Living legend of Bangla films, director Mrinal Sen, turned 95 on Monday. Moviyana Film Society organized a film screening followed by a discussion on his work at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Monday.
After the screening of “Ekdin Protidin” and “Calcutta 71,” film critic Mahmudul Hossain, film researcher Dr Naadir Junaid, film activists Zayeed Aziz and Belayat Hossain Mamun spoke about the significance of Mrinal Sen’s work.
The day before the event, several film personalities released YouTube videos commemorating the occasion.
“When we analyze Mrinal Sen, we cannot ignore Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. These three filmmakers together decolonized our films,” film critic Mahmudul Hossain said. “He observed the mockery in Victorian morality.”
Mrinal Sen’s films proposed an alternative modernization for the East, Mahmudul added. Through his “Calcutta Trilogy” that includes – “Interview”, “Calcutta 71” and “Podatik”, he critically analyzed how post-colonial societies began to modernize.
In films like “Ekdin Protidin,” “Akaler Shondhane,” “Chaalchitra” and “Khariz,” he attacked the colonial morality of city dwelling middle class in the Indian subcontinent.
Documentary filmmaker Shabnam Ferdousi said Mrinal Sen’s work empowered women. She recalls Smita Patil’s dialogue “The wind is shifting” in “Akaler Shondhane (In Search of Famine),” which inspired not only her, but an entire generation of filmmakers.
“One of my favourite films is ‘Chaalchitra.’ A very sweet and poetic film, yet it portrays such cruel reality,” she remarked.
Dhaka University Professor Dr Fahmidul Haq explained how every film of this master director is different, mentioning “Bhuvan Shome,” “Khandhar,” “Genesis,” “Akash Kushum” etc as example.
Dr Naadir Junaid said: “He used Betrolt Brecht’s ‘distancing effect’ with such mastery. In the early 70s, he made films that were political statements and from late 70s, his films were more about the introspection of the middle class family, which is also political in a way.”
He added that Mrinal Sen’s films can truly be called ‘third cinema’ for its unorthodox style and subject matter.
Mrinal Sen is often credited for starting India’s New Cinema Movement in the 60s with his Hindi film “Bhuvan Shome,” which inspired directors like Ketan Mehta, Mani Kaul, Gopal Krishna and so on, who followed his footsteps into making unorthodox films.