both cinematic and literary at the same time; using a simple narrative, usually in a classical format, but greatly detailed and operating at many levels of interpretation.

His first film, Pather Panchali (Song of the little road, 1955) established his reputation as a major film director, winning numerous awards including Best Human Document, Cannes, 1956 and Best Film, Vancouver, 1958. It is the first film of a trilogy - The Apu Trilogy - a three-part tale of a boy's life from birth through manhood. The other two films of this trilogy are Aparajito (The Unvanquished, 1956) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959).

His later films include Jalsaghar (The Music Room, 1958), Devi (The Goddess, 1960), Teen Kanya (Two Daughters, 1961), Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1964), Nayak (The Hero, 1966), Asani Sanket (Distant Thunder, 1973), Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players, 1977), Ghare Baire (The Home and the World, 1984), Ganashatru (An Enemy Of The People, 1989) and Shakha Prashakha (Branches Of The Tree, 1991). Agantuk (The Stranger, 1991) was his last film.
True Auteur
Ray directly controlled many aspects of filmmaking. He wrote all the screenplays of his films, many of which were based on his own stories.

He designed the sets and costumes, operated the camera since Charulata (1964), he composed the music for all his films since 1962 and designed the publicity posters for his new releases.

In addition to filmmaking, Ray was a composer, a writer and a graphic designer. He even designed a new typeface. In 1961, he revived and continued to publish the Bengali children's magazine "Sandesh", which was founded by his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray .
Awards
In 1978, the organizing committee of the Berlin Film Festival ranked him as one of the three all-time best directors. In 1992, Satyajit Ray received the honorary Academy Award ©A.M.P.A.S. ® - Lifetime Achievement - "In recognition of his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures and for his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world." Other honors include "Lègion d'Honneur", France and "Bharatratna" (Jewel of India).


Dadasaheb Phalke

Dadasaheb Phalke is regarded as the Father of Indian Cinema. Born as Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, at Trymbakeshwar near Nasik in 1870, Being son of a shastri, Dajishastri Phalke, he was commited to be Shastri and was trained for a career, as a Sanskrit scholar, Dadasaheb Phaik as he was to be later called, came to Bombay with his family, when his father joined Wilson college as Professor. Having a keen interest in arts, Dadasaheb Phalke joined Sir J. J. School of Arts in 1885 for a course in Drawing and then continued with his art studies at Baroda's famous Kalabhavan. 

Initially he earned his living painting the scenes for various dramatic companies, Later he started on photography.In 1903 he joined the Archaeological Department as a photographer and this was where he was introduced to the magic of cinema. Thus, 'Raja Harishchnadra' was made in 1913 under the banner of Phalke Film Co.In 1917 Phalke Film Co. was incorporated into the Hindustan Film Co. 

Dadasaheb's 'Raja HarishChandra' is recognized as the first indigenously made 'story' film.itwas released in Bombay in 1913, and was not only produced, directed, written and photographed by him, but also processed, printed and edited by him, Except for the imported camera, the processing outfit and the raw film, which were not made in India, everything was organized by him locally. 

Thus,D.G.Phalke was the greatest pioneer of the Indian Cinema.who established the basic norms of film-making in almost every department of this conglomerate art.He was his own scenarist,cameraman,art-director, costume designer, editor,processor, printer, developer, projectionist and even distributor. This one man institution gave its most fundamental traditions in film making and established the motion picture as a form of entertainment,a medium, an art, and an aspect and extension of indian culture. In fact it was Dadasaheb Phalke who introduced the first heroine to India Cinema.

Those were the times when there was dearth of talented artistes willing to work in films. Even stage artistes shied away from the new medium, no woman,not eve a dancing girl, would agree to act in a fiim. So for the role of Taramati in Raja Harishchandra phale had to go to a delicate looking young man. He selected Salunke to play Taramati, Salunke who was serving as a cook in a restaurant. Later Salunke played both Rama and Seeta in Lanka Dahan and became the most popular actor and actress of the period.the film was Phalke's biggest hit. 

1969 was the birth cenetenary year of the father of Indian Cinema.In a belifting commemoration of his contribution to Indian Cinema,a new National Award named Dadasaheb Phalke Award was introduced from that year.This award is given annually for distinguished contribution to the medium, its growth and promotion.The first recipient of this award was Devika Rani Roerich. At the ago of 74 on February 16th,1944 Dadasaheb phalke expired in Nasik.


ADOOR GOPALAKRISHNAN

Satyajit Ray's role in revolutionising Indian cinema during 1950s with his first film Pather Panchali was taken-up by Adoor Gopalakrishnan in Kerala to create a drastic change in Malayalam cinema. Adoor's first film Swayamvaram (1972) pioneered the new wave cinema movement in Kerala.
It was his interest in drama, which lead Adoor to take up the direction course in 1962 at the FTII at Pune, thinking that it would help him to enhance his skills in stage productions. But there he found that stage plays and cinema are entirely different mediums.
All the ten films he directed, from Swayamvaram to Oru Pennum Randaanum, were screened at several International film festivals and won him several National and International awards. He won the British Film Institute award for Elepathayam. He also won National Film Awards four times and several State Film Awards. Adoor received the Padma Shree in 1984 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. 

The Nation honoured Adoor for his valuable contributions to Indian cinema by awarding him the highest cinema award of India, the Dabasaheb Phalke Award for the year 2004.


MRINAL SEN

Sen is one of his nation's most politically active filmakers. After having studied physics at university in Calcutta, Sen worked as a freelance journalist, a salesman of patent medicines and a sound technician in a film studio. In the mid-1940s he joined the Indian People's Theatre Association and at that time began to read about and study film. The association had links to the Communist Party of India and this heralded the beginning of Sen's involvement with Marxist politics. In 1956 Sen made his debut with Raat Bhore (1956), the first of his 30 (as of 2002) films. Although his first film was openly political, he achieved national status as the director of a comedy, Bhuvan Shome (1969). Influenced by Italian neorealism and the work of fellow countryman Satyajit Ray, Sen used location shooting and non-professional casts in his early films. By the 1970s he was making wider use of symbolism and allegory. Although he remains politically committed, Sen feels that the "difference between party Marxists and a private Marxist like me is that others think they pocketed truth, whereas I am always in search of truth... " Sen's films have won numerous international awards. Kharij (1982), a scathing look at the hypocritical reaction of a bourgeois Calcutta family to the death of a servant boy, took home the Jury Prize from the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.


MANI KAUL
Mani Kaul is undoubtedly the Indian filmmaker who, along with Kumar Shahani, has succeeded in radically overhauling the relationship of image to form, of speech to narrative, with the objective of creating a ‘purely cinematic object’ that is above all visual and formal.
He was born Rabindranath Kaul in Jodhpur in Rajasthan in 1942 into a family hailing from Kashmir. His uncle was the well-known actor-director Mahesh Kaul. Mani joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune initially as an acting student but then switched over to the direction course at the institute. He graduated from the FTII in 1966.
Mani’s first film Uski Roti (1969) was one of the key films of the ‘New Indian Cinema’ or the Indian New Wave. The film created shock waves when it was released as viewers did not know what quite to make of it due to its complete departure from all Indian Cinema earlier in terms of technique, form and narrative. The film is ‘adapted’ from a short story by renowned Hindi author Mohan Rakesh and is widely regarded as the first formal experiment in Indian Cinema. While the original story used conventional stereotypes for its characters and situations, the film creates an internal yet distanced kind of feel reminiscent of the the great French Filmmaker, Robert Bresson. The film was financed by the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) responsible for initiating the New Indian Cinema with Bhuvan Shome (1969) and Uski Roti. It was violently attacked in the popular press for dispensing with standard cinematic norms and equally defended by India’s aesthetically sensitive intelligentsia.
Kaul followed Uski Roti with Asad ka Ek Din (1971). This was based on a play by Mohan Rakesh. The film is set in a small hut in the hillside and features on three characters: Kalidasa (Arun Khopkar), Mallika (Rekha Sabnis) and their friend Vilom (Om Shivpuri). The characters’ lines, mostly monologues, were pre-recorded and played back during shooting, thus freeing the actors from theatrical conventions. A highlight of the film is KK Mahajan’s sensuously shot landscapes and languid camera movements.
Duvidha (1973), Kaul’s third film, was also his first in colour. Derived from Vijaydan Detha’s short story, the film tells of a merchant’s son (Ravi Menon) who returns home with his new bride (Raisa Padamsee) only to be sent away again of family business. A ghost witnesses the bride’s arrival and falls in love with her. He takes on the husband’s form and lives with her. She has his child and then, to complicate matters, the real husband reaches home. A shepherd finally traps the ghost in a bag. The film uses the classical styles of Kangra and Basohli miniature paintings for its colour schemes and framing and focuses on the wife’s life, developing the characters through parallel, historically uneven and even contradictory narratives. The film is a very finished and polished product and one of Kaul’s best known films, shown widely across Europe. Recently Amol Palekar did a less than satisfactory adaptation of the same story as Paheli (2005) starring Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherji.
Mani Kaul, along with K Hariharan Saeed Akhtar Mirza as well as other filmmakers set up the Yukt Film Co-operative (Union of Kinematograph Technicians) in 1976. This led to a remarkable avant-garde experiment in collective filmmaking as the group made Ghasiram Kotwal(1976), one of the most celebrated plays in Indian Theatre. The play was staged by the Theatre Academy Pune in 1972 and its members participated in the film’s cast as well. The film, though commenting on Maratha and Indian history, has more contemporary ramifications as it explores metaphorically Indira Gandhi’s reign and the period of ‘Emergency.’
In Mani Kaul’s cinematic conception, fiction and documentary films have no clear demarcated dividing line. Films like Dhrupad (1982), Mati Manas(1984) and Siddheshwari (1989) have a rare cultural intensity where the two different genres have been successfully fused together. Dhrupad explores the origins of dhrupad through its evolution to the classical form to which it is known today. Mati Manas rises above the documentary form and traces the development of pottery down the ages in the sub-continent while Siddheshwari is based on the life of the great eponymous thumri singer of Varanasi.
With Nazar (1989) and Idiot (1991), Kaul turned his attention to the writings of Dostoevsky. The former is based on Dostoevsky’s story The Meek Creature and a major part of the film, which also has references to Bresson’s Une Femme Douce (1969) based on the same story, chronicles the young wife’s alienation in a disintegrating marriage as she first resists and then succumbs to the order of things in a world in which her place is determined regardless of her efforts to intervene. The film’s strength lies in the visual force which beautifully conveys the ambiance of claustrophobia and auto-destruction. Idiot was made as a four part TV series for Doordarshan running 223 minutes and edited down to 180 minutes feature length. Kaul commented on Idiot that “Whereas for years I dwelt on rarefied wholes where the line of the narrative often vanished into thin air, with Idiot I have plunged into an extreme saturation of events. Personally I find myself on the brink, exposed to a series of possible disintegrations. Ideas then cancel each other out and the form germinates. Content belongs to the future and that’s how it creeps into the present.”
Mani Kaul’s last feature to date has been Naukar ki Kameez, made in 1997 but released in 1999. The film looks social hierarchy within an Indian village in the 1960s and, in particular, how the structure affects a fairly low-paid clerk and his wife. To most viewers, it is easily his most accessible piece of work while to hardcore Mani fans, his most disappointing for precisely the same reason!
Currently, after a stint in Netherlands, Mani Kaul is the Creative Director of the Film House at Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art, Mumbai.

SHYAM BENEGAL
One of the pioneers of the new cinema in India, Shyam Benegal has been considered one of the leading filmmakers of the country ever since his first feature film, ANKUR was released. His films have been seen and acclaimed widely in India and at International film festivals for the last three decades. The core subjects of his films have been varied in nature but mainly centered around contemporary Indian experience. Problems of development, social and cultural change appear on many levels as a continuing thread in practically all his films. Apart from fiction features, he has made a number of documentaries on different subjects ranging from cultural anthropology and problems of industrialization, to music and so on. His work on television consists of several popular series based on international stories, short stories by well-known Indian writers and a mammoth 53 part series on the history of India based on Jawaharlal Nehru's book Discovery of India. He has also made an extra-mural educational series for rural children sponsored by UNICEF.
Shyam Benegal taught mass-communication techniques between 1966 and 1973 and later took an active role in shaping film education as Chairman of the Film Television Institute of India during 1980-83 and 1989-92.
As a person deeply committed to social integration in India, Shyam Benegal was part of the National Integration Council (1986-89) and the National Council of Art. The Government of India has conferred on him two of its most prestigious awards - PADMA SHRI (1976) and PADMA BHUSHAN (1991).
In 2004, he was awarded the Indira Gandhi National Integration Award.
Shyam Benegal's career started with a job as a copywriter in advertising from where he graduated to become the Creative & Accounts Group Head before becoming a full time filmmaker. He has lectured at many institutions in India and abroad as well as participated in seminars on subjects dealing with Cinema, Television, Information Technology and different aspects of social and cultural change.
He has made 24 fiction features for the Cinema, several documentaries and TV series, notably a 53 hour TV series on the History of India.
Practically all his films have won national awards and several of them have been awarded internationally. He was a Homi Bhabha fellow (1970-72) during which time, he studied Children's Television with CTW in New York and worked as Associate Producer with WGBH, Boston. Shyam Benegal runs a film production company in Mumbai.
Govind Nihalani
Govind Nihalani began his career as a cinematographer, after graduating in cinematography from Shree Jaya Chamrajendra polytechnic, Bangalore, 1962.The first feature film photographed and co-produced by him was "Shantata! Court Chalu Ahe" (Silence! The Court is in Session) which was co-produced and directed by playwright and stage director Satyadev Dubey.
Then followed the highly rewarding association with director Shyam Benegal, for whom he photographed several documentaries (including a feature length documentary on Satyajit Ray) and ten feature films including "Junoon", for which Nihalani received a National Award for Best Color Cinematography in 1979.
He also photographed Girish Karnad's celebrated Kannada film "Kadu" (The Forest)."Aakrosh" (The Cry of the Wounded)was Nihalani's first feature film as director cinematographer. It immediately established his emergence as a serious film-maker. The film shared the Golden Peacock Award at the International Film Festival of India held in New Delhi, 1981. The same year director Richard Attenborough signed Nihalani on as a second unit director cinematographer for "Gandhi".
"Vijeyta" (The Victor), set against the backdrop of the Indian Airforce, was Nihalani's second film; It was completed in late 1982. "Ardh Satya" (Half Truth) followed in 1983. It was received with great critical acclaim and won the National Award for the Best Hindi Film. Om Puri, the leading actor of the film, received the Best Actor Award at Korlovy Vary Film Festival, 1984. "Party", Nihalani's fourth film was the official Indian entry to the International Film Festival of India at New Delhi. It won the National Award for the Best Supporting Actress for Rohini Hattangadi at the 32nd National Film Festival of India, 1985 and the Best Actress award for Vijaya Mehta at the Asia Pacific Film Festival.
"Aghaat" (Blood of Brothers) was Nihalani's fifth film and was the competition entry at Montreal World Film Festival, 1986. "Tamas", a five hour epic set against the background of partition of India, was the sixth directorial venture. The film has participated in several International Film Festivals including at London, Montreal and New Delhi, 1989. Nihalani was invited to be a member of the jury at Montreal World Film Festival."Jazeere" produced for Doordarshan, is based on Henrik Sen's play "Little Eyolf" Nihalani's seventh film. "Pita" his eighth film is based on Stirndberg's play "The Father"(in Hindi for Doordarshan)."Drishti", Nihalani's ninth film received the National Award for the Best Hindi Film 1990, and also participated in the Indian Panorama of the International Film Festival of India, Madras 1991."Rukmavati Ki Haveli" (Rukmavati's Mansion) is Nihalani's tenth film. It is based on the Spanish play "The House of Bernarda Alba" by Federico Garcia Lorca. Apart from films, Nihalani has directed and/or photgraphed a number of documentaries on various subjects. He was invited to serve as member of International Jury for the competition section at the Montreal Film Festival, 1989."Droohkaal" was awarded the Best Director Award at the 9th Damascus Film Festival, 1995; and the National Award Winner for the Best Supporting Actor.
Govind Nihalani was invited to serve as a member of International Jury at the Pyongang Film Festival 1996."Sanshodhan", a feature film produced for UNICEF and NFDC in the year 1996. "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa" (Mother of 1084) is Mr. Nihalani's latest feature film. This film is based on Mahasweta Devi's Bengali Novel "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa". The film won the National Award for the Best Hindi Film, 1997.
Saeed Mirza
It is impossible to talk about the new Indian cinema of the 1970s and 1980s or the Indian New Wave and not talk about Saeed Akhtar Mirza. Mirza is one of the foremost filmmakers of this unique period of Indian filmmaking having made some deeply sensitive and personal films reflecting the struggle of the common man in an uncaring society. Quoting Saeed himself, "We came from a generation that believed it could change the world. There was great upheaval across countries and we lived by the example of icons like Pablo Neruda and Che Guevara."
Saeed was born in 1943 in Mumbai. His father was the noted writer Akhtar Mirza who is most well-known for having scripted Naya Daur (1957) and Waqt (1965) for BR Chopra. Having graduated from St Xavier's College, Mumbai in Economics and Political Science, Saeed then did a stint in advertising before joining the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune from where he graduated in 1976 having specialized in film direction.
His first independent job as a director was a documentary film on a slum in Bombay, Janta Colony. Through the film, Saeed questioned the rehabilitation of the slum dwellers some 70,000 of them. The film was banned. In Saeed's own words, "After the ban, I turned to fiction."
Saeed along with Mani Kaul, K Hariharan as well as other filmmakers set up the Yukt Film Co-operative (Union of Kinematograph Technicians) in 1976. This led to a remarkable avant-guard experiment in collective filmmaking as the group made Ghasiram Kotwal (1976), one of the most celebrated plays in Indian theatre. The play was staged by the Theatre Academy of Pune in 1972 and its members participated in the film as well. The film, though commenting on Maratha and Indian history, was controversial as it has more contemporary ramifications with its metaphorical exploration of Indira Gandhi's reign and the period of 'Emergency.'
It was Yukt that produced Saeed's first 'solo' feature film as director, Arvind Desai ki Ajeeb Dastan (1978). The film is Saeed's most experimental film in terms of form and content. For Saeed, the film is an exploration of a world where one's actions do not correspond to one's ideas. His next film was Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai (1980), that peeked into the life of the catholic community in Mumbai. As against Arvind Desai, the film treats the conflict between the individual and his environment in a more evolved manner.
One of Saeed's finest but most underrated films is undoubtedly Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho! (1984). Looking at the efforts of an elderly couple, who in the face of all opposition, sue their landlord for lack of maintenance of the chawl they are staying in, the film is a brilliant take on the struggles of the middle class and the judicial system where cases drag on for decades, where the plaintive either dies or loses hope and money, while the corrupt squander away, thanks to their nexus with corrupt lawyers. The film, boasting of wonderful performances by Bhisham Sahni and Dina Pathak as the elderly couple and Naseeruddin Shah and Satish Shah as the lawyers who exploit them, went on to win the National Award for Best film on Family Welfare.
Critics consider Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989) to be Saeed Mirza's finest film. It is also his first feature film where he looks at the problems of his own community. The film realistically investigates what it means to be a Muslim in a working-class Bombay neighborhood controlled by criminals. There were those who argued against the fatalistic ending of the film where the hero, after trying to reform, is killed but this is exactly what gives the film its strength.
However, Saeed considers Naseem (1995) to be the film closest to his heart. The film, which won him the National award for Best Direction, is set between June and December 1992, the days preceding the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 by Hindu fanatics. Naseem (Mayuri Kango) is a schoolgirl belonging to a middle class Mumbai based Muslim family. She enjoys a warm relationship with her aged ailing grandfather (Kaifi Azmi). With increasing horror the family watches on their TV the news of the build up at Ayodhya while the grandfather regales her with stories of life in pre-independence Agra. The grandfather dies on December 6 coinciding with the news of the destruction of the mosque. At the Wisdom Tree Film Festival held in Pune in 2003 to celebrate 40 years of the FTII, Saeed chose Naseem as the film to best represent him.
Though his films are regarded as off-beat and away from the mainstream, Saeed says "We made movies with a certain vision and integrity and prayed like hell that they would work. It wasn't intended for amorphous viewing, but they got collectively branded as parallel cinema. But we came from the same tradition as Mehboob Khan and Guru Dutt."
Following Naseem, Saeed took time off traveling around the world and spending time in Goa which has become a second home to him. He also wrote a book in this period, Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother that was extremely well-received. The book came in a period when the unrest in the Middle East, Central Asia, the 9/11 attacks in the USA and the war in Iraq stole his peace of mind and he translated his troubled thoughts into words. Quoting Saeed on Ammi in an interview, "There was never an intention of a book. I went about taking abstract notes on my travels and experimented with narrative forms much later. The result is Ammi, part essay Sufi tale, travelogue, diatribe, film script, love story and a combination of history and polemics also."
After a 15 year gap Saeed has returned to filmmaking with Ek Toh Chance (2010) being made for Pritish Nandy Communications. Apart from Feature Films, Saeed has also made several documentaries and TV serials, the most famous of them undoubtedly Nukkad (1986) andIntezar (1989) and a mega documentary project he undertook, travelling all over the country as part of 50 years of Indian independence.
Saeed's elder brother, Aziz Mirza, ia a successful filmmaker in his own right having directed films such as Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992), Yes Boss (1997), Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000), Chalte Chalte (2003) and Kismat Konnection (2008).
Mani Ratnam
Mani Rathnam is certainly the biggest director in South India today and a much-respected one all over India as well. He has revolutionized the Tamil Film Industry with technically strong films that are beautifully photographed with well picturised songs. Every frame in a Mani Rathnam film is perfectly composed and beautifully backlit even if this style involves total violation of tonal, focal and colour continuity.
Born in 1956 in Madras, he studied at Madras University and then received a management degree at the Bajaj Institute, Mumbai. He worked initially as a management consultant before getting in to films. (His father was a producer - 'Venus' Gopalrathnam and his brother G Venkateshwaran, a distributor turned producer)
Rathnam's debut film in Kannada Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983) starring Anil Kapoor, Lakshmi and Kiran Vairale hardly caused any ripples though one song in the film shot stylishly in an auditorium gives a good hint of the Mani Rathnam to come in later years. His initial films (both in Tamil and even one in Malayalam) still did nothing for him till he broke through with Mauna Ragam (1986) starring Mohan, Revathi and Kartik.
Mauna Ragam deals with a woman who is forced into an arranged marriage and lives with her husband in Delhi. She recalls her carefree days with her first boyfriend, a gangster who was shot dead in front of a temple even as she waited to marry him. She seeks a divorce but as the law requires the couple to stay together for a year, they stay separately in the same house and by the years end decide to stay together. The film was notable for its sophisticated approach and execution.
His next film was also perhaps his greatest, Nayakan (1987). A take off from The Godfather (1972),the film is based on the life of the Bombay based gangster Varadarajan. The film, with stunning cinematography by PC Sriram (taking its cue from Gordon Willis) and art direction (The entire Dharavi slum was recreated in Madras!) with meticulous detail to cars and décor much like the Hollywood gangster films, established Rathnam as the leading Tamil director of his time and won its star Kamal Hassan the National Award for Best Actor. The film draws on 30 years of Tamil Nadu's star/ politician images and directly plays to Tamil people's anti-Hindi feelings when the hero, beaten up, tells the Hindi Speaking Bombay Cop in Tamil 'If I ever hit you, you will die.'
With his next lot of films, Rathnam consolidated his position as Tamil Cinema's leading mainstream director. He effortlessly made films that were different, more sensible and were high regarded bu both the classes and the masses.
Agni Nakshatram (1988), the story of friction between two step brothers was shot in an ad like manner with glossy camerawork using extensive backlighting and flare filters with rapid cutting and extensive dissolves much like a long slick music video. The film set a trend for a whole new visual style in Tamil Cinema.
Gitanjali (1989), made in Telugu, was a touching love story between two people who both have less than six months to live. The film was mainly shot in the misty landscape of Ooty to give the film an almost soft and poetic feel. The comedy track in the film however was totally forced and unnecessary ruining what was otherwise a great film. Anjali (1990) about a mentally handicapped child brought back to her family with two normal siblings is perhaps sourced in a novel by Fynn, Mr. God, This is Anna. The scenes and songs with elaborate choreography featuring the children and neighbouring kids are the film's highlights.
It was Roja (1992) however, a patriotic love story against the backdrop of Kashmir terrorism that made Rathnam a household name all over India as it was dubbed and released in Hindi and proved to be a huge success all over the country. A semi-political, romantic thriller, the film reinforces in a big way Ratnam's reputation as a filmmaker of style and substance. The film also marked a highly auspicious debut for young music director AR Rahman whose music contributed to the film's success in a major way. India's then election commissioner TN Seshan took the unusual step of officially endorsing the film.
Thiruda Thiruda (1993) was a misfire, albeit an enjoyable about two petty thieves and a girl on the lines of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) but Ratnam bounced back with his next film, Bombay (1995).
Bombay, a love story between a Hindu boy and a Muslim girl against the backdrop of the Bombay riots of 1993, again released nationwide but ran into controversy as the film was released in Bombay only after getting clearance from Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray. The film was attacked for its anti-Muslim stand, its misrepresentation of widely reported events in order to blame the Muslims for having started the riots and for its tendency to equate the 'voice of reason' with Hindu majority. But all the controversy helped the film as it scored heavily at the box-office.
Continuing with his obsessions with politics, Rathnam made Iruvar (1997) loosely based on the MGR - Karunanidhi story and his first Hindi film Dil se (1998) supposedly based on the North-East Indian problem. The last though a visual spectacle with a pulsating musical score by AR Rahman is a totally strange and confused film heading nowhere and represents a nadir in Mani Rathnam's career.
Alai Payuthey (2000) saw him returning to more familiar ground as he tackles the love story of a young couple in love that get married and realize marriage is not the bed of roses it is made out to be. And his subsequent film Kan Nathil Mutha Mittal (A Peck on the Cheek) reaffirms Mani Rathnam's return to form as one of Indian Cinema's best storytellers.
Mani returned to Hindi Cinema after 6 years with Yuva but in spite of some fine flourishes here and there, the film largely fails to work. Yuva was also been made in a Tamil version with a different cast - Ayutha Ezhuthu which fared better then the Hindi version.
Guru, (2007) a biopic 'inspired' by Dhirubhai Ambani's story again fell short of expectations continuing Rathnam's jinx with Hindi cinema.

Mira Nair
Accomplished Film Director/Writer/Producer Mira Nair was born in India and educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. She began her film career as an actor and then turned to directing award-winning documentaries, including So Far From India and India Cabaret. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988; it won the Camera D'Or (for best first feature) and the Prix du Publique (for most popular entry) at the Cannes Film Festival and 25 other international awards. Her next film, Mississippi Masala, an interracial love story set in the American South and Uganda, starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, won three awards at the Venice Film Festival including Best Screenplay and The Audience Choice Award. Subsequent films include The Perez Family (with Marisa Tomei, Anjelica Huston, Alfred Molina and Chazz Palminteri), about an exiled Cuban family in Miami; and the sensuous Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, which she directed and co-wrote. Nair directed My Own Country based on Dr. Abraham Verghese's best-selling memoir about a young immigrant doctor dealing with the AIDS epidemic. Made in 1998, My Own Country starred Naveen Andrews, Glenne Headly, Marisa Tomei, Swoosie Kurtz, and Hal Holbrook, and was awarded the NAACP award for best fiction feature. Nair returned to the documentary form in August 1999 with The Laughing Club of India, which was awarded The Special Jury Prize in the Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels 2000. In the summer of 2000, Nair shot Monsoon Wedding in 30 days, a story of a Punjabi wedding starring Naseeruddin Shah and an ensemble of Indian actors. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Film Festival, Monsoon Wedding also won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and opened worldwide to tremendous critical and commercial acclaim. Nair's next feature was an HBO original film, Hysterical Blindness. Set in working class New Jersey in 1987, the film stars Uma Thurman, Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands. Thurman and Lewis play single women looking for love in all the wrong places, while Rowlands, who plays Thurman's mother, adds to her daughter's hysteria when she finds Mr. Right in Ben Gazarra. The film received great critical acclaim and the highest ratings for HBO, garnering an audience of 15 million, a Golden Globe for Uma Thurman, and 3 Emmy Awards. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Nair joined a group of 11 renowned filmmakers, each commissioned to direct a film that was 11 minutes, 9 seconds and one frame long. Nair's film is a retelling of real events in the life of the Hamdani family in Queens, whose eldest son was missing after September 11, and was then accused by the media of being a terrorist. 11.09.01 is the true story of a mother's search for her son who did not return home on that fateful day. In May 2003, Nair helmed the Focus Features production of the Thackeray classic, Vanity Fair, a provocative period tale set in post-colonial England, in which Reese Witherspoon plays the lead, Becky Sharp. The film is scheduled to release in Fall 2004. Nair's upcoming projects include Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul for HBO, and Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist, and there are also plans to take Monsoon Wedding to Broadway. Mirabai Films is establishing an annual filmmaker's laboratory, Maisha, which will be dedicated to the support of visionary screenwriters and directors in East Africa and India. The first lab, which is only for screenwriters, will be launched in August 2005 in Kampala, Uganda.


Deepa Mehtha
Deepa Mehta has never shied away from voicing her thoughts, using cinema as her medium. Her movies are outrageously honest, the most controversial of which were the Elements Trilogy.
Basics on Deepa Mehta
Deepa Mehta celebrates her birthday on 1st January 1950. She was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India before she migrated to Canada in 1973. 
She did her schooling at Welham Girls High School. She has a degree in philosophy from the University of Delhi.
Deepa Mehta was married to a Canadian movie producer and director Paul Saltzman and they have a daughter Devyani.
She has written, directed and produced movies and television shows since 1975.
Deepa Mehta’s Movies
Deepa Mehta directed a short film At 99: A Portrait of Louisa Tandy Murch (1975) and a comedy Martha, Ruth & Edie (1988). She worked on three episodes of Danger Bay (1989 – 1990) and one episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1993).
In 1991, she directed Sam & Me with Om Puri, exploring relationship in a Toronto neighbourhood. Camilla (1994) starred Bridget Fonda and Jessica Tandy. 
Fire (1996) was the first of her trilogy which starred Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi and was about a lesbian relationship. It came under a lot of fire by conservative groups. Earth (1998) was set during the Partition of India and starred Nandita Das, Aamir Khan and Rahul Khanna.
In 2002, she surprised the audience with a lighthearted comedy Bollywood Hollywood with Lisa Ray and Rahul Khanna in the lead. Republic of Love (2003) was based on a novel by Carol Shields. 
Water, the last of her trilogy was finally released in 2005. The movie which had initially cast Nandita Sen and Shabana Azmi was not allowed to be shot in India. She shot the movie in Sri Lanka. It was about the state of widows in India. The movie starred Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and John Abraham. It went on to win many awards.
Her latest movies are Heaven on Earth, What’s Cooking Stella?, Exclusion and Midnight’s Children. Heaven on Earth is a grim look at domestic violence starring Preity Zinta and has won a lot of praise internationally. She has written What’s Cooking Stella? along with her brother Dilip Mehta. Exclusion will be released in 2010 and is about the Komagata Maru incident about the immigrant laws. Midnight’s Children is based on Salman Rushdie’s award winning novel.


Ritwik Ghatak
Ritwik Kumar Ghatak was born on November 4, 1925 at Jindabazar in Dhaka. He and his twin sister Prateeti, were the youngest of nine children.[i] The other children were – Manish, Sudhish, Tapati, Sampreeti, Brototi, Ashish Chandra and Lokesh Chandra.[ii] His father, Rai Bahadur Suresh Chandra Ghatak was a Deputy Magistrate. Their lifestyle was a fusion of the West and the East. Ghatak’s niece, Mahasweta Devi, noted author and activist for tribal communities in West Bengal and Bihar recalls how she, Bhaba (Ritwik) and Bhabi (Ritwik’s twin sister), would form a small group.
Mother Nature roused in him a passion for a wider horizon. As a child, Ghatak was interested in drawing and music.Abanindranath Tagore held a great attraction. RajKahini, Buro Angla remained a permanent source of joy. Surama Ghatak, his widow says, “He would read out these stories endlessly to our son Ritaban and both reader and listener would be so overwhelmed that tears would roll down their cheeks.” Five paintings by Gaganendranath Tagore fascinated him. Other writers whose works moved him deeply were – Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay and Manik Banerjee besides the works of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Abraham Lincoln and Lenin.
Ustad Allauddin Khan taught him the universal language of music. Western classical masterpieces that fascinated him were Beethoven’s Choral, Violin Concerto, Leonora andMoonlight, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Nutcracker Suite, Sleeping Beauty and Hamlet, Paul Robeson’s Ole Man River, Old Folk At Home, Poor Old Joe and Songs My Mother Taught Me. Among Indian music composers, the music of S.D. Burman and Abbasuddin influenced him deeply. The poetic works of Rabindranath Tagore and Sukanta Bhattacharya made an impact. Ghatak used Sukanta’s poem Cheel in Bari Theke Paliye and his 1946 in Komal Gandhar.
Ghatak married Surama who was imprisoned as a political prisoner for two years. They met around 1953 and Surama had joined the IPTA when it was almost on the verge of being disintegrated in Calcutta. They married in 1955 and had three children, none of who, however, took to films as a vocation. It is a measure of Ghatak’s artistic caliber that he turned an essentially provincial experience into an expression of universal validity.

Kumar Shahani
Kumar Shahani is a filmmaker who has been able to carve an aesthetic path and create a new cinematic language that is very much his own and as iconoclastic as his colleague, Mani Kaul. The two of them are largely responsible for the development of the 'New Indian Cinema' or the 'Indian New Wave' in creating an avant-garde cinema whose ideology was vastly different from the aesthetics of mainstream cinema as it was prevalent then.
Shahani was born in Sindh in 1940, now in Pakistan. His family migrated to India during the partition. He graduated from Bombay University in 1962 and then from the Film and Television Imstitute of India (FTII), Pune in 1966. In 1967-68, Shahani was given a scholarship by the French Government for further film studies. Shahani studied at the IDHEC in Paris and in France, he assisted Robert Bresson on Une Femme Douce (1969) besides participating in the May 1968 student rebellion.
Shahani's first feature film was Maya Darpan (1972), financed by the Film Finance Corporation (FFC). It was an extraordinary but controversial debut. The film is, to quote Ashsish Rajyadhyaksha in Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, "the only successful colour experimentof New Indian Cinema." The colours and tones of the film are totally original, which serves as an allegory of the state of mind of the protagonist Taran, for instance going from yellow to harsh blue in order to capture the harshness of light and the aridity of the Rajasthani landscapes while contrasting with the green colours of Assam, where the heroine's brother works in a tea-plantation.
It took Shahani 12 years to raise the money for his next film, Tarang (1984). Tarang explores themes of conflict and betrayal when different worlds collide as a result of India’s industrialisation. Rahul, the son-in-law and heir of an old industrialist, conceals his personal ambitions under a cloak of liberalism, while encouraging indigenous production. He clashes with Hansa, the industrialist’s loyal daughter, and Dinesh, his cousin by marriage who is openly unscrupulous. The arrival of Janaki - a trade unionist’s widow, and victim of industrialist ambition - drives the film towards its denouement. The film, Shahani's biggest film to date, is an elaborately plotted melodrama precisely realising his theory of epic cinema. Quoting Shahani himself, "Directors from Eisenstein to Goddard to Jansco have worked on the epic form in the perspective of their lives and their own histories. For me, the individualisation of a tradition is essential. Tarang contains a large number of characters - individuals who come from diverse social classes; for each individual, I have tried to bring out a series of perspectives so that the spectator can see 'beyond' them and thereby go back to his own personal perspective and reflect on it."
Khayal Gatha (1988) merges the history of the Khayal form with several legends associated with it for eg the legend of Rani Roopmati and Baaz Bahadur, Heer-Ranjha, Nala-Damayanti and others. These legends are then worked into some of the key figurations determining the Khayal narrative as a music student moves through these epochs and legends. The result is a visually stuunning film encompassing legend, history and poetry, emphasizing hybridity in all cultural practices. The film won the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Prize at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in 1990.
Shahani next adapted a little-known Chekov story, In the Ravine, as Kasba (1990). The film, extremely well 'Indianised', shows Shahani's complete mastery of the narrative mode and goes into the depths of human nature and its worst impuses - ambition and greed. Superbly staged and acted, Kasba works brilliantly with its colourpallette that reflects not just the seasons but also comments on the states of mind of the protagonists. Shahani expertly distances the spectator from raw human emotions by introducing allusions to miniature art found in the Kangra Valley and to diverse local musical traditions as well.
The last film to date directed by Shahni has been Char Adhyay (1997), inspired by a Tagore novella. According to Shahani, the film is "a homage to Tagore, Ghatak and to all those who have made our lives liveable, whether they be from the crowded streets of Calcutta or from some faraway country full of love and laughter."
Other films directed by Kumar Shahani include Bhavantarana (1991), a spectacular part-fictional documentray on India's famous Odissi dance, seen through its formost exponent - Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra and The Bamboo Flute (2000), Shahani’s cinematic tribute to the flute and its importance to Indian civilisation.
Shahani has also written various essays on cinema, co-edited the book Cinema and Television (1991) and directed actress Alaknanda Samarth in two stage plays La Voix Humaine and Kunti.

Buddhadeb Dasgupta
One of a handful of filmmakers, Buddhadeb Dasgupta has consistently tried to define and re-define the significance of the auteur in cinema. From Dooratwa in 1978 to The Voyeurs in 2007, the stamp of his individuality is marked cinematographically, as well as through his choice of his literary source. One easily notices the consistent undercurrent of the increased alienation of the individual in his films. His cinema is a cinema of journeys as much as it is a cinema of the loneliness of man in a world where one-to-one communication is being increasingly threatened ironically even as technology is trying to make the world a smaller place everyone can reach out to.
The third of nine children, Buddhadeb Dasgupta was born in 1944 in Anara near Purulia in South Bengal. "I am not a city boy. I am grateful for having spent my childhood in the proximity of nature, in interaction with simple rustic folk." Dasgupta’s father Taranath, was a railway doctor who traveled frequently from one village to another, and the family moved with him too. Dasgupta was brought up in an enlightened, liberal and middle-class environment. His father’s emotional moorings lay in the politics of Mahatma Gandhi and later, in the post-Independence period, in Marxism. His mother used to sing Brahmo hymns and Tagore songs with the piano as support, and read out to her children from the Puranas, the Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita. This helped them develop a deep sensibility towards music and a feel for tradition.
Dasgupta discovered quite early, the intricacies of characterization and vitality in the novels of the three Bandopadhyays – Bibhutibhusan (1899-1950), Tarasankar (1898-1971) and Manik (1908-1956.) Another source of inspiration was Tagore's paintings that were instrumental in stirring Dasgupta’s interest in paintings. Folk art and folk dance also gave him great pleasure. Apart from the arts, he was drawn to politics since he was a boy when his idol was Netaji. But as he grew up, he felt drawn to the ideology of extremist Leftist politics then known as Naxalism, which, however, soon became a source of disillusionment and disappointment. While in college, the film society movement pulled him to cinema as a form of self-expression through images and poetry because his involvement with the film society movement offered him access to a large and varied corpus of films across time, geography, filmmaker and theme. His membership of the Calcutta Film Society exposed him to the films of Charles Chaplin, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini and Antonioni, triggering within him, a secret dream to make films himself. "My fondness for films was a natural offspring of my passion for poetry and painting," he says.
"I began in a small way with documentaries. I made a ten-minute documentary in 1968 titled The Continent of Love. I did several more in the following years, including King of Drums (1974) which won an award," he says, going on to state that he never honed the skills and the art of film-making at any film school. "I learnt about my craft from watching films, reading about them and listening to people talk about them," says Dasgupta, taking a nostalgic trip into his past. In 1978, he made his first full-length feature film, Dooratwa (Distance). Based on a short story by noted Bengali littérateur Sirsendu Mukhopadhyay, the film was completed in just 16 shooting days on an incredibly low budget, exposing just 20,000 feet of film in totality. It tackled the delicate issue of a husband-wife relationship that breaks under the tension the couple encounters when the husband discovers that his bride is pregnant. She says that she had been a willing participant in whatever has happened and is not ashamed of it. The husband leaves, but begins to question whether honesty in marriage is more important than virginity in the bride. There is an attempt to mend fences, but by then it is too late.
Neem Annapurna (Bitter Morsel) in 1979 placed Dasgupta on the map of international cinema. The film received awards at the Karlovy Vary and Locarno International Film Festivals. Based on a story by Kamal Kumar Majumdar, the film is a brutal and stark celluloid representation of grinding poverty; unfolding how differently people respond to it, cope with it and react to it. A mother, who can kill for a morsel of rice for her daughters, throws up the same rice herself. One, because she has eaten it on an empty stomach that has not known rice for a long time; two, because the guilt of having killed someone comes up through the purging of the food she has eaten. Stark black-and-white images created by Kamal Nayak’s cinematography add to the texture of the film. The individualization of poverty and hunger in the film transcends the personal to step into the political and then moves on to the universal.
Sheet Grishmer Smriti (Season’s Memoirs) (1982) based on a Dibyendu Palit story, was produced by Doordarshan. The story is about Saibal, director of a semi-professional theatre group, who writes a play that is the title of the film. The narrative of the play harks back somewhat to The Gift of the Magi. A poor clerk and his wife are desperate to save up secretly to give gifts to each other. There is a parallel narrative within the play dealing with retrenchment and a subsequent suicide. Saibal seeks funds to produce the play, which he gets without much difficulty from a businessman who is vulnerable to flattery and empty praise. However, as rehearsals begin, the cast’s involvement with the play is overshadowed on the one hand, by worries about being paid or not paid, and on the other, by problems that crop up in their personal lives.
Grihajuddha (Crossroads), the same year saw Dasgupta, crossing black-and-white to step into colour. He uses the format of a slickly made political thriller to unfold the story of a family’s victimization to corporate politics. He goes on to portray how one member, the daughter engaged to be married to her dead brother’s runaway friend, draws strength and moral courage from the very oppression they are victim to. The story is built around a few individuals whose lives are trapped in an urban corner where all the exit points have suddenly been closed. Which is tragic considering each one of them is fighting a war (griha- meaning ‘home’ and juddha meaning ‘war’) and is seeking his/her own way out of this war. If one is fighting a war for love, another is fighting a war for integrity, and a third is forced to wage a war for the survival. Somewhere along the way, these separate, individualistic ‘wars’, congregate and the difference between them is nothing more than a confused blur. Grihajuddha won the Fipresci Jury award at the Venice International Film Festival in 1982.
Phera (The Return) in 1986 was based on a story by Prafulla Roy and unspools the story of Sasanka, the last descendant of a feudal aristocratic family. His passion is to write plays for the jatra, a folk touring theatre of Bengal that portrays larger-than-life characters often borrowing from Hindu mythology and folklore with a moral at the end. With the influence of the gaining popularity of cinema as a mass entertainment medium, Sasanka discovers to his shock, that the traditional character of the jatra gets compromised to suit the tastes of a cinema-hungry audience. He retreats into his shell, like he did when his wife ran away with his friend many years ago. An introvert by nature, Sasanka’s only contact with the outer world is through a strange form of relaxation - watching his two hired wrestlers wrestle in his compound. In this deserted milieu, enters his wife’s widowed sister Saraju, with her small son Kanu. Through disillusionment and frustration, Phera marks Sasanka’s return to his roots – his roots of his obsession – the jatra, and to the roots of his emotionally starved life – through Kanu. Phera won the National Award for Best Screenplay, Best Regional Film (Bengali) and Best Child Artist at the National Awards.
" The idea of making Phera and Bagh Bahadur (1989) came to me first when I was making a documentary on a great drummer called Dholer Raja in 1973. I discovered that his rare art was in danger of extinction because neither his son nor his grandson wanted to learn to play the drum, because there is no money or respect in it. So also, other priceless performing arts are dying out for want of patrons," says Dasgupta about the trigger that set him off to make these films.
Tahader Katha (Their Story) made in 1992 from a Kamal Kumar Majumdar story, described the agony of a freedom fighter, Shibnath (Mithun Chakraborty), who, after spending precious years of his life in the British prisons of the Andamans, confronts an independent India with its moral fibre twisted badly out of shape. "Tahader Katha portrays the crisis of the human being trapped between the world of his dreams and the world of reality," says Dasgupta. "Still, I think the world is meaningful because such dreamers exist. It would have been dreadful otherwise." According to critic Chidananda Dasgupta, "Tahader Katha is a striking, unusual, disturbing film, both in story content and in the way its form develops." The film bagged the Best Actor, the Best Screenplay and the Best Regional Film (Bengali) awards at the National level. "One of the film's strength lies in the timelessness and the universality of its theme, conveyed with simple conviction," said Derek Hill of The Times, London.
Charachar (Shelter of the Wings) is Dasgupta's most lyrical and perfect film to date. The film, made in 1993, is the story of Lakhinder, a bird-catcher, who sells his catch. In the process of his trade, Lakhinder discovers the cruelty of imprisoning a species of winged creatures whose survival is determined by their freedom. His obsessive love for the very birds he is supposed to sell becomes his undoing. His wife leaves him for want of basic needs of food and clothing. The film is an exploration of the universal phenomenon of estrangement and alienation resulting from an obsession all of which go to create an impressionistic mélange of memories, insights and concepts. Lakhinder’s one-ness with the winged creatures also stands for his own craving for freedom – freedom defined on his own terms, where the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are neatly replaced by his love for his winged friends who wake him up at daybreak, filling every niche in his hut, perching themselves on his waking body, as he wakes up to the reality of freedom for himself and freedom for his winged friends. In the opinion of this writer, the film evolves a rhythm of its own as it moves on. Soumyendu Roy’s brilliant cinematography of the sea and the sky that often appear in Lakhinder’s dreams, match the wavy movements of Lakhinder’s birds.
Dasgupta is known for his constant explorations into different forms of breaking the conventional storyline into fragmented narratives, collages, flashbacks and flash forwards, elements of surrealism and postmodernism in his films. Lal Darja explored elements of postmodernism and surrealism, while Uttara tapped the potential of the film medium to present multiple narratives within the same film.
Lal Darja (1997) reflects the vision of nothingness that haunts this century. This vision expresses itself through a man like Nabin Dutta who had lost touch with his childhood magic in his search for materialistic ascendancy. When he realises this sense of loss, does he get it back? Dasgupta's script moves back and forth within Nabin's mind, blending reality with fantasy, the present with the past, the individual with the collective. "Most of the story took birth from bits and pieces of my own childhood, which took me from place to place because my medical practitioner father had a transferable job. I realized that when we grow up, we do not really grow up from being a child to becoming an adult, but we become two separate entities altogether. Adulthood is not just a natural and logical extension of our own childhood. As we metamorphose into adults, we take within us the chemistry of the world and the experience around us. We also shed a few precious things of which innocence is the most crucial. To some people like Nabin in my film, this can make the difference between living and loving, or losing the power to do both" says Dasgupta.
On the surface, Uttara (2000) could be interpreted as a triangular love story where two, simple, unlettered men are torn between their close friendship on the one hand and their love for the same girl, Uttara, on the other. But to label it a triangular love story, would be an oversimplification. Perhaps also, a misinterpretation. Uttara speaks of lovelessness rather than of love. Wrestling, a macho, fun sport for men, can easily turn into a killing sport for the same men, says Dasgupta. A dwarf may be slighted and ignored by the majority of non-dwarfs. But his heart could be taller than the tall men who tower over him. The fundamentalists may have killed the pastor. But the masked dancers have rescued his heir, Mathew, to take up from where Padri Baba left off. The film is cinematically brilliant, with excellent cinematography, a dream-like setting that lends itself ideally to the volatile changes in the ambience and mood of the film. It exudes a strange feeling of actual heat, giving credibility to the rising heat within the two main characters.
With Mondo Meyer Upakhyan (2002), Dasgupta evolves a new form by basing his screenplay on three of his own poems - Anya Graha (Another Planet), Gadha (Donkey) and Beral (Cat) and a short story by Prafulla Roy entitled Akasher Chand O Ekti Janla (The Moon in the Sky and A Window). Dasgupta places a sex worker's daughter, Loti, at the centre of Mondo Meyer Upakhyan. Perhaps, this is where he draws his title from since mondo, meaning 'bad' and meye meaning 'girl' as he unspools the upakhyan (story) of a 'bad girl' - a common synonym for a girl with loose morals, or, more aptly, a prostitute. The film marks several 'firsts' for Dasgupta. For the first time, he is working around a story that focusses heavily on the woman question. He did it earlier too, with intense impact, in Andhi Gali (1984). But in this film, he is dealing with the most marginalized, oppressed, exploited and humiliated section of womanhood – the sex worker. It deals with the lives and dreams of several women, individually and collectively.
Swapner Din (2004) starring Prasenjeet, Rimi Sen and Rajesh Sharma is based on Dasgupta’s own story written out completely as a script. "It is based on my favourite theme – never mind how ordinary we might be in life, we never stop dreaming. We are in fact, born out of dreams and dreams are born out of us. All I can say at this moment is that the film weaves itself around the dreams of three different persons and their journeys in search of their dreams which intersect at a point."
"Kaalpurush (2005) is drawn from two published novels of mine – America America and Rahasyamoy. Since I work with a loosely structured narrative and do not believe in a linear narrative, I have no problem dealing with several strands and bringing them together. This film is about the relationship between a father and his son and how the relationship undergoes mutations over time and space, influencing in turn, their relationship with others"” explains Dasgupta. "The father and the son are both failures in life, if one is to take 'failure' in the common-sense meaning of the term in an era of globalization and material success. They choose their way of living and have no problems with doing so. But is the world they live in prepared to accept this ‘choice’? These are questions I hope, the film has raised."
Dasgupta’s latest film to date is Ami, Yasin arr Amar Madhubala or The Voyeurs that is set for an all India release shortly. He has written the script directly as a screenplay from his story. Summing up his philosophy Dasgupta says, "Our world is obsessed with security and ordinary human values like love and kindness have been mechanized. The masters of advanced technology reinterpret them as 'dangerous.' But do web cams and CCTVs that are constantly intruding into our private space make us any less vulnerable to terrorists than we are to ourselves? Are the police and security forces really protecting us? These are some of the core issues I have tried to raise in the film." The 'ami' of Ami, Yasin arr Amar Madhubala is Dilip, deeply involved with his computer and his camera, a young man who has come to Kolkata in search of a vocation. The story unfolds from Dilip’s point of view. Yasin, another young man from the suburbs, joins him as roommate. Rekha is a young woman who comes to live next door. But Dilip is so used to communicating with his computer, that he has lost the ability to communicate with Rekha, who he falls in love with. He keeps watching her like a peeping tom, photographs her secretly, for the sole reason that he cannot express his love for her. Earlier, as a child, he would communicate with his screen idol Madhubala, whose ethereal beauty would fascinate him. In essence, he hardly ever communicated his feelings to any real woman. When he falls in love with one, and finds out an alternative way of satisfying his desires, all hell breaks loose. The girl misunderstands his intentions; the police are hot on the chase of these two young men, with Yasin’s communal identity easily converting them into suspected terrorists.
Other little-known facets of Dasgupta such as his love for and talent in painting, the deep influence of poetry on his life and on his films, his deep admiration for music in all its myriad forms emerge at different points in Portrait, a 21-minute documentary on the filmmaker by Sankho Ghosh, a documentary filmmaker. The film is essentially intended to offer an insight into the self-imposed loneliness of a creative artist who glides over his poetry as smoothly and effortlessly as he does through his films.

G. Aravindan
Born in Kottayam, Kerala, G Aravindan was well known to the readers of Kerala through his cartoon serial Cheriya Manushyarum Valya Lokavum (Small Men and the Big World), which appeared in the Mathrubhoomi journal during the early 1960s, even before he started with films. The cartoon serial chronicled the adventures of its characters, Ramu and Guruji.

No work of art directly or indirectly change society or human beings. However, cinema has the power to influence the human mind. Talking about good cinema….I believe that any act of a human being committed with sincerity and conviction is good. So is the case with cinema, if it is born out of one's conviction, it cannot be but be good.

Aravindan was part of a group of modernist artist based in Kozhikode, represented particularly by artist Devan, playwright Thikkodiyan and writer Pattathuvila Karunakaran. Aravindan's first film, Uttarayanam came out of this group, produced by Pattathuvila and story written by Thikkodiyan. The early films of Aravindan, as part of this group were highly influenced by the spiritualism of satirist Sanjayan and the mystic paintings of K C S Pankcker.
Aravindan kept changing his cinematic forms consistently during his film career spanning almost fifteen years, from his first film Uttarayanam (1974) to his last film Vasthuhara (1990). Aravindan successfully went beyond the limits and styles of filmmaking created by the new wave filmmakers of that time. This journey towards new facets of narrative included current incidents, history, myths and traditional stories. He also occasionally directed music for other filmmakers.
Aravindan took active part in theatre movements in Kerala. He associated with playwright Srikantan Nair and later helped start the Navarangam and Sopanam theatre groups.
Aravindan died on 16th January, 1991.
Filmography:

4 comments:

  1. My fav. Madhur Bhandarkar and Maniratnam are missing from the list.

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  2. Maniratnam is in the list. Look carefully.

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