Views on Cinema

Comprises articles, letters, book and film reviews, etc., by an Indian moviemaker; includes interviews with him and syno

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Views on Cinema

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Views on Cinema

Mrinal §____en


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THIS 15 AH Islufl Puoumrtou

Punustmo at P. L. SIN!-IA.

First Edition. 1911'. Copyright by Mriual Sou. All rights rooorvod.

No purl of this book mly ho

reproduced in any form or by any moans. oloctronic or mochanical. including photocopying. without pcrmimion in writing from the publisher. All cnquiricc should be otldrmocd to Ishan. T912 Mahatnut Gandhi Road. Calcutta T011009. Wool Betti.-al. India. -I’

Price in India : Rs. 25.00

Tcltt printed in India by

Mr. N. Lahiri at Loyal Art Prcss (P) Lttl. 164 Lenin Saroni Calcutta 'i"t]flt}13 It.

Lo 311.?

In memory of RITWIK GI-IATAK


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The mov'le-maker of Calcutta/1 Cinema, the grovvilg phenomenon]? Lovv-budget fllmsflfl


Impact of environme-nt)'l5

The political scene in cinema;'23 Recalling histol-y,{32

Films and oflicial codeslllfi Me and my Hlouhle‘/4|} A case for n13rself;’42 Satynjit Ray sets the e:tnn1ple;'45 What is n good fllm?;’4B Venice Film Fwtivlls 1969,15! Venice Film Festival, 1972154 After manners, vvho?/60 The chicken-hearted inte1lectuaI]63 The expanded theatre/66 The October Revolution and in impact on the vvorld cinema]?!



‘Xth Muse’ interviews Mrlnal Sen,fB1 Sumit Mitra interviews Mrinal Seniflfi Udnyan Gupta interviews Mrinll Senf96

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Reviews His hook, my comments-I103

Revolt of alloleseentsfltlll The Latin American scene]!!!


Letters Barman-Ray-Sen controversy/117 Nyon Film Festival and Basil Wright}124


Postscript A.

Convocation aédress at the Film Institute of India, Poonafllil On counectioll. On intellectual perception, On Chnitonyu,!l32 On violence,fl35 Bnishsy Sravnnn and the great famine in 1943,1136

To build an attitude,Il3‘? The new vocabulary;'l3B Pndariic and its time;'l35l On Mrfgnycofldl Filming in Telengana-I/143 Filming in Telengaua--ll;’l46 B.

Synopsis of films : 1970-76/I51



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Mrinal Sen!The author Tlleimperinl povverln MrinalSen‘siil|ns From Neel Akosher Nrldtey

From Boishey Srovono From Altos}: Kmrum

From Bhtrvon Shoots From Interview

Il ustrations

From Calcutta I?! From Padotilc

From Chorus From Mrigoyno

The tribal and the destitute in Sen‘s films The sound of mimic and the picture of vvrath Mrinal Sen looks Sailaja Chatterjee K. K. Mahajan

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Antitropoiogicoi Society of India, Frontier, Stontny, Jiniior Stntesnton, Stotesmon, Amrttn flozor Potrtko, Portcimyo, Montage, Ftimfore, Film World, Ciroiocitcititrom, Federation of Film Societiev, Ali India Radio, Calcutta Review, Snmir Muknerjee, I. K. Simicin. Photographers : Suiriutti: Nomiy, Nemoi Gitose, Suirroto Potrortobis, Studio Renaissance, Studio Edna Lorenz.

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What is ingoortanr is not to seek urumirniry but to provoke discussion and in the process, to raise controversy to the extent necessary. And, in oi! probubiiity, oii works of art are,

book.. .

in lesser or greater degree, prone to be controverstat.


(What is s Good Film?)

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Without pretenaing to ofier any positive tine in this self-imposed debate the feast we can say is that a communicator, in order to communicate to his peopie eflectiveiy, must have a favourable base. What is tins base? A healthy people's movement? Poiiticat awareness on a national scale? A toierant system? Or wimt? Whatever it is, a base to protect and inspire the

communicator is an absoiute necessity, in the absence of which creativity, sooner or inter, exhausts itseif. (Political Scene in Cinema)

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The Movie-maker of Calcutta

To Has-LE a film, anywhere on earth or in space or under the sea, you need a camera and a sound recorder and also the necessary gadgets and, may be, more of these depending, of course, on our understanding of the medium and on their availability and your requirement. You also need raw film to record the visuals and the aurals, the words and the incidentals. And then with a heart to feel and a brain to operate and organize, you. are to use all these materials to produce what the Americans tcrtu ‘movie’.


I am not an archivist; that is not my business. I shall therefore make no attempt to find out who was the first to collect all the available movie materialsas well as the heart and the brain to make the first movie in Calcutta. But as a Calcuttan I shall no doubt have an enormous sense of pride if someone can prove beyond doubts that Hiralal Sen of North Calcutta had made his feature-length movie before the world couId.come to know of Edwin Porter‘s The Great Train Robbery in I904. As claimed by a certain quarter, this movie and another of the same length, one hour long, and by the same Hiralal Sen were full of innovations such as closeups, pannings, tilts etc. There are many other stories about Hirala] Sen of North Calcutta including the burning of the entire work of his lifetime two days before his death in 191?. All these, if credence could be given to them, would certainly make the history of movie-making in Calcutta much more richer than what it is now. But there are other historians too who hold difl'erent_ opinion and have more substantial mattcrs to prove that the first movie in India was made in 1912 by Dadasaheb Phalke of Poona. _ Whether or not there is a valid case for Hiralal Sen of North

Calcutta as the first feature movie-maker of the world, not to speak of India alone, is predominantly an archieval issue and not my meat. Quite in the fitness of things, therefore, I would

keep apart from such intriguing, exciting, file-searching performances of the archivists and would rather dwell on the quality of stuff produced dining the early period of the Calcutta moviemakers. -

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Views on CINEMA In the beginning, as elsewhere, there was camera with not

adequate arrangement for proper lensing, there was raw film not enough sensitive, laboratory to process the film, editing table to cut and join and technical know-how to apply. The result in the beginning, was just an assemblage of movie pictures coherent enough to record an event or, at most, a story. It was all very crude,never going beyond its physical perception, marked by total absence of characterization and atmosphere. The early stuff, because of a certain novelty never seen before, was quite saleable; the early audiences were the least demanding. Gradually, with sure success on the commercial front, the employer-appoinb ed technician became more certain than ever about the use of tools and began to introduce ‘stiffer’ variety in._story-material. From independent scene to picturizaticn of dance, from dance to mythology, from mythology to Alibaba, from Alibaba to farce, from farce to Bankim Chandra and even to Sarat Chandra: that was gererally the march of events during the silent period of Calcutta movie-makers. With more cogent story to tel! now, the need for controlled operation of the tools and the players became more evident which, eventually, led to more activities inside the studios and less in the exterior. To work inside the studios, you need additional gadgets. So there were more gadgets in Calcutta. studios. The gadgets having definite properties, movie-maker making use of them invested his work with additional properties broadly on the technical plane. But, to be objective, not much of substance was achieved during the silent period. The basic reason was the absence of a reasonable awareness on social and artistic planes. _ The sound came as it did elsewhere. With sound, movie became more life-like, more eiticiting, more saleable. And now,. with having the benefit of the spoken words and the incidentals. and also the music to create atmosphere, there were a few atte-mpts here and there, sporadic and independent, where one could find tendencies indicating some promise," teclmjcal as well asartistic, but the promise did not last long and in a total sense there was not any appreciable improvement in the standard. The movies mostly remained ‘talking pictures’. ' Small bits of near-competence in the movies of some individuals could by no means alter the general character and,‘as_ usual, the movies made in those days did collect the fattestpossible revenue. With this enormous success at the box-oflice, the pre-war movie-makers found themselves in a state of absolute

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Tits Movie-nxssa or Cxtcurrs


security and remained indilferent to the need and-the possibilities of this art-form. Economic success resulted in self-complacence, self-complacence to callousness, and it was perhaps clue to such callousness that the movie-makers in those days could afford

to stay far away from the ‘contagious’ of other arts, particularly the contemporary Bengali literature which made tremendous advance during the thirties. And then came the war which made the severest kind of impact on our people. Things moved fast, too fast for one to comprehend. And the mind, in the midst of this confusion, moved faster. The artist could not escape the reality around him. At the end of the war, some of the movies started becoming noticeably different, both in Calcutta and Bombay. Several movie-makers, during that period of transition, derived a lot of inspiration from other arts, drama in particular, and almost inevitably a trend in Calcutta movies was about to take shapeWhat followed next was not without a constant sense of uncertainty. Activities were very often uneven, and the trend in making got very much diffused when, at last, moved by the tremendous sight of the East Bengal refugees crowding, in successive waves, in the streets of Calcutta, a man called Nemai Ghose came out into the open with his camera and with almost nothing at all. Nemai Ghose, an active participant of the Indian People Theatre Movement and a cameraman, collected some meagre fund and a group of non-professional players and even refugees, most remarkable of them all being an old woman, picked up from the depth of immense suffering who had just arrived from East Bengal and had known how one felt when leaving one"s own homeland. With all these explosive materials and very little money Nemai Ghose left the glamour-world of the movie-makers of Calcutta and made his own movie“ and named it Chime:-renal‘. True, it was not artistic enough, but it was no doubt timely for more than one reason. Watching this movie one would see a certain courage, a certain conviction and a certain faith in a newer kind of movies neither known to the movie-makers of Calcutta nor to the metropolitan audience. A popular failure though in terms of takings at the box-ofl-ice, one could read on the faces of a very minority spectators the reverence of a new experience. In'l952, the first International Film Festival was held in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. As far as Calcutta was concerned the festival had an unusually remarkable role to play,

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Views on Cttvnix

that of stirring the imagination of the Calcuttans. To give you an idea of the impact the festival created I just take a page out of my old diary. lt was a certain Friday and that was the time when l had nothing to do with the movies except nurturing an impossible hope that sometime in future l would get into movies. l was at that time a medical representative, my job being detailing our products to the doctors. The writing on the page was as follows: _ . . Friday: Ill a.m.—I2 noon Visiting doctors: 4 will do. {My daily quota, however, was visiting B doctors) . 3 p.m. At Purna Theatre: Open City Rome by Roberto Rossellini. 6 p.m. At Ivlenoka: Jour do Fore by Jaques Tati. 9 p.m. _ At Light House: . Miracle in _ Milne by Vittorio de Sica. That was the time I had. That was the time my friends had. That was the time the film-enthusiasts of Calcutta" had too. They got busy, running like me from one theatre to the other religiously watching the wonder that was post-war world cinema. The Calcuttans thus became very active, they became more demanding and the ‘contagion' spread in‘ the air which also partially invaded the film studios ‘corrupting’, so to say, the youngertechnicians. And, at last, in 1955, after years of stress and strain, the greatest event in the history of Indian Cinema took place : the making of Father Panchali. _ With absolutely no experience in movie-making, Satyajit Ray collected a group of young men to work as technicians and‘,

like Nemai Ghose, selected a group of non-professionals and also one professional actor and then walked, straight into. an unknown and uncertain world defying everything that was prescribed for the movie-makers of the Calcutta studios. The result was stupendous, giving him a place among the world‘s living best. It was, in fact, the same old perennial landscape that Ray filmed, the same old locomotive running across the distant horizon that he put in a sequence, the same old pond with stagnant water that came so many hundred times on our screen; and all these and many other typicals of the village visuals not unknown to our audience were recorded on the same kind of film by the same camera with no extra gadgets, but everything in the film, the visuals and aurals, assumed an entirely different dimension. What, in

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TI-IE Movie-Manna or Cxuztrrrx


essence, made this difference '? The movie-materials being the same, the heart and the brain at work were all that made all the difference. With the growth of science and-technology making their headway in our country and with a tremendously growing sense of urbanity in Calcutta there was indeed an intense need for such a man to come and join the business of movie-making in Calcutta, a man like Satyajit Ray whom Louis Malle has rightly ca.lled‘the spiritual child of Bengali Renaissance.’ Pnilrcr Frrnciurli set the ball rolling, a case for a new trend was sharply defined and the ethics of the movie most eloquently brought ~in. Years to follow saw many happenings in Calcutta, things that contributed significantly to the art of the movie. Trends took definite shape, styles in order fo communicate ideas came upon the screen, and with the growth of trends and styles, cropped up problems of diverse nature. The years to follow Parker Pnrirhaii were indeed quite eventful when the medium was handled in different-matmer, problems dealt with differently. A movement, so to say, became very much apparent during the post Pinker Pcriclutli period with Ray and a few others giving exceedingly animated account of themselves. ' The movie-scene in Calcutta since Pnilicr Panchnli has taken an altogether different turn. Talking about the film society movement, the societies are almost always in festive mood to-' day, screening world movies of outstanding merit and all those suffering -from mcdiocrities, studying movies in their minutcst details and being religiously critical of every bit of thing done on celluloid. Over-enthusiasm does sometimes become tiresome, but -what one notices from the activities of the film societies is an acute-sense of awareness. And that is a phenomenon so much linked up with things taking place in a certain section of moviemaking in Calcutta since 1955.


With this growing consciousness mostly outside and partly inside the studios, the future, at least on the surface, appears to be not that bleak; but, to make a practical view of things, the present state of alfairs is pretty uncertain. To do the minimum good to the investor who always wants maximum return at the box-oflice, a large audience is required, larger than what all our film societies can mobilize. And the majority of the audiences continue to patronize, as before, anything that is nearer gross stufl’. So, here is one problem which, as in other countries, worries the conscientious artist. A constant sense of insecurity arising out of fear, fear of possible financial crash, is liable to

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Views on CINEMA

considerably cool down the enthusiasm of even an artist of ideological integrity. And this is what we see today among our Calcutta moviemalters: more of eautiousness, more of rethinking and less of courage. The spirit of challenge is now seen to be in the process of liquidation. We see today more of conforming to the set

rules rather than furthering the case of non-conformisrn. The trend that was built in the mid-fifties and pursued all these years in big and small proportions is now seen to be fast disintegrating. Movie-making in Calcutta is now tending to go what I would say an Esrabfishrrienr way. Whether in art, business or politics, the Establishment, to ensure its existence and growth, sets certain rules and uses its own machinery to tell others that the rules must be strictly observed. The Establishment in our trade is no exception. It has set norms for the story, prescribed rules for the application of the movie-materials, of techniques and has the last word on audience reaction. It has been trying to convince others, if not itself that the making of movies is their monopoly and not the ‘outsiders business.

But the fact remains that in I955 there emerged such an ‘outsider’ who made an aggressive infiltration and set a trend of worldstature. And now, with thirteen film societies functioning in Calcutta, with seminars and symposia being held frequently on various social and academic levels, with the fascinating urbanity that has grown in fairly large proportion among the Calcuttans and with remarkable crossfertilization of difl'erent arts operating in the metropolitan cultural life, there is no reason why the spirit of the early fifties should not come back with greater vigour to the movie-making in Calcutta. What is needed today is challenging the authority of the Establishment as Ray did in 1955. Let the new forces defy the rules, let there be no compromise with the laws of the Establishment and let there be desperate efforts, as in I955, to create new artistic conventions. What the movie-making in Calcutta needs today is aggressive infiltration which will open up new horizon even for the ‘insiders’. I

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Cinema, the Growing Phenomenon

Its THE beginning was not the word. In the beginning was the visual. The word came later, many years after the visual had made itself intensely felt on the silver screen. The word came not to negate the visual, it was made to come in order that both visual and word can permanently live together. The word arrived and the film took very little time to become an audio-visual art. The archivists, however, have debated on seniority and the aesthetes on priority, and they will possibly continue to do so far many years to come, but the fact remains that the modern

cinema is as much aural as it is visual. It is a growing medium which, judged by its own methodology and technical performance, is continuously changing its shape and form in everincreasing dimensions depending, by and large, on the irresistible march of science and technology. Till today, because of its diverse manifestations, cinema’s has been a stupendous history growing at an incredible speed and, in the process, widening the area of operation. So far, there has not been any last word for cinema. Nor will there be any for many years to come. Recently, a seminar was held in Calcutta on the American cinema in the silent era. It was organized by the USIS and among the participants were many film-society enthusiasts and quite a number of knowledgeable individuals. Paying tribute to “the old masters of the silent era was an important event in the seminar.

While paying such tribute, an over-zealous intel-

lectual said that Chaplin was undisputedly at his best in his silent films. Instantly I got up and asked him how he would rate Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux which, for its images and the

soundtrack, will go down in history as one of the greatest in world cinema. His answer was not important to me which, of course, was far from satisfactory. What was and is most

important to me is the fact that we have an incorrigible tendency to run down something so that we can build a case for another. This is our national malaise. ‘Why, I ask, negate one in order to affirm the other? Why not put things on their respective perspectives and look ahead? What stops us from being objective?

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Views on Cirtesrx

This is where I build an emphatic case against all kinds of nostalgic obsession. This is where I bring in cinema as a continuously growing phenomenon. This is why I am always for a fresh look into the work of cinema. And the modern cinema, as one clearly sees, is marked by this remarkable feat of freshness. Is, then, freshness the end-all and be-all of the modern cinema '?' Certainly not. Freshness without a purpose is meaningless. Without a moral justification it-is ridiculous", it is atrocious, it is an outrage. Cinema, like all arts, is man's creation. lt is for men, about men. lt is a kind of social activity." It is, in essence, altruistic in every" conceivable way. "It is the most scientific of all instruments of elfective conununication. . On one hand, therefore, a film-maker has to develop an intense love for the medium which, he ought to realise, is never static. On the other, he must react to the situations around him. To be able to understand one‘s own time and thus to grow a social attitude and consequently a kind of faith is what a film-maker look for. Once achieved, the film-maker cannot but feel an urge to" share the same with his spectators. To what extent he will be vocal and how he will share his ideas with his spectators is, however, a matter of individual choice and taste. Some prefer to remain profoundly detached, some intensely involved. Detached or involved, a film-maker uses his.medium as effectively as he can so that he can pass as a good communicator. If he becomes so, he hits the bull's eye. If he fails to communicate, take my word, he collapses. He who fails and says he does not collapse, tells a blatant lie. I, for one, have collapsed more than once. And more than once I have tried to revitalize myself. ‘With an open mind I have looked into my failures and those of my spectators. l have made efforts and am still making so to communicate with my spectators and, in the process, see the truth of this awkward ‘gap’. And there l come to a much-used word: experiment. (Unfortunately, in the business of cinema the word ‘expel-iment‘ has been generally vulgarised and always meant to suggest a

certain type of odd films which stands farthest from the people.) Cinema being as it is, continuously changing its shape and form, the scope for ever newer experiments is unlimited. In India where, excpt in a few cases, the film-makers have hardly looked beyond what their predecessors had achieved, we need such experiments—experiments to enlarge the area of operation, experiments to mark the advent of a new genre of cinema, ex-

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Ctnasta, Tue Gaownvo Pncwosrsnon


periments, above all, to sharpen the medium as an instrument of social change. In the late 20’s or, may be, the early 30’s, Eisenstein, the greal

test of aesthetes, thought of filming Karl Marxfs The Capital. Dziga-‘Vertov, in his theory popularly known as Kino-Eye, blasted the heroes and heroines of the silver screen and made a ruthless. attack on.all that is fictional. .Many years later, Jeanluc Godard, in order to give his ideas a theoretical basis, formed a two-man unit and called it the Dziga-Vertov group. And, in Argentine, Solanas makes his into an out and out instructional film, aggressively so, similar to what one experiences in a study class of -a typical Marxist party.

There are others all over the

world-—Rocha building this on the aesthetics of violence, Marker directing his ideas right into the common people and so on and so forth. _ The experiments with the .medium are on. " Having been in films for a good number of years and having

had a host of experiences to educate myself, I, out of sheer desperation, have, of late, developed a taste for pamphleteering, to blend the fictional with the actualities, to draw conclusions on propagandist note, to digress from the mainstream of ‘storyline‘, so to say, and to ignore the so-called subtleties of the facts of life. All this, I confess, has gone into my thinking. This is my area of experimentation. This is where now I am trying to discover myself. . Last year in Berlin I remember seeing a film by an African woman director. The film was an Angolan scene. A young Angolan, for what he is worth, wants to live an honourable life. The colonizers, for obvious reasons, take him to jail. They want to use him to serve their own colonial interest. The young Angolan refuses. They beat him to death. It was terrible. As I came out of the theatre I met a British critic. According to him, the film was not subtle enough.

I, for one, found the film

to be so close to life. I still remember the retort which instantly escaped my lips inspite of my studied civility. I told the eminent critic coming from the other side of The English Channel: Don’t you know that your predecessors have robbed as of all our

subtleties you miss in the film '2’ '

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Low-Budget Films

In l969 I made a film in Hindi called .8-lluvnn Shame. It was financed by the Film Finance Corporation. It was a

low-budget film. Since then the Film Finance Corporation has adopted a very clear policy of encouraging low-budget films without having to look into how much such projects are likely to fetch back. Films have been made since then, all low-budget projects, with no star to appear glossy, no song or dance to make the stufl‘ hot, no intrigue, romantic or otherwise, no murder or horror which, in all probability, will hold one‘s breath. What is more, the Film Finance Corporation is now seen not to have entertained any project during the last three years involving big show of stars and glamour. To me, this is great. Film making, we know, is quite expensive proposition. Making, showing and finally distributing the collected money among d-ifl'erent sectors of the business--all this is highly complex process. All this calls for organisations on Establishment patterns. In keeping with the logic of all kinds of Establishments, the business of film is also governed by some unalterable laws. Such laws are always meant to protect the economic and other interests of the bosses of the industry._ This leads to the formation of coteries. The coteries are guided, as in other big business, by what is known as ‘money begets money’. Put in big money, you get much more: this is the motto of the big business, and this is what exactly is the pattern of film business in our country. The picture is no different in Europe or in United States or elsewhere. To come, now, to the laws of the Establishment prevalent in film, and t.o analyse them, well, one has just to pull out a few specimens of the big budget films and to conclude that the Establishment has certain definite laws to define and prescribe marketable subject, that it has set definite patterns and norms for writing screenplays, that in the use of techniques too the Establishment is there to allow neither camera nor sound nor editing nor music nor anything else to rnisbehuve. They must not go ofl' the beaten track, it decrees.

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Low-Bonner Fruits


On the top of it all, the Establishment in film is the last word in assessing the audience reaction. Thus by imposing a set of odd rules and employing big money, the big bosses of the in-

dustry, in a bid to maintain the status quo, go all out to prove that film-making is their monopoly and nobo dy.else’s business. This is the film-scene of our country today: The status quo, ruled by_ the moncpolists. In 1955 the monopolists got a bitter lesson. The makers of Father Panchali defied the ruleof the Establishment and in the process built a glorious case for the more deserving, more aware, and more discriminating. They conclusively proved that film-making is not the monopoly of any particular coterie. The monopolists, as a result, got furious, but the public opinion was tremendous in favour of such a surpriseattackmade on the Establishment. Non-conformism was very much in the air and a trend was set soon following the financial success of Father Paachali; but, to be exact, theethical and aesthetic issues were no less important in creating such a trend. When! say a trend was set, Ido not mean that films of a different kind continued to be made in successive waves. What was true of Italian post-war neo-realism or later of the French cinema in the shape of New Wave films cannot be the same in a place like India where the quality of productions had been consistently very bad.

What I mean is the great enthusiasm created

among a large variety of Indian spectators as well as among a few young enthusiasts of film, very few indeed. I also recall here a certain inclination, if not enthusiasm, which could be seen among a very small section of the film-traders ready to encourage productions of, yes, as they said, of Father Prarcha!i-

type. What was that: Father Panchafi-type production‘? Did they have any clear idea of what such production would be like? I have my doubts. What they precisely meant was, I presume, (1') productions of unusual type with no big star, no glamour, done mostly with the non-professionals, (ii) productions budgeted very low, (iii) productions which are filmed mostly outside the studios, on suitable locations, (iv) productions which, structurally, mix up the creative treatment of actuality and fiction, (v) and finally productions which are run by young enthusiasts—freshers,they mean, who, while shooting on location,

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Vtnws on C'n~n':‘.t-ta wouldn‘t care for princely living or for special treatment - and who, throughout their_.uninhibitcd performance. as

members of the unit, would build wonderful rapport and collective spirit among themselves.. . ' " All these were, more or less, the essential features evident in" the unit that made Pather"Panchah'. All these, to take a glimpse of cinema, were found in large measure among the New Wave workers of the French cinema. . . - . For more than one reason this, however, did not work.


certain collection at the box-affice main reason why, after a_certain period, the traders l mentioned withdrew their support, financial and otherwise. There were other factors too for the collapse of the trend. The natural urge for a sense of security--intellectual , physical and otherwise-—-and a constant fear of liquidation prevailed upon them, the non-comformists. They became less courageous and more careful, more .cautiou.s. As a consequence, rough edges which -meant so much to the olfbeat films began to disappear, budget shot up once again, once again studios became active with sets erected and dismantled, less of actualities appmred on the screen‘, less of blending of the documentary and the fiction and, on the whole, the entire show

began to give a look of_what I would say an uncertain co-existence of the commercial and the artisic. . _ . .; -There were, of course, some exceptions. But the general atmosphere was such: an urge for a compromise solution, a desire to strike a balance between the two, a blending of the gloss and professional-, the ruthless unprettiness that is inherent in life itself. This resulted in a sizeable rise in the cost of production but assured at the same time quicker and better takings at the box-ofiice. I, for one, do not believe in such compromise formula. Nowhere in Europe did it work, nowhere in the world. ‘Whoever tried it, a kind of striking a balance, ultimately went Establishment-way and lost no time to build private theories in order to justify floor-crossing, or, to find a better expression, sitting on the fence. In this context the performance of the Film Finance Corporation for the last three years has been remarkable indeed. With its financial support and moral backing we see now that films, one after another, are being made by non-markablc peopleall low budget films, all made in record time, all without stars and glamour, without song and dance, all on location and almost all based on stories the like of which have rarely been attempted

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Low-BUDGET Fluns


in commercial cinema. Besides, the treatment that is being given to almost each of these films is seen to be unique by Indian standard. ‘What is most intriguing is that most of such films are in Hindi and made, almost all, in Bombay. ' It seems we have arrived. lt seems, with zeal almost missionary in its intensity, we are fast heading towards a ‘New Cinema‘, towards a new look-something fresh, unconventional, dissenting, iconoclastic. Had there been no counter-attack by the Establishment at this stage, the iconoclasts would have very easily got a walk-over. But the counter-attacks are very much there, on various levels. Firstly, the instant reaction of a very major section of the film-going crowd goes directly to strengthenthe rule of the Establishment. A vast majority of_out' people, as in other countries, go in for cheap entertainment and othervariety; not so big a crowd, claiming superior taste, also love the same stufi‘—entertainment with, of course, a certain amount of good performance, tasty dialogue, beautiful setting and gorgeous spectacle. So, what the rebels are left with are a small minority of discriminating spectators who will always love to see in the film-medium a continuously active and growing entity. Business-wise, therefore, l present quite a dismal picture. Secondly, comes the exhibition problem. With the kind of films we advocate it is most acute. The exhibition sector is fully under the control of the big bosses of the industry and they play the most effective role in liquidating any move that challenges the authority. Excessively high rentals charged by the exhibitors coupled with many other unpleasant practices can, by no means, be acceptable to the builders of the New Cinema. The result,

consequently, is disastrous. Thirdly, not all such films are expected to be reasonable, not all such are of much consequence, not everything from this side is likely to be artistically and otherwise valid. And then not all the grants made by the Film Finance Corporation are always legitimate. And bosses will not lose one single moment to jump on the abortive enterprises to tell you that such stupidity as making low-budget experimental films must be stopped. There are many other hurdles, many more attacks threatening the growth and development of such a trend as we want to talk about. The attack comes even from quite unexpected quarter, from even eminent individuals who do not want to see film going out of their hand, growing beyond their comprehension. This is a proven fact of history, butl repeat that film,

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inspite of, everything, is a continuously active and growing entity. Talking about the cold indifference of the general audience towards the glamour-free low-budget films, l accept the reality and suggest that, to start with and till we are able to have a hold on theouter audience which, l know, is pretty difiicult, we should bank on the minority spectators scattered all over the country. With a wider mobilisation of minority spectators which will eventually turn out to be quite a sizeable all-lndia.-

crowd, I am sure, low-budget films can be readily accepted as sound commercial proposition. It is no surprise, therefore, that low-budget films are being mostly made in Hindi and not much in regional languages. And from a personal experience I can tell you that Blmvnn Shame, had it been made in Bengali, could not have fetched its money back. Regarding exhibition, I am told that the Film Finance Corporation is planning to build a chain of art theatres throughout the country. This is fantastic. And, in the meantime, the iconoclasts, for reasons, artistic and economic,will have no choice but to continue to keep it up-— the trend. The task will be to continuously thrust ourselves upon wider audience, that is, through continuous viewings, to force them to look into films which they had earlier rejected. We have to liberate the medium. We have to prove that filmmaking should no longer be an expensive proposition.


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Impact of Environment 1


THERE was a crash. l was at a typical street corner tea stall right in the middle of a devilishly busy thoroughfare. The shop was bttzzing with animated conversation and the uniformed

bearers were going berserk catering to the customers‘ needs. The shop was full of strange, expressive noises; the street outside was equally alive with swarming humanity and the steady hubbub of trams and buses. Inside the shop, mamting the counter, sat a grave tea shop owner. Suddenly there was this crashthe customers, relaxed and noisy, were startled for a minute. Some careless bearer had dropped“ crockery on the floor. Everybody looked his way now. ljoined them. We were all looking at the culprit who had dropped the plates and not at the broken bits of crocker. The man had bent down to pick up the broken pieces. At that moment I chanced upon a picture of Gandhiji on the wall—*he head slightly bent to one side and a benign smile on his face. I honestly felt that Gandhiji was taking in the incident and saying quietly: ‘There you are, now you have broken it.‘ All this took place in a remarkably short span of time-the sound of the broken crockery, my instant reaction, the sight of the bearer bending down and finally the picture of Gandhiji on the wall. It was, perhaps, a solitary moment, but a moment packed with life. A moment made up of fragmentary audiovisual efibcts. For just a little while the noise of falling crockery had drowned out all the other sounds that came from the shop and its surroundings. In my imagination I could see the crockery strewn on the floor, the discomfiture of the hapless bearer and and the wrath of the owner. All these momentary ‘pictures associated with the environment and the noises accompanying it cameto me all at once. I felt ready to react. At this moment Gand.hiji's picture didn't seem a lifeless-reproduction but something that had suddenly been startled into life in keeping with the surrounding atmosphere, vibrant and real. lt was quite possible for Ciandhiji to come out then with : ‘There you are, now you've broken it.’ My illusion soon vanished. A moment later Gandhiji became just another picture on the wall and the poor bearer

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‘Views on Ctnsstx

was duly reprimanded for his careless conduct. The fact remains, however, that Gandhijfs emergence from the wall frame and

his becoming a part of the bustling environment in my mind‘s eye has tremendous significance from an artist's standpoint. On the surface, this might have been an illusion but it is precisely this illusion that gives any art form its strength and distinctive flavour. In,the days when the Russian cinema was still in its infancy, the Russian director Lev Kuleshov discovered some interesting facts while he was experimenting with various forms and styles. In a very lively scene he brought in a close shot of a man‘s expressionless face and next to it introduced a close shot depicting deep anguish. Strangely enough, in none .of the scenes did the close shot seem inconsistent—one was marked by liveliness, the other by sorrow and depression. The picture was the same—-a close shot of an expressionless face. In two opposite environments, in a juxtaposition of two mutually conflicting emotions, a lifeless, neutral picture thrown in becomes impregnated with life and integrated into the two different environments. The moment the picture is removed from its surroundings, it would have become the shot of a neutral expressionless face. . The picture remains the same but it is the context .which makes it seem at one moment.cxuberant and the next moment depressing. This is just like the framed photograph of Gandhiji on the wall. There too, the noise of broken crockery created an environment in which Gandhiji became imbued. with real flesh and blood but as soonas that illusion evaporated, the photograph went back to its lifeless posture. . Thus from all this the fact emerges that whether it's in the crowded tea shop or Kuleshovis table, a lifeless object can take on the trappings of life by virtue of the skill with which an atmosphere is conjured up. Any neutral picture can be changed totally by a change in atmosphere and environment." The question we must face is how essential is.this skill in the field of cinema art and is it the object of cinema art, anyway, to evoke an atmosphere where a normally colourless and dull object can be whipped into life. In fact, what the film director Kuleshov discovered in his own field isn't dissimilar to what I discovered on

my own quite unexpectedly sitting at the tea shop the other day. In many fields of literary and artistic activity this special skill has been appropriately used. For years different writers

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lurxcr or Esvtnorutsnr


and artists have been successfully employing this -art and through it they have given vent to their deep feelings and emotional

conflicts. This is how they have let their mental effervescenee colour their surroundings and give life and a sense of urgency to objects that are normally neutral and inert. Many examples of this could be found by delving into past

and present records but a simple example in this instance would suflice : ' The night deepens. One is woken up from sleep by the rough chimes of the clock. Perhaps, one is getting ready to go abroad for work. The taxi waits downstairs. Describing a similar situation on a wintry night Rabindranath once wrote : ‘ The taxi arrived at the door. Its honking sounded like a rough male growl. The locality was immersed in sleep. Far way the clock struck three in the guardroom.’ The taxi -is inanimate, devoid of feeling. But the nocturnal environment gave it a kind of life; the ta.xi‘s roar sounded like that of an authoritarian male voice. What was basically a flight of the poet's imagination took on the clearness of physical palpability and appeared so in the eyes of the reader. The poet expresses his feelings perfectly--a mixture of fantasy and objective reality.



Eliot looked on the inanimate taxi in another light—as a living example of a different sort of emotion : ‘When the human engine waits Like a taxi, throbbing, waiting.‘ ( Wasvslanvll We see this kind of taxi almost every day at the junction of Park Street, Chowringhee and Mayo Road. We see it at the crossing of Dalhousie Square and Council House Street. After oflice hours the roads are crammed with cars piling up one after another. The cars crouch forward, throbbing with indecision, waiting for the green signal. Jibanananda in his poem Night describes the same car. lt is a different kind of night—-tense, spooky and breathless. ‘ Night descends on the city in a tumult A car spluttering out petrol moves on.‘ The car takes on human attributes; here also a poetic fancy takes on solid shape and becomes a living reality for the reader. One solitary car, a lifeless object, in three different atmospheres

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views on Cttvtuta

becomes a palpable reality under the influence of the environment.

This was K.uleshov‘s discovery. If poetry can fall back on this mental reaction as a powerful means of expression, why shouldn‘t it be so with the cinema? All three poets have imposed their vision on the m.r—Rabindranath talked about a manly growl, Eliot talked about a throbbing

engine and Jibanananda went on to describe a spluttering object—all three ideas were either seen or heard. In the cinema it is possible to capture the essence of both these mediums. After all, the cinema depends exclusively on the camera and the sound box.

The camera can not only magnify the turbulent waves

of the sea but alter at will the slightest tremor of a child’s- lips. The sotutd box is capable of recordingthe loudest explosion and the faintest vibration of the heart. The artist or writer give vent to their emotions through imagery or animating the scene around them. Is it surprising that the same feelings can be recorded even more authentically by. means of the camera and sound track? Maxim Gorky’s Mother is a case in [J-cint. When the police arrested Pavel, his mother spent sleepless nights. A feeling of hopelessness _and emptiness had engulfed her. All

around her was a sense of desolation. In Gorky‘s words: ‘The cold sighed and rustled against the walls. The wind whistled down the chimney and something scuttled under the floor. Drops of water dripped from the roof, the sound of their falling merging strangely with the ticking of the clock. The whole house seemed to be softly swaying while grief had turned familiar surroundings into something alien and lifeless.‘ To be able to describe Pavefs mother's mental state, Gorky has looked at the surroundings closely and given us an account of the relentless rain, the steady drip of water, the regular ticking of the clock and so on——all of which could quite easily _be reproduced by the camera and the sound track. While Gorky has used words literally to give life and enchantment to the atmosphere around him, the film director can make the emotions even more credible and authentic by means of special cinematic methods and rejuvenate the atmosphere.

Let us take, for example, the scene in Gorky‘s Mother where the writer describes the crowd in front of the hospital.

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lstracr or ENVIRONMENT‘


A crowd has collected to tal-te out the body of the dead Igor in a procession. They are waiting outside the gate. They are all immersed in sorrow. A few remarks are bandied about. The crowd is unarmed. The police-are there to preserve law and order. The gate is flung open, the coffin emerges draped with flowers and tied with a red ribbon. ‘The waiting people immediately lifted their hats, giving the impression that a flock of black birds had suddenly taken wings.‘ l-[ere a powerful feeling which is basically not within the ordinary reach-of our senses is conjured up by the sight of the coflin and becomes a throbbing reality in Gorky-‘s descriptive passage. Gorky brings in the Pflpular lgor‘s dead body at a

particular moment of time when the assembled mourners raise their hats giving one the impression of a flock of black birds taking ofl' with a flurry of their wings. G-orky imagined this scene, put it down on paper using the appropriate words and left the reader also to imagine the picture in the same way. In the hands of the film artists this imagination takes on more directness. An ordinary onlooker looks at the raising of hats with a certain emotion but this feeling can become so much more powerful ongthe screen. The camera would reveal a forest of hands, a multitude of hats and the colourless sky in the background.

Anthony is the hero of the English writer Richard E|dington"s novel All Men are Enemies. He seemed to have lost his faith in mankind and sulfered from intense restlessness. He avoided his friends and relations and was always lost in thought. In this mood he approaches a street in London. In the words of the author ; ‘Anthony stood alone on the pavement outside the National Gallery, feeling the inhuman loneliness of a great city.

It is not solitude because it is inhabited; it is not human

because all these passers-by are anonymous, self-absorbed, indifferent. . .'.stified with people, arid swarms of indifferent people. . . .. This inhuman humanity was terrifying. . The streets were all familiar streets but to Anthony desolatingly melancholy.’ _ The writer has given a vivid picture of an enormous city's bustling life. It's like the corner of Esplanade in Calcutta. In this case Eldington has used his imagination to depict a typical

Clo git?


Views on Cinema

scene. Rabindranath in his Jiven Sim-in‘ has tried to explain this art of seeing things. When Rabindranath stayed at Sudder Street next to the Museum he used to stand in his verandah and observe the bustling city with its teeming millions. In his own words : ‘As a child I merely used my eyes to observe the landscape, today I'm beginning to useup my whole consciousness in this process.‘ ln any case what he saw with his entire consciousness wasn‘t just a heartless city. He found in the city's elnn _ vital a

source of deep and abiding bliss. Whatever may be Anthony's or Rabindranath‘s experience, the imp-ttrtant fact is both_ of them delve deep into their consciousness to tackle the harsh realities of life. This is what the film director Eisenstein has called intellectual perception-through visual perception it is possible to enlarge the area of one‘s deeper feelings. Eisenstein had explained this phenomenon very simply through rather a homely example. . _It‘s three o‘clock now. What does one see when looking at the clock‘? One sees two hands—one big, the other smallstanding at right angles. One‘s eyes throw back the message that the two hands are standing at an angle of 90 degrees. Only this much is visual perception. If the brain begins to function then, it becomes clear that the time is now 3 p.m. In other words, through intellectual perception you arrive at certain facts connected with the time viz., 3 p.m. The meaning of the exact timing is now abundantly clear.

The existence of this intellectual perception was brought out clearly in his quotation from Tolstoy‘s Anne Karenina. Ttlronsky heard that Anna was expecting a child. _ He _felt confused and helpless. He was struck speechless. l-lis eyes were vacantly fixed on the church clock tower. He didn‘t even hear the chimes. All he could see was two hands moving. Obviously, .‘v'ronsky had temporarily lost his intellectual perception. In the words of Rabindranath Vronslty at that moment could no longer see with his ‘entire consciousness.‘ It is a natural for most people not to lose this perception. In fact, its absence is inhuman and positively unnatural. A man considers himself a rational animal precisely because he can

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IMPACI‘ or Etsvmomnstrr


arrive at intellectual perception through visual perception. Just as it was possible for Eldington‘s hero Anthony or on a special day for Rabindranath to have this special perception, a film artist can also look at inanimate nature arotmd him with a heightened perception. In his case this is done with the aid of the camera and sound track. Let us assume that the hero of the film is made to stand at the -crossing of Esplanade

in the evening. What sights will the hero see‘? I-Ie‘ll probably be looking at the running trams and buses, the milling masses, the festival of lights, and a host of scintillating neon signs. A hundred and one fragmentary impressions of different sorts will invade his consciousness. The camera faithfully records such impressions. The sound box in its turn will captune a series of fleeting noises. The film director arranges words and impressions with care and precision and produces on the screen

the sort of emotional reaction -that is required for a deeper understanding of the environment and atmosphere. From this point of view one of the most successful Italian

films is .Bie_vele Thieves. The hero's desires and aspirations and sense of-failure are adequately reflected in the surrounding atmosphere. In the streets of Route, the markets, tea stalls, the astrologers‘ quarters, and the playing fields, the hero's feelings find a niche. Life brims over everywhere and the film becomes an exercise in liveliness. This effer-vescene makes Bicycle Thieves one of the most memorable films of the century. In fact, I was having a discussion on this very subject with a friend the other day. He complained that the hero Antonio underplayed his role. Of course, he had to admit that it was a profundly moving film. How could he be so inspired by it when he found the hero‘s acting below standard‘? I felt that that my friend was being a bit ‘ stagey.‘ He was transferring the character from the film to the stage and judging him by standards which could really only be applicable to the stage. If Antonio had got on to the stage and was made to act according to the rules of the cinema, he might very well have underplayed his role. On the other hand, if in the vibrant surroundings of the cinema he was asked to emulate stagey mannerisms, that really would have seemed a frightful exaggeration. In the art of the cinema acting is indeed an essential ingredient of success but that is not quite the whole story. If acting alone was the answer, what would be the point of Kuleshov‘s discovery?

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‘litsws on Ctrrsm.

What would my experience in the tea stall be worthin that case‘? If a close shot of an expressionless face or Gandhiji‘s photo frame on the wall can suddenly assume the dimensions of real life, it isn‘t in the least surprising that Antonio should have an impact on my friend in spite of the underacting. In Kuleshov‘s scheme of things the expressionless face removed from its context becomes totally lifeless, just as Gandhiji‘s picture divorced from the crowded and animated atmosphere of the tea shop becomes just an ordinary reproduction—devoid of life and vitality.

Similarly when my friend looks at Antonio away from the cinema screen his performance looks as if it has been underacted. I realised from what my friend told me how in the art of the cinema that creation of the right atmosphere is an important part of its existence. It is a matter for rejoicing that in India today some film directors and artists should be thinking about the possibilities of the cinema in this field. In fact, some of them have even made successful experiments in this direction. Unfortunately in most productions the emotions evoked by the plot, story and characters seem independent of the time and place described with the result that there is no attempt at any topicality or the slightest signs of having used one’s consciousness to probe the depths of the scene. Of course we need a convincing story but at the same time there must be a conscious desire to employ skilfully all the characteristics of the art of the cinema to make one‘s point. The need of the hour is to be able to create the right kind of atmosphere.

Rabindrauath in his Jnpnn Yen-i refers to an old Japanese poem. The poem consists of three lines only-: ‘An ancient pool. A frog jumps. The sound of the splash.’

Here the idea is to describe silence and in Rabindranatlfs own words ‘this poem not only exercises restraint in the matter of speech but also shows how thought can be economised as well. The emotional restraint is untouched by the exuberance of the heart. One could call this feat a glorious and rare restraint of the heart.‘ To successfully create the authentic atmosphere in a film we require not only this restraint of the heart but a profundity of spirit and an abudance of deeply felt emotion as well. (Translated by Sernir Mukherjee )

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. . .,

The Political Scene in Cinema

AT LEIPZJG in GDR it is always a week-long film festival, held in theflast week of November when snow begins to fall and the

people begin to prepare themselves to welcome Christmas. It is a festival of short films collected from all over the world and screened at the rate of not less than 25 films every day. The duration of the films ranges between 3 minutes or even less to lllll, minutes or more, and none of the participants, as I gathered from my viewing list, is free from what a purist would condemn as mere political pamphleteering. I, for one, have found the festival enormously stimulating. This, however, does not mean -that I liked all the films which were screened at Leipzig last year. As we know, there are too many International film festivals held ina year; and it is also our experience that not too many good films are made in a year. In Leipzig too, out of more than 200 entries this time, while there were good films, there were also bad and indifferent films. And, as usual, not all of us agreed with the jury's decision; but, unlike in non-commtmist countries, the decision was received calmly, with no cat-calls and no booing. There were cheers and ovations at the concluding function; the speeches had all the characteristic hyperboles and rhetoric liberally strewn between the lines. Finally, around midnight, the curtain was drawn on a note of happiness. Not quite an exciting finish, to be frank ! But, to me, what was ezisiting at the Leipzig festival of l9'i'6 was meeting old friends and making new contacts. Who were the new contacts ‘I Those who, until recently, were rotting in jails for having made, so their all-powerful administrators said, subversive films. Among them were Carlos Alvarez and his quiet wife, Julia, both of them filmmakers from Colombia, and their friend and colleague, lv[anuel,and also the Chilean, Guzman, who made a wonderful film called The First Year. Among the old friends were Ulrich Gregor and his wife, Erika from West Berlin, Gordon Hitchens of New York’s Film School for Social Studies and Argentine’s Rudolfo Broullon, now based in New York, who, as the biggest and the most untifing promoter of

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Views on CINEMA

Latin American films, had plenty of ‘secrets’ to circulate in the festival.

In spite of political persecution, Broullon said, the Latin

American filmmakers have been performing very well indeed. But making films, he added, and showing them under duress is becoming increasingly difficult and quite expensive. l-le had good news for me, he said. He told me he had selected half-adozen films for the festival in India including the famous Hollywood Trial. Quite naturally, l became enthusiastic, because he is the same man who, in our 5th International Film Festival, sent us an excellent Bolivian film The Blood of the Condor. And it is he through whom the National Film Archives in Poona purchased a highly stimulating film called The History Book. Talking about Carlos Alvarez and his comrades, I am tempted to recall a day in l9?2 when, in the lastweek of October, l acted as the chairman of the jury at a week-long festival at Nyon in Switzerland. A busy week was over and a midnight encounter with our Ambassador, Mr. Arjan Singh, not quite happy though, had just ended. All the members of the jury, having done their job, had rushed back to their countries and I was the only one waiting for my flight back to India on the following day. Next day, quite early in the morning, I was woken up in my hotel byja telephone call from the director of the festival, Moritz de Hadeln. He told me that he had just received an important letter from an. unexpected quarter and that he needed an immediate session with me. Within quarter of an hour he reached my hotel and we sat on the mysterious letter. It was from a man called Carlos Alvarez, written from a Colombian jail and just smuggled out. It was a kind of circular, an appeal to all lovers of cinema all over the world, giving information about him and his wife and about six other colleagues of his, all in jail facing military trial. The world must know all about them, Alvarez appealed, and international opinion must be mobilised. ‘Save my friends and me and my wife,‘ Alvarez concluded. Later in the evening we met at l'v[oritz‘s place—-Henri Stork, Moritz, his wife and l. We drafted two telegrams-—one on behalf of the jury, and another on behalf of the International Association of Short Filnmiakers. Henri Stork, the noted Belgian director and a close friend of Joris lvens with whom he jointly made that great film Borinogs, contacted the executives of his Association scattered all over Europe and collected their consent. I also did the same, spoke to other six members of

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THE PoLrrte.xL Scans in Cmetux


the jury on the telephone, and made sure that all of them whole-

heartedly supported the .text of our draft telegram. We then sent both the cables to different parts of the world--to the military Government of Colombia, to LING, to UNESCO, to various other agencies and in unambiguous terms said that such prosecution as this was nothing short of a fascistic onslaught on the arts. Coineidentally, in l9?3, when I chaired the jury at the Mannheim Film Week in West Germany, it was decided by all the

members of the jury that a resolution be drafted and read out on the concluding day of the festival condemning the military junta of Chile for keeping Guzman behind prison bars. Interestingly, it was at this festival that we found Guzman’s film The First Year to have righly deserved the Special Jury Award.

They were all- there at the Leipzig festival, talking animatedly, narrating gruesome experiences, listening to what others had to say about themselves sharpening their knowledge of

cinema and keeping the flag flying. The Latin Americans were the most active at Leipzig, and all of us made notes, mental and written, what they had told us about the film-scene in their cotmtries. And it was from them that we heard about Glazier, kidnaped in broad daylight from a busy street in Beunos Aires and possibly killed subsequently. As they said this, I remembered Glazier's face at the Berlin Forum in I9’?3. He was distributing leaflets at the Forum’s permanent theatre called Arsenal, and I met him right there. How was that, after coming all the ‘way from Argentine, he was only circulating papers which contained problems of the trade union movement in his country ‘l Glazier confessed thattrade unionism was his best love and not filmmaking. Sooner or later, he said, he would devote all his time to the trade union movement. I understood him, I admired him and I could see why he had made a full-length feature called The Traitor based on the true life-story of a trade union leader of his country.

ls it trne,I asked the Latin American delegates, that Leopoldo Tore Nilson had reacted sharply to several cuts in his latest film

and had issued an angry statement in Madrid saying that he would not go back to Argentine '2' They said, yes. Later, at Cannes, where I attended the meeting of the International Film and Youth as a member of the jury, I met another

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‘Views on CINHIA

young director from Argentine. He told me that Tore Nilson had gone back to his country and had so far encountered no problems with the authorities. And it was the same Argentinian at Cannes who told me a terrible truth. Glauber Rocha who, until recently, carried on his head six warrants issued by the Brazilian Government, on several dangerous charges including that of subversion, had now returned to his country, unhurt. A statement favotn-able to the Government, made publicly by Rocha himself in a desperate bid to reconcile himself with the authorities, had done this miracle! Knowing Glauber Rocha as we do, could it be a tactical move ? Or, a simple case of surrender born out of longer-term depression ? A short flashback again. While in Berkeley at the University of California in I975, a friend of mine gave me a letter to read. It was Rocha's letter to him, written from Paris. I read the letter and could clearly see that Rocha was in extremely bad shape, both financially and mentally. l-le needed a job, he wrote; he needed money to makea film; he needed someone who would understand him, and what he needed most was to communicate. Along with the letter Rocha sent a new script to his friend. I read that too and found it exceedingly well-conceived. I never thought that Crlauber Rocha, the rebel, the one who wrote an excellent piece on the Aesthetics of Violence, would break so soon. Or, perhaps, what I had heard was a blatant lie l At the end of the Leipzig festival I asked one of the Latin Americans, ‘I-low will you face the local situation when you return to your countries?’ ‘Not all of us will return’, he said. ‘Those who are considered ‘dangerous’ may have to take cover. If the situation becomes worse they will have to organise temporary shelters in safer cotmtries.‘ ‘Which means some of the filmmakers will be cut off from their own people. And a situation like this is disastrous for a communicator because a communicator living in isolation lives a wretched life. ls that what actually happened to Glauber Rocha ‘I’ l asked myself. Immediately after the end of the Leipzig festival there was an international seminar in Berlin attended by a little over 50 participants. It was a three-day session and the subject was a much-discussed theme—Cinema as a Weapon Against Imperialiam. True, there were lively speeches, all angry and defiant,

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made by the participants and made exclusively for them, but what I felt particularly unhappy about was the frequent reference

to the ugly machinations of imperialism and the relative absence of discussions on problems of cinema. Harping on the conspiracy of the imperialists and their agents and sub-agents, unmasking them all and making people constantly aware of - the danger of colonial culture infiltrating into various levels of socio-economic strttcture—-all this is quite understandable and, indeed, fair enough. But when the dialogue is strictly between responsible filmmakers, as in the Berlin seminar, the primary focus, quite in the fitness of things, should have been on the creative problems, on the crisis of communication. The seminar under discussion hardly touched on these issues. This brought me close to a thought which had been making me itch ever since I had my private talk with the Latin Americans in Leipzig. The Latin Americans are, indeed, brave people who, because of intense political necessity, have been making films rather secretly, showing them secretly and discussing them, of course, not openly. And what is true of Latin American countries is also partially true of several countries in Afrim fighting relentlessly against colonial rule. These, we know, are the films which reflect reality in its ruthless detail, these are the films, didactic and dynamic, which impart knowledge to spectators, sharpen their political understanding, agitate them, ignite their passions and, in the process, help them grow into active partisans. A revolutionary task indeed! But, who are the spectators of such films ‘P ‘Who are they who brave danger and go underground to watch films clandestinely and then to discuss them inclosely guarded shelters ‘l Could they ever be aset of apolitical people or even a neutral lot waiting to beindoctrinated? Do such films ever reach the masses of the countries ? As far as my thinking can go, watching such films under cover of darkness and discussing them almost conspiratorially is no easy job. It is a political act; it involves risk, it calls for courage and, of course, a certain conviction. All these are the essential virtues of an accomplished partisan. A conclusion, therefore, becomes quite apparent : films made secretly and shown clandestinely can never reach beyond a certain boundary; the masses will always remain on the other side of this boundary. ls there then any alternative left for the militants in the countries where democratic rights are being mercilessly curbed? Jorges Sanjines is making films outside Bolivia, Guzman outside

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Views on Cirmsix

Chile and Solanas, so we hear, has left Argentine after the recent coup. There are a host of stories of others trying to pull in their resources in the more friendly atmosphere of alien countries. In the process, some have been found to have grown even stronger and tougher but others just go into oblivion. Among all these stories the most incredible and the saddest is Glauber Rocha’s who, having been in virtual exile for a long period, is reported to have returned to Brazil but not to his people.

In Europe and Africa we hear of similar cases, film-

makers leaving their own countries insearch of freedom. The most widely discussed of them all is Costa-Gavras, quite active in the business of filmmaking, but not in Greece. This is one side of the picture, terrible and glorious. On the other side, particularly in the Latin American countries, are the filmmakers who, even in the face of inhuman repression, are keeping in close touch with their people and their politics and hoping against hope that some day somewhere the wind will shift. In the Soviet Union the wind shifted with the great revolution in 191?. So, if the Battleship Potemlrin had been made immediately after the I905 uprising and shown in Caarist Russia, the fate, in all probability, would have been the same

as. that of films being made in today's Latin America. Or, to pose a pertinent question, could it ever be a realitythe making of a Strike or a Potemktn or, say, a Mother in the Cxar’s system? I wonder. Without pretending to offer any positive line in this selfimposed debate the least we can say is that a communicator, in order to communicate to his people effectively, must have a favourable base. What is this base? A healthy people‘s movement‘? Political awareness on a national scale‘? A tolerant system‘? Or what? Whatever it is, a base to protect and inspire the communicator is an absolute necessity, in the absence of which creativity, sooner or later, exhausts itself. In the Indian context, such a base once surfaced on the cultural scene, though not in the area of film. During the terrible days of famine in I943, and in the following years, a group of dedicated men and women, all politically committed,‘ decided they could not remain indifferent to the situation around them. They took upon themselves the responsibility to tell the truth, to forge unity against confusion and to analyse and expose the various forms of exploitation. Under the able guidance of the Communist Party, despite. the alleged inconsis-

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tcncies of its politics, they formed an organisation and called

it the lndian_People‘s Theatres Association. Soon they spread all over the country and infiltrated even into the remotest interiors. They sang, they danced, they staged plays and varieties of recitals and in doing so they spoke about the miseries and indignities the people suffered and also about those who caused the sufferings. They used popular forms, also perfected the crudities and spoke the language of _the common people- Those were the days when creativity reached great height and propagnda became aesthetic excitement. - Most interestingly, all this was possible in spite of the system growing increasingly intolerant. It was possible bemuse a favourable base was offered by the vast masses of the people.and their conscious support.

At Cannes, the most beautiful riviera in southern France, it was a ltl-day festival starting from December 26 and ending on January _4._ I t was again a competitive festival, non-exclusive in character, 30 feature films featuring in it; and the jury was composed of five members; three French, one Rumanian and me-—the only representative of the ‘wretched of the Earth’ who did not speak French. Unlike in exclusive festivals where participating films must not have been presented at any other different festivals held in serious countries of the world during the last two years. Here were films about which the public and the members of the jury differed violently. And that was quite exciting. , . What was most striking about this small festival, the like of which I experienced only at Forum in West Berlin, was the ‘discussion’ held immediately after each screening. Here, the ‘discussion’ was conducted not to arrive at any conclusion, not to resolve differences, but to expand one‘s area of operation. It was indeed a vital section of the festival at Cannes and that was precisely why the festival was rightly called ‘The Meeting of the International Film and Youth.'. While entering the Salle Cocteau to listen to such discussions I was in the beginning a little hesitant. But it took me hardly a minute to realise that the word ‘Youth‘ meant just youthfulness and nothing _else at all. So, age being no factor, I could find quite a comfortable place in the sessions and could easily build a rapport with the young and the old. At times I felt

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‘Views on Cnoinx

uneasy, because a member of the jury, while in public, must not talk. For me, frankly enough, it was a diflicult exercise in austerity! But talk we did, as much as we could, at the end of the three screenings every day. Each one of us in the jury talked a great deal, argued on every film, agreed on certain points, dilfered on others. The toughest battle we had was about an Italian

film called Ragazso Di Bargain which the public enjoyed hugely, laughing every two minutes, and whichl found to have been made with the primary intention of diverting the


Rngnzzo is an extremely well-made film operating magnificently on two levels-on reality and on fantasy. Unpredictably, the characters who, along with the situations, are highly palpable in their physical details, walk smoothly i_nto fantasy and, with infmite smartness, return to reality. From the beginning to the end the jot.u'ney continues unceasingly-—from reality to fantasy and back. While doing so, the director, Paradisi, plays delightfully with his tools in an inimitable spirit of gay abandon. But, to be honest, he was a bit too smart for me. ln an absurd bid to change society, the young protagonist, the poor son of a poor father, claiming to be the typical representative of the proletariat, indulges in all kinds of fun. Just fun and a host of caustic comments which make you laugh, laugh to your hmrt's content. As you come out of the theatre you are, in fact, prone to be tolerant towards the system that breeds the rich and the poor and that sharpens the line between the two classes. You become indulgent and even kind, because here is a system which offers you a lot of fun and no hatred. You are happy, you bear no grudge against what you should consider abominable. The sole purpose of the film, as you scratch the surface and reach its bone, is to entertain you and to divert. After the jury made their decision and Rngnzzo disarmed, I playfully indulged in a dialogue with a disappointed journalist. Against my argument he referred to Chaplin.

‘Didrft the great master use the same trick ‘l’. the journalist asked me. l jumped instantly into C.haplin’s world, made somewhat of a speech on his philosophy, simple and profound, and recalled that wonderful line he said in reply to the objection raised by the purists for avoiding a last shot in The Greer Dictator —that of the Jew barber and Hanna walking hand in hand, towards the glowing horizon. ‘Wouldn't that be truly

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T1-nr. Potrrrcsr. Scans IN Cinssrn


Chaplinesque,’ they grambled, ‘ walking towards a promised land, as in his earlier films ?'


Chaplin had quietly said, ‘There is no promised land for the persecuted.‘ That was precisely why, when the Jew barber in his mistaken identity cried out from the high pedestal; ‘Hanna, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up! Look up, Hanna! The clouds are lifting. . . Hanna in a big close-up looked up, looked deep into him from a distance, over the heads of the multitudes, and perhaps whispered, ‘ He is our only hope.’

Dr, did she say it? Whether Hanna said it or-not, that was the end of the film, her eyes glistening, looking -beyond.

Two festivals, one at Leipzig and another at Cannes, at an interval of less than one month, offered me plenty of films, provided a lot of fun and friendship and food too, quite a lot

of clarity and, indeed a headful of stimulants. On my way back, on January 5, I was thinking of a third festival which had started on January 3 at New Delhi. On January 8, I received

a letter, the first and the only one to have come from the Festival Directorate, inviting rne to the concluding function on January 16, when the President of India would give away the awards.

Clo 311,?

Recalling History

I-Inna as! I, facing my double.

l put a question to myself.

Question _- Quite often do I talk about redefinition of history. It must surely be my favourite topic. What precisely do I mean by it? Answer : Let me tell you a story—my own experience, revealing a truth of profound significance. In mid-sixties I was assigned the production of an hour-long

documentary on SOD years of Indian history emphasising on the popular concept of continuing synthesis running through ages, of unity—so to say——in diversity. The film was made and, to be frank, I was not particularly happy about it. Even during the making of the fil1n.I could sec that I was not sufliciently inspired.

What was wrong with me? As I had gone places capturing ancient monuments and historical relics and various other docinnents and exhibits whichever could reveal, in small and large measures, the inside stories that happened in history, l began to realise that the wrong was not basically with me but essentially with the officially approved popular concept of unity in diversity. I could, of course, feel intensely about a certain unity particularly when

the whole of the country had an alien enemy to confront—-the white rulers, the imperialist Britishers. And there, and there only, I must claim, my film came to a reasonable shape and not in the early sequences depicting the ancient and the medieval periods. Now, to come to my story : Having built the Asokan empire on celluloid, deriving materials from a vast number of monuments scattered all over the country and also outside, I finally visited Dhauli near Bhuvaneswar where the historic battle of Kalinga was fought. It was all undulations, quietude prevailing all around, with cattle grazing and the river Daya flowing silently. In the middle of the site, on a little mound, stood the historic white elephant~—the Buddha motif and one of Asoka‘s edicts inscribed on rock. "

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ttrcstzluc Hlsroav


This edict, as you know, is one of Asoka's most important of all his edicts on rocks and pillars erected in different parts of his pan-Indian empire under emperor's direct supervision. This, like others, is to evidence the great metamorphosis which the all-powerful emperor went through immediately after the cruel war of Kalinga. The text, as in all other inscriptions, was an atonement for what the emperor considered his misdeeds and also his pledge. ‘I, Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods. . . .‘ —that is how the tent begins and what follows is a claim that the king looks upon his ‘ subjects ‘ as his dear children and that he who will do any offence to his ‘ children ’—officer or whoever he may be-—wi|l be punished. This and more of such sweet words form the text—-all messages aimed at restoring peace among his ‘ subjects ’ and to ensure, in emperor‘s own words, ‘that people may act according to it and that it may endure for a long time.‘ And the emperor continues, ‘ And one who will act thus will do what is meritorious.‘

I sat before the edict and tried to find a vantage position for the movie camera. The blazing sun and a sultry weather made us feel extremely uncomfortable. There was no vegetation around, no tree to offer us any shade. Suddenly my eyes caught a woman—-—a.s old as an old banyan tree, seized with infirmity——sitting a. few yards apart.


business she could have there at such awkward place and at such awkward time other than keeping an eye‘ on the cattle

grazing beyond? I looked at her and smiled. it was so contagious!

Instantly did she smile back.

I do not remember how it happened, but it did happen : mysteriously did I go back to the past, more than two hundred years before the birth of Christ. Thus, turning into an ancient, I looked into a woman who lived in Asoka‘s time. It ‘was strange but, true, I was irresistibly drawn into this strange world

of Asoka, the emperor. I looked again at the woman, now transformed. She now looked oppressed, wronged and humiliated. Drained of all hopes for survival, because she lost everything during the Kalinga war, she now sat at the foot of the edict so lovingly erected by her victor. During the war she witnessed the vilest kind of

barbarity inflicted on her own people by the imperial army of emperor Asoka. She suffered the inhuman torture inflicted on her children and when her own grand-daughter was presumably


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raped by a. dozen soldiers of Asokan army she remained dumb. And when they looted the barns and set fire to the huts including her own, she stood amidst the ruins and forgot even to shed a silent tear. Ii was no technological war and so nothing could be more gruesome than the battle won by the army of an pan-Indian empire. And now this woman, turned a destitude, sat at the foot of history so that she ‘ may act according to it {incision of the edict) and see that it may endure for a long time.‘ And then, as Asoka said, ‘ Any one who will act thus will do what is meritorious.‘ I returned to my own world. I came back to my own self —one who has been assigned the production of a long film which has to have a glowing sequence on Asoka‘s conversion to Buddhism. And there sat the old woman, looking beyond, the holy rock and the white elephant standing solidly behind. Significantly, quite a ntunh-er of texts elsewhere on rocks and pillars have described the ‘ deplorable ‘ facts of slaughter,

death and deportation of thousands of people during the battle in Kalinga, but not a word about such ‘ painful ‘ history is seen to be carried in the text at Dhauli. A diplomat‘s feat, indeed!

To me, understandably, the edict, with all the sweet words and no word about atrocity which made history, looked terrible and atrocious. It was an insult done to humanity. It was a deep injury which no balm could cure. I was appalled by this fact of history. It was to me a discovery, a unique revelation and it instantly shook the very inside of me. Asoka, I began to think, must have been a shrewd ruler who, having built an empire, could clearly see that it would be impossible for him and his laclteys to rule his ‘subjects‘ who were geographically so wide apart. In the absence of an effective conununication machinery he, therefore, must have evolved a novel technique which he immediately put to practice through rocks and pillars. ' But that is not the whole of my story. After completing my filming at Dhauli I came back to Calcutta and got immediately involved in collecting materials to ‘ build‘ the British history in India. One day I quietly stepped into the Victoria Memorial Hall which houses a large variety of documents and exhibits belonging to the imperial

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bosses. I walked into the specious central hall which, earlier, I visited so many times. To my shock and surprise I almost rediscovered the historic proclamation of Queen ‘Victoria occupying a large area of the central hall. It was the proclamation made in I859 when Victoria, ‘ the queen of England and the empress of India,‘ took over the governance of this vast subcontinent. A plenty of sweet words and a sweet pledge, not much dissimilar from Asoka’s edict at Dhauli, formed the text of the historic proclamation. And, coincidentally, it was thrust on the people of India soon after the inhuman massacre in I857. Shall we call it, whatever it is worth, the ancient consistency of the rulers? Interestingly, in the mid-nineteenth century when the history of British rule in India took a significant turn, Queen Victoria and her council of ministers did not take the trouble of building edicts on rocks and pillars, because a year before the Queen's proclamation came locomotives to our country. Thus, the two imperial declarations juxtaposed side by side made me grow wiser and, indeed, increasingly suspicious of the designs of the rulers‘ men who write history books. The urgency for a redefinition of history and consequent re-"dressing of whatever happened in history, therefore, become quite apparent ‘to you and me, to the modern man. We badly need ari intense search, we need such an approach because we

need to check and double-check the past to enable _us to foresee a better future. And, then, a vibrant present can be ensured only when we, thus, learn to question.

Clo 311.?

Films and Official Codes

Ir was in I959. .The Board of Film Censors, having viewed a Bengali film called Headmaster, objected to a shot showing a wall with some political writing on it. The Board was generous enough to ignore the anti-government slogns but found the three-lettered slogan-chanting party ‘CPI’ to be highly inflamm-

able. The producer was immediately called and asked to cut it out. The thick-lettered ‘CPI’ was at the bottom of the frame.

Cutting out ‘CPI’ from a complete shot '1' The producer, who also happened to be the director of the film, very patiently explained to the Board that it was just not technically possible. The alternative, therefore, was to remove the entire shot. The producer-director explained the shot and the Board admitted

that the action taking place in front of the wall was very important. But the Board was sorry. In spite of everything, it did not budge an inch.

The producer argued, threatened and then finally appealed. There was no more softening in the ofiicial attitude. In utter frustration and disgust the producer-director walked into the editing room and did the necessary correction. l-le pulled out the frames, so many of them, one after another, and through a magnifying glass spotted the condemned region showing ‘CPI’ very carefully and, for technical reasons, very tenderly, erased it all. Why such a major operation to remove one single ‘CPI’ appearing on the screen ? Why such an assault on so many frames '? In a public theatre a spectator is exposed to 24 still frames every second. Between the exit of each frame and the entry of the nest there is absolute darkness. If a shot stays for 2 seconds, the number of frames appearing on the screen will be 48, always spaced out by instant darkness. If it stays longer, say, for 3 seconds, the number will be T2.

And now, considering

the nature of the action captured in our problem-shot, let us presume this to have stayed for at least 5 seconds. In such a case the shot would contain I20 frames. One hundred and twenty frames or more depending on the length of the shot l

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Flues AND Orr-"tctst. Coors


What exactly. the producer did, therefore, was to examine each one of these 12G frames or more, chase l2l} ‘CPI’ or more from the frames and very tenderly liquidate them al|—l2D of them or more. Not an easy job, really ! Such was the penalty the producer paid for what the all-powerful Censor Board had considered prcjudical to the interest of the country. In l9?l, more than a decade after the Headmaster episode,

things have changed. In my case, I have seen the ‘Communist Party‘ having escaped unhurt. The political manifestations in my film with peasants and tribals carrying arms, drums and flutes, all news-reel coverages, have also gone unchallenged. And once I could accidentally capture a student‘s massive mobilisation being mercilessly repulsed by the police. This too got the approval of the Censor Board. All this is very encouraging. It clearly indicates that censorship today is not the same as it used to be in I959. In I967’, if one cares to look back, Sulthdev made an hourlong documentary called India, 1967. A little earlier, our dear friend the late Chari made a film called Face to Fore.


two were followed by a third film by Pratap Sharma giving a harrowing account of the Bihar draught and making scathing comments on sociological issues. Many points were made in these films, sometimes sharply and at times obliquely, saying that the conditions offered by the govermnent are not perfect. There was sarcasm in their submission of facts, there was anger

and also cynicism. The Censor Board did not object to all these. The films were passed for general screening without any cut whatsoever. . There were, of course, inside stories relating to the certification by the Board and the subsequent general screening of Sukhdcv‘s film and of Chari‘s and of Pratap Sharma‘s. Objections were reported to have been raised from responsible quarters before and after the films were passed. Morarji Desai, for one, was reported not to have contested the objectivity of theisituation depicted in Indie, I96? but found the entire film to be hopelessly purposeless and unpatriotic. S. K. Patil, it is rumoured, also agreed with Morarji and made efforts to see that the film remained canned. These and many more discontents, mild and severe, did surface at that time but no substantial damage could be done to the films. But only three years before Sulthdev made this brilliant fihn, the producer of the news-reel section of Fihns Division under the

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Views on Cinema

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was suddenly summoned to Delhi and charge-sheeted for using a couple of shots or more depicting a bandh organised by the Delhi Committee of the Communist Party of India. According to the policy-makers at Delhi, this was an atrocious act: doing a coverage of a communist bandh and in the process capturing ared flag and circulating the film through government agencies. The producer was warned and asked to mind his ‘job’ and absolutely nothing else. If one ranaacks the archives one is likely to unearth various

stories of such stupid control by the authorities in the past and also of reforms in small measures, as seen during the last few years. This, then, is one side of the. picture as far as censorship of films is concerned. On the other side we have the long report of the Rhosla Committee having made many recommendations including restricted liberalisation of hugs and kisses and strippings.

But it is strange and not without significance that in his report Mr. Khosla has not touched political issues. It thing to capture a few writings on the walls—moderate and eJttreme—and make a few oblique comments on the ways of the government, but it is another to treat your ideas poiitilroliy. It is one thing to present an accurate catalogue of events in Subhas Chandra Bose‘s life, but it is another to make a political film on him. To make a political film and to treat your ideas politically you need reforms in censorship in very large measure. And that is totally absent in Khosla Committee's report. . These are crucial times. With the split inside the ruling party and inside the largest opposition, with various other groups of various shades making a lot of noise and, outside the parliamentary bounds, with the CPI (ML) and the splinter groups making themselves acutely felt, life in our country seems highly changed today. We are involved, all of us, this way or the other. And, maybe, in this upheaval we shift positions much too often. Maybe, in the midst of countless contradictions we arrive at conclusions only to correct them. But we are changed, we are tense, we are agitated. And living in the midst of such explosive times we need to react: react bitterly if we so choose. To react, therefore, we need freedom. And here, as a film-maker, I feel very strongly in favour of political liberalisation, a MUST

among measures which Mr. Khosla, for

reasons known to him, did not take up in his report.

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FILMS xno Orrtcnu. (‘loom



Besides, the codes of censorship have so far remained frightfully interpretative. One individual interprets a certain code in a certain manner depending on his own intellectual make-up; the other does it in a different manner. As a consequence, the objections raised and recommendations made by the different individuals of the Censor Board while examining a particular film are more often than not just individual likes and dislikes. In the case of socially indifferent films, particularly ‘non-political’ films such practices are not likely to do any major damage. But with different kind offilms reflecting the spirit of our times the

existing codes, whatever they are, need to be sharply defined. Otherwise, any doubt, any room for individual interpretation may, in all probability, lead to utter confusion and big mischief.

Clo 311.?

Me and My ‘Double’

In BHUVAN Snosts, the tough bureaucrat, after he ‘corrupts’ himself immediately on his return to ofiice, behaves rather abnormally. Alone to himself, he suddenly bursts into songs, he

dances, he jumps in infantile enthusiasm and then, before he is roused by unceasing telephone calls, he pulls out several leaves

from his confidential file and throws them into the air. It is funny, it is odd, unbecoming of an oflicial like him. And, true, it is difficult to find any earthly logic to support the bureaucrat's action in this concluding sequence unless you grant Mr. Shome a certain touch of insanity. As you examine the sequence, you will see that the same can be told about the editing pattern, all erratic and illogical. But all this has been very much planned, all done with utmost care and precision. And this is what I believe Jaques Tati meant by that delightful expression ‘inspired nonsense‘. I, as the maker of the film, indulge in such nonsense as much as the protagonist does.

And I expect my spectators to sit up

and watch how acutely the bureaucrat suffers in his revelry and to make note of an inner sense of loneliness of which he has of late been aware. I wish some one were there to watch and see how, twenty years ago, I also had a mad kick of an experience not much dissimilar to my protagonisfs. ' That was the time when, driven by circumstances, I took a job of detailing and selling medicines to the chemists of Uttar Pradesh. One of those days, when I was in Jhansi watching

the wonder that was history and selling medicines which was my profession, I felt terribly bored. Riding on cycle I immediately moved along a lonely avenue and reached a lovely spot, with boulders around, big and small, and practically nothing else. It was towards the evening, the western horizon changing colour quite too often. Everything except the sky seemed dead, all desolate. I could almost hear my heart beat. It was terrible, it was inhuman, the entire atmosphere was so absolutely indifferent. Only an hour ago I got sick of people because they seemed to me so anonymous, self-absorbed and physical; and,

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ME xsto Mt! ‘Donuts’


now, having come to a place where l thought I would enjoy solitude, I hated it. l, then, returned to my hotel, shut myself in my small room and moved towards the mirror. I could see myself from head to foot and I enjoyed seeing ‘it’. As I looked deep into the eyes of my ‘double’, I was instantly overtaken by an uncanny pleasure. ‘What was more, l wanted to see more of my ‘double’. Without caring to behave myself, I made a violent move to strip myself. . . . .. There stood my ‘double’, naked, face to face with me. Was

the look menacing, the double‘s or mine ? I do not remember. I remember the talk I had with ‘him’. I said, hugely intrigued: ‘There you are, Ivlr. Mrinal Sen, one who read a lot on film, wrote substantially well on its aesthetics and made frantic efforts to impress others I So, here you are, Mr. Mrinal Sen, a Dawniwalla (medicine-man) who once wanted to be a film-maker! Didi-i‘t you, Mr. Mrinal Sen, manage to hook a money-backer and get a film done '? To be honest, wasn’t it lousy T Wanting to get back to film '1' Oh, no. Serve your boss well, rot here and try to get an increment. To feel bored, oh, that’s not your business; you cannot afford it, can you ‘i’ So saying, I made faces, shouted at the top of my voice and then giggled and laughed and made all kinds of absurd gestures. Was I kiddying ‘i With whom ‘l That is anybody’s guess. Coming back to BHUVAN SHDME, twenty years later, I just looked back and tried to connect the story that was born in the worst of my days in Jhansi. And, now, sitting in the theatre do I often have the feeling that I am in my hotel room, alone to myself, looking deep into the mirror. Strange feeling, indeed l ' I wonder if Utpal Dutt who invented his action all by himself also re-enacted one of his private experiences like the one 1 had. I do not know, really.

Clo glc

A Case for Myself

I HAD been to movies last evening: it was awful’, said a habitual film-goer, referring to a Bengali film which by that time had collected a fat figure at the box-olfice. ‘I am sorry; I haven’t seen your film as yet‘, he added, apologetically. -‘It's a very good film, I am told’, he made an effort to be enthusiastic. Good or bad, he won’t see my film. Ufthat I am‘ sure. With his money and time he will probably take no chance. And that is exactly where I stand now with a number of films to my credit produced under different banners; for, I had never had a second experience with the same producer. Hot that all my films failed to fetch back the money that was employed, nor was it that I had always been at logger-heads with my producers. It was some kind of attitude, if I have correctly estimated my producers, not very much dissimilar to the film-goers who, as I mentioned, saw a popular film and did not like it and who did not see my film but supposed he would like. My producers had always been extremely kind to me, had always regarded me with a certain kind of interest, but in regard to a second deal they would not certainly take a chance with their money and ‘future’. My ‘future’, as a result, remains somewhat uncertain where a new ‘prospector’ appears to back me with money. So, before a production is afoot, I have an additional task of finding a suitable name for the company. " The new ‘prospector’ (hereinafter called the ‘producer’) puts in his money, the distributors employ a -bigger amount and the theatre-owners remain dubious and yet make some advancepayments to the distributors—and the ‘System’ or the ‘Establishment’ is set in motion. ‘Business is a ruthless business’, said Chaplin, through Monsieur Vsrdonx. And living in such ruthless atmosphere my conscience asks me to freely operate my reason and imagination. It is no easyjob. As I continue rolling my film, my producer and my distributors keep silent watch on me only to become vocal when they 1-

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must and the thought of box-office returns at the theatres reminds me of that headless monster called ‘popular taste’. Between two shooting programmes I, therefore, pause and think~—alone in my room, with the shooting script beside me—and suddenly there appears before me arrayed in columns, a host of situations and characters from the pages of my script. They look deep into me defying everything, refusing to be corrupted. A battle, so to say, takes place within me and every time my characters win the battle. The money-backers, after they suffer a ‘defeat’, feel a little insecure but keep on hoping. Hoping against hope. It is a continuous battle, for six months or more. It is a nerve-breaking, soul-killing job—fighting, shooting and assembling. The shooting is over, the film is rmdy and the technicians feel happy about it while the Censor bosses recommend the

filrn for showing abroad. Outside, the film enthusiasts wait anxiously for the film to come out. The distributors fix up relasing houses, ads come out in the press and my producer and my technicians and I go through exciting activities. . A week before the release, at the dead of a night, suddenly I wake up and remember a sixth reel or a tenth or a third and detect a minor or a major fault in the visual or in the sound track or in _both. For the rest of the night, I keep awake. Early "in the morning I ring up my producer, collect my technicians and do the necessary repair at the editing table or elsewhere.

‘We must always be vigilant’, I say, ‘Or our own defaults will defeat us’. .‘You must learn to check and double-check your own inspiration’, I advise importantly. For seven days my technicians and I and my producer live

in a world of our own trying to estimate the profit the film is destined to fetch till comes a certain Friday. A good Friday ’l' Or a bad one ‘i The spectators are there to decide the fate of the film. And also mine. And while my people and I are in suspended agony, the critics, at the aftershow tea party, feel enormously important. The critics bring out their comments on the next Friday. Those wanting to be ‘different’ and conspicuous postpone their publications till another Friday. Some write quite flattering

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Views on Covet-tx

lines about me and my film and I consider them intelligent, and l try to ignore those who write unkind words. And then, one day I run into a habitual film-goet who begs apology for not being able to see my film which, he has been told, is very good.

Good or bad, I wish he saw my film.

Clo git:

Satyajit Ray Sets the Example

INDIAN villages, one has to admit, are no less photogenic than any countryside in any part of the world. Long before Satyajit Ray understood it and proved it, Indian film-makers have been

liberally using such locales and had been building their stories around rural huts and rural landscapes, around all that is strangely or intimately rural. But, objectively, none of these liltns contained the quality which Father Po.-it-halt‘ had—a quality that gave the film a special distinction. How could such a thing happen ‘l The landscapes in Father Pnnehelt‘ were the same as in the early films; the groves and the fields were no different, the huts and the courtyards were as familiar as ever, so too the dusk and dawn and even the locomotives running across the distant horizon. To crown all, the tools that were used by Ray's technicians had no additional gadgets. Budgets did not shoot up either. Yet the film gave a look that instantly made the spectator sit up and and take notice. History was thus created out of the same old material. The men, of course, were different: the team that worked behind the camera and the people who moved about in front of it. And the man to mobilise and direct all these men was Satyajit Ray. His approach to the medium and to the subject dealt with made all the difference. Father Panehnli appeared as a film with a tremendous impact. Quite naturally, therefore, it gave an impetus which readily built a climate, particularly in Bengal, inspiring a number of new film-makers to make not-theusual kind of films. These men, under the influence of a new impulse, grew in number. Though they made thernselves felt by their belligerent alfirmations, their films failed to conquer the hearts of the majority. i By thus losing a larger but indispensable crowd, the case of the belligerent group, from the commercial point of view, was considerably weakened. There were indeed some valid rmsons for the money-backers who were also money-makers to feel rather sceptical about this emerging force. As a consequence, the situation steadily worsened until came another big event. It

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was Aperejito this time--the second of the trilogy which, unlike Pether Pnnrhali, was received with positive dislike by our masses but won the highest award at the Venice Festival. Rightly enough, this recognition at the biggest ever international fete very much stimulated the rebels.

They lost no time to use it to

their fullest advantage. They asked the people to take a lesson from Aparojito and to convince themselves that the quality of a work of art does not necessarily ensure popularity. with deeper conviction and equipped with knowledge and perception the rebels continued to make frantic efiorts to permanently install themselves in the industry. All this made the money-backers cum-money-makers do some quick rethinking and, hoping that this time they would perhaps deliver the goods, they gave the new generation some more chances. The new generation thus grew, the patrons multiplied; but the result at the box-ofiice turned out to be disappointing. Since then things have been moving: Ray having made quite a number of films, some fetching good money; and for the new generation the financial reverses remained almost an unalterable fact. Among the spectators the demand for ‘different’ films started assuming a sizeable dimension. Talking about the present state of affairs, the Movement, as we call it, which has never waned since Porher Panehnli, is now not being felt as much inside the industry as outside. And when Ray, in his latest fihn, employs the glamour boy of the trade, the matinee idol, as his principal actor, a section of our people begin to doubt if all is well. The man who has so long been held in high esteem for revolutionizing the Indian film is now looked upon by them with some suspicion. ls his attitude a surrender to the much-abused star system or do-es it mean he is using a dependable actor cast in a suitable role '3 It is true that Uttam Kumar has done an excellent job in Ncyck and to Ray perhaps nothing matters except his subject and his medium. The conclusion, therefore, one would naturally arrive at is this: If the film is a worthy one, why bother about who does the role—a big star or a man in the street ? But the suspicion cannot be so easily dismissed, for, immediately after Nnynk, Ray is seen supervising a film on his script and also making its music. And once again Uttam Kumar plays the leading role. What is more, Uttam Ktunar is appearing in many films being produced in Calcutta studios. With the rising prices and devaluation and with the topmost star acting

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Sxrvrotr Rn Stars rm.-: Enssttus


glamorous heroes, the cost of production has suddenly shot up

skyhigh. " Living in the midst of all this, the belligerent film-makers facing liquidation are found making desperate attempts to produce films with the much-scught-after hero of our industry as heroes in their films.

A pathetic show, indeed !

In I955, Ray, by producing Parker Pratchett, set a stupendous example and a trend soon developed. Even with the discouraging takings at the box-oflice during the last ten years, the trend had assumed a new mood —-a mood of quiet determination and of austerity. But the future which, inspite of everything, did not look so dismal all these years, seems very uncertain today. So, for many reasons, a return to the star system is becoming quite obvious today. ‘With this growing tendency in our trade

the ‘new wave’ seems to be on the losing side. As a result, in utter frustration and impotent rage, the over-energetic members of the new generation who have refused to yield so long are now seen to hurl themselves one against the other, holding Ray responsible, even if partially, for this sad state of affairs. ‘Well, someone might say at this juncture: Ray‘s business is to make good fihns and nothing else. He has certainly come to film not to become a missionary, has he ‘l It is all very true. It will be stupid to ask Ray to appear as the ‘saviour’ of a losing cause. Good films are all that one should expect from him. But, for that matter, can anyone deny the fact that in a work of art, as much as in politics, the leader’s attitude and actions do often become examplary even without his meaning it ‘i

Gt) git?

What is a Good Film?

Nor I.»0NG after we had made interview in 1970, a thoroughbred intellectual made a devastating attack on the film in a

well-attended film society seminar and made it very clearly known to all of us that a lousy film like Interview should not have been made at all. And it is a widely circulated story that Trullaut, while watching Father Pneeheii, could hold his patience only briefly and then, without offering any excuse, walked out of the theature in utter disgust. Instances such as these can be cited in plenty showing violent reactions in opposites, and a simple conclusion can thus be drawn that there is hardly one opinion about any work done in any field of art. Take the most recent domestic examples in the area of film Mrignynn, or, Jams Arnnyo. Both of them have been liked immensely and both of them have been condemned with no less vehernenee. I-low, then, does one draw a line between good films and bad ? Is there no yardstick to measure no standard to apply no acceptable norm ‘l Or, is the judgement, strictly or even loosely, subjective in the ultimate analysis ‘i And, finally, is it imperative that such a line to separate the good from the bad needs to be sharply defined 1' One really gets baflled.

OF all the countries in the world, we know, India produces the largest number of films in a year. Most of them, 90 per cent or more, are not discussed; they are just seen. They are seen by an enormously large crowd, they create a senseless craze, they spread the most effective kind of contagion and consequently they earn tons of money. But discussions on them: no, never. ' The rest, a bare I0 per cent or even less, are the films which, in fact create a noise in our country. These are the films which provoke discussions, cause dissension and agreement, build controversy. This is the area where the discriminating public becomes artict1late—a_iring divergent views and giving various interpretations to life and art. This is where two opinions or more stand sharply divided. " In the appreciation of film, therefore, it is on this ll} per cent of the annual output and not on the vast 90 per cent that we launch

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Winrr is A Goon Pius?


our intellectual battle. Here, within a certain boundary, various tastes clash against one another, attitudes appear in violent conflict and here, to crown all, judgements are quite often prejudiced, in small or large measure, by personal bias and, of course, determined, by and large, by class outlook. All thisis inescapable. Any effort to strike a balance, and work out a comfortable una_ni.mity, to be realistic, is pointless. Take an example: In a recent informal meeting organised by a certain film society, several charges were to be made against Mrignynn and as a consistent supporter and inseparable part of

the film society movement I was summoned. Dutifully, I made my appearance and listened patiently to what may rightly be called impeachment. To none of the charges, I am sorry to say, could I agree. We agreed finally to violently differ. And that was all. One bitter criticism framed by an outraged aesthete was the post-marriage sequence of the couple on a straw-bed as they were preparing to make love. lt was amateurish, so was his contention, all silly romanticism, hollow and fake, marked, so to say, by petitbourgeous imbecility. To be frank I was appalled by the collosal ignorance of the gentleman about the rudimentary fact of life and about the tribal phenomenon to which the characters essentially belong. As I see it, coquetry is an integral part of human behaviour and, as is evident in the life-style of the tribals and in their everyday existence, it is the art which the tribals have perfected amazingly. It is precisely this which, in an appropriate situation, we put to shape. While doing so, so we behave, we were actuated not by over-enthusiasm nor by any show of pretence; we just wanted to develop respect for the circumstances in which the tribals live. That too in terms of cinenm. In a case like this, with point and counter-point in desperate bid to outwit each other, how can the two opinions converge to a point ‘l An absurd speculation, indeed l Again, one of the angry ones found the mi:-tture of actuality and fiction to be a bad amalgam. Aesthetically, he argued, such exercise is highly untenable. l-low can l, as one keeping in close touch with the modern trends of this continuously growing art, agree to a reg-in-rented concept like this ‘i Contrarily, l for one, have been indulging in such exercises for years and have been working on the chemistry of such an amalgam, which strikingly lends dimension to the material at hand.


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Views on Curator

In another round of discussion an impatient critic asked me: Why did you write ‘Stand up, STAND UP‘ at the end instead of the usual convention ‘The End‘ ? ‘Why should we not *1‘ I asked quietly.

It is not in good taste, he said, it sounds propagandist, it is blatant. Are we schoolboys taking lessons in the classroom and are meant to be spoon-fed ‘l’ he asked rather indignantly. Just before the end came Mrignynn captured the tribals slowly rising on their feet and stretching out their hands as if to reach the sun. As they performed this ritual on the distant hill they acted in glorious protest. With the beating of the tribal drtuns, as the wind blew, slowly appeared theline from the bottom edge of the screen: ‘Stand up, STAND UP‘. The line stayed for some time. And that was where we found the people in the theatre, as we expected, slowly getting up from their-seats and looking deep into the line and the visual. That was where we drew the curtain. That was how the spectators were made to undergo an experience which, in essence was a political act--a new ritual taking place inside the theatre quite in conformity with that of tribals. We never say that, as we place our argument further debate on this issue is permanently closed. All that I suggest is that discussion on any work of art must not be brought down to the floor of a debating society where instant wit and smart posture leads one to win the battle. Here is not a battle to lose or win. It is a battle, to expand the area of operation—both for the maker and the spectator. And, then, an accomplished debator is not necessarily a perceptive connoisseur. What is important, therefore, is not to seek unanimity but to provoke discussion and, in the process, to raise controversy to the extent necessary. And, in all probability, all works of art are, in lesser or greater degree, prone to be controversial. The breeding ground of such controversies, quite in the fitness of things, are the International Film Festivals if, however, proper attention is given to generate the same.

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Venice Film Festival, 1969

Nor suuvv good films are made in a year, but there are many international festivals in a ymr. The conclusion one would naturally draw is that all festival films are not brilliant. Venice also proved it. But Venice gave me a lot of emotional stimulus. Apart from the films talking different languages, professing different philosophies and showing different techniques, a huge crowd was there, as in other festivals, talking sense, may be, not enough sense, but with utmost conviction. Arguing and gracefully difiering and rushing to the theatre to see the next in the programme, that was the regular performance. ' With an average of three feature films a day for thirteen days, not to speak of the shorts, the festival, at least on its surface, was a stupendous

event. Everything moved very fast, too fast for the uninitiated to comprehend, and the comments, naturally enough, seemed sweeping, effusive, devastating too. To give an example : Passolini’s latest had just been screened, the lobby was packed and I heard an angry voice. I looked back and could recognise the face. It tame from an eminent critic and historian, it was almost a shout, perhaps, meant for the entire crowd : ‘I hate the film, I hate it!’ And that was not all. I heard another, no less eminent than the angry one, who felt ecstatic about the same film. There were others, obviously, who remained lukewarm and also silent, sharing love and hate generated by the showing. What I liked inmtensely in the festival was this youthfulness, this gusto caring for none but one's own judgement. Like it or not, say it in unambiguous terms, substantiate by your argument ancl don’t get upset if you see yom present argument does not agree with your previous stand. It is a changing world, everything is in a mad hurry and so, your concept of life and art may also change a great deal. Besides, in the ultimate analysis, it is all subjective, your acceptance or rejection. Individuality is very much active in the modern world and so you have a variety of opinions. True, the individuals do, at times, show off, but the diflerence is also genuine. Truffaut adores Hitchcock, Renoir rejects him outright, and both Renoir and

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Truffaut are great film-makers. Lindsay Anderson's unfavourable rmction to musicals and even to Chaplin is quite well known, but ‘the [act remains that Anderson is one of the most clearheaded men in the modern film world. It must be a mad world, but it is the reality. This madness was almost physically visible in Venice, and for me attending the festival for the first time, it was an experience. Coming from a country where people almost always indulge in

personal equations, I was at first shocked to see how the stalwarts were run down but subsequently got used to it and found the whole business enormously exciting. To talk about the festival films none of winch has so far been shown in this country is rather awkward. But I would certainly talk about the climate that the films did collectively create. Among the participants were films by unknown people of known countries and also by unknown people of unknown countries. For instance, there was a special section of African films made by the Africans themselves. There were others too, from Latin Amerim, from Canada, and by non-conformist directors from Establishment-arms such as the USA and Great Britain. And the usual European variety. Though technically inadequate, one could see life in its unadulterated raw form in the African films, and in the Cuban and the Bolivian films and particularly in an Italian film shot entirely in Latin America the political overtones were very much apparent.. The American film was strikingly different from the usual Hollywood stuff, both in content and in form. The British variety showing a young white's ambivalence regarding the racial issue was also a distinct departure. All these and many others lent dimension to the range of the festival, but what struck me most was the unceasing eztercise on the technical front. In most of the films I could see the tools employed in film-making being used in diverse manner. There was no rule, no set prescription in the use of such tools. The users knew the properties of the optics and those of sound and they applied the same to their purpose. Gimmicks there were, and madness too, but all these are assets to the film-maker whose business is to play with the tools to achieve his end. If not anything else, all these clearlyindjcated a certain love for the tools that create wonders on the screen. As one from a country where taboos are unlimited, I felt rejuvenated. Nudity? Yes, there was, in abundant measure. In most cases these were pointless exposures, but some were brilliant.

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Vt-mica FILM Essrtyan, 1969


About nudity, it seems that even with science and technology at their highest in West Europe, the societies still remain mandominated where women are treated as commodities. ‘Strip her naked and looklil‘, says a man of the West to another man. I could see this in many of the films carrying strip-scenes. But, agin, a line in praise of the Venice Film Festival. If Bresson still maintains that politics corrupts art, Venice, at least this time, has disproved it. '

Now, as I come back to India, throwing myself into the world that belongs to the trade, I wish I were 20 years younger than what I am now. Atlllelltlll :

An eminent British film critic whom now I meet almost regularly in film festivals wrote a few good-words about my film Bhuvnn Shame presented at the festival and was highly enthusiastic about the girl in the film (Suhasini Mulls‘); he found the girl

to be ‘all grace and resourcefulness‘. In conclusion he suggested with all seriousness that the ‘sweet’ girl should be immediately ‘snapped’ by Satyajit Ray. Five years later the same critic

reviewed, among others, the Indian entry at the Berlin Festival, Shyam B-enepfs Anknr and repmted the same line about the Anirur-girl, Sabhana Anni, wondering why this gifted actress has not yet been ‘snapped’ by Ray. To me, such name-

dropping at not-quite-appropriate moment becomes increasingly irritating. A friend of mine, having read both the two pieces, found the comment refreshingly funny. .

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Venice Film Festival, 1972

AT Venice this year two events of considerable importance took place: the holding of a Contra-festival where left-wing politics was the dominant theme and a two week-long Chaplin Retrospective running to a packed house at the ofiicial fete. The latter was stupendous and the former, the Contra-festival, was a political achievement. In 1968, as a sequel to the May events in France, a significant noise was made at Carmes. As a consequence the festival at the French riviera was forcibly closed. Since then a radical group have been regularly organising a parallel festival at Cannes at the time of the oflicial one where one can clmrly see much less glamour or nothing at all but seriousness. There has been a similar scene for the last few years at Berlin where the oficial

secretariat has come to somewhat of an ‘understanding’ with the rebel group. The rebels in Berlin, however, remain quite active and have been extending their area of operation. ‘Venice too had it this time and one can only hope that it has come. to stay. The voice of anti-establishment front in Europe, as one can realise today, is growing from strength to strength. At Lido, at the official festival in Venice, there were too many films this year, a good-bad-indifferent lot, all accommodated in more than half-a-dozen sections. But the most fabulous was the Chaplin session. At the closing ceremony, after the rituals were over and the selection awards given to the participants, quietly appeared on the stage a 1-nan, 84 years old, who, perhaps because of his age, did neither talk nor listen but only felt how intensely the people of the world love him. The man was Charlie Chaplin, almost seized with infirmity. The men of the world at St. Marco's famours opera house La Tenice, went wild. It was like offering homage to a living memorial. For five minutes we lived in ecstasy. As the curtain fell after five minutes Chaplin dropped into a chair, all exhausted. _ For two weeks I saw Chaplin, the inimitable ‘little tramp’. I saw him walking into an unending journey embracing a large variety of funny adventures always buffeted by life but, in the process, preserving small treasures of life such as human

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Vernon FILM Fesrivxn, I972


compassion and then walking out towards a glowing horizon. The spirit of the tramp remined and as I watched him during an unceasing two-week session I laughed and thought andgrew. In 1940 the tramp, in the shape of a jew barber confronted the ‘double’ called Dictator Hynkel. Here, in the film, with all the reverence of a renewed experience I could see in Chaplin the glorious image of a brilliant propagandist championing the cause of human sanity and telling a naive story between the two wars ‘when humanity was kicked about and liberty torn asunder‘. ‘Democracy stinks‘, shouts Hynkel. ‘Liberty stinks‘, he adds. -

‘Freedom of speech stinks‘, he reiterates. With all these lofty ideas the great dictator I-Iynkel defies all conceivable human logic and assurm his aids and admirers that liberty shall henceforth be meant only for the "worthy". The unworthy appears on the screen--the extension of the tramp-» who, having indulged, as usual, in Chaplinesque ‘nonsense’, turns desparate. In violent desparation, the barber, the extension of the tramp, now makes a speech, a full throated speech like of which -Chaplin had not done before. It is a nonstop speech for five minutes, uncinematic according to minority fashionablm but to me and to most of us one of the most memorable sequences that the art of the cinema ca.n offer to the civilised world. As I watched this film, in the midst of hate, suspicion and greed

spread out in world politics, I found in the five minute-long speech a glowing testament to the persecuted who will soon turn militant. In 1947, after the war was over but when neo-savagery was let loose, Chaplin made his greatest film il-forteienr Verdonr. The story dates back to the Yfirs of depression but it sharply reflects the post-war politics manifesting itself on international issues. It is no wonder, therefore, that the State Department at Washington got terribly annoyed with Chaplin. It is no wonder, therefore, that a minority group of enlightened aesthetes found Chaplin to be dimming. The film is macabre, it is .-ad and bitter, and it is most trenchment in its attack. The last three of his films are not certainly the ones I could be enthusiastic about. finiclight has, of course, some tragic power at places. But in its totality and in his A King in New York (1957) and A Coroners from Honglrong (I966) I did not find much that could be spoken of in glowing terms.

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Vnaws on Cinrsu.

And, on the whole, after two weeks‘ continuous run of If Tntro Chaplin (The whole of Chaplin)—from Making a Living and Kid Auto Racer or Venice made in I914 up to A Coroners from Hongkong made in 1966, I feel I have discovered in Chaplin

a stupendous journey, a journey through terrible decades, through social injustice and political treachery, a journey in search of peace and happiness. What I found most is that here, in him, I see aman, who, even without undergoing any organised political schooling, responded splendidly to his own time. As is quite evident from his fi.lms, such response has always been immediate and spontaneous. In I918, in Shoulder /lrnrr, an unnamed soldier arrests the Kaiser amidst a lot of laughter and brings the captive to the allied camp. Instantly appears on the screen a line : ‘And peace to the world‘. From such studied naivete Chaplin attains Shavian heights when, in a more complex world, the condemned Monscinr Vcrdonx, ‘charged with 12 killings, says : ‘One murder makes a villian, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify.‘ Chaplin, as I watched him for two continuous weeks, is undoubtedly one of the greatest wonders of this century and a living inspiration to all who consider all arts as social entities. But an eminent British critic told me towards the end of Chaplin Session that he had found in Chaplin a certain meanness. I looked at the critic. I made sure that he was not joking. II

Its TI-IB main section of the oflicial festival, films selected by an

oflicial committee were shown at the rate of two films per day. All of these films together with films shown in the critics’ section received awards. Europe was adequately represented, with three films coming from Great Britain including Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Ken Russel‘s Savage Messiah. Conrad Rooks brought his latest film, Herman Hesse‘s Siddhartha, shot in India with Indian cast and made in USA. Two more feature films came from his country. From Brazil came one, one from Japan by Nagisha Oshima and one from India : Calcutta T1. Jean-Pierre Ciorin and Jean-Luc Godard withdrew their Tout Va Visa at the last moment and showed it at the Contra-festival.

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From different countries came quite a number of feature films shown in three other sections : Critics, Young Cinema and Information. An old operatic film redone from People's China was presented at the Information section. Besides, there was a long list of long and short documentaries coming from all over the world. As usual, there was also a fairly lengthy session of Italian feature films and a very attractive Mae West Retrospective too. And, then, to complete the programme, five days were

were allotted to special showings of African, Indian, German, Soviet and East German films which were immediately followed by relevant discussions. In such an unwieldy crowd of films we could not help missing some. As some of us sat through a film in a certain theatre, some others had been enjoying another in another theatre. There were still others, the most enthusiastic of us all, who preferred to miss none, seeing one-fourth of a certain film in a certain theatre and then rushing to another to see a halt of another and finally spending a quarter of an hour or even thrity minutes in 3. third auditoritnn. Everything was in a mad hurry . To make up our minds and to draw up our daily schedule was indeed a very hard task. I, for one, made a point to see four films and half or full every day which, of course, included the whole lot of Chaplin. I chose to miss the Mae West Session except two made in the thirties. One could see trends developing in a particular region and disappearing in another. One could see various attempts operating at several levels; attempt at defiance, at finding roots, attempt at driving some political points. I liked some, disliked many and I felt I had spent my time very well. Os Inronfidenres by Brazil's De Andrade is one of the few films I liked most. It is the story of a conspiracy which took place in the l'i'th century when Brazil was still a Portuguese colony. The film is made on the basis of the dialogues taken from the proceedings of the trials and from the poems of Gonzales, Da Costa and Peixoto who were also members of the conspiracy. It is somewhat of an enquiry made to reconstruct a historical truth through the analysis of the behaviour of the conspirators facing defeat and the terror of colonial repression. Told fairly largely in verse, the principal action of the film is in the prison where the conspirators including the poets are interrogated and terrorised. At the centre of this continuing torture appmrs the figures of a man—Tiradentes is his name—-who alone accepts

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reality and pays with his life for his ideals. The intellectuals,

however, can no longer hide their pseudo-revolutionary character and their ‘delicacies‘. At the end dies the germ of revolution, the man is killed and the poets are allowed to live. The irony comes in a kind of epilogue when a news-reel coverage shows an official function of the present rulers offering homage to the grmt martyr of the l'l'th century, Tiradentes. It is a film so close to my heart, mpturing a terrible past but bitterly reflecting the most contemporary attitude. Nagisha Oshima's Dear Summer Sister is an allegory (Oshima calls it melodrama) shot and made in Okinawa immediately after Okinawa reverted, for the third time, to Japanese rule on May I5, 1972. It is the disturbing story of an Okinawan boy in search of his half-sister who, he presumes, lives in Tolcyo.* I found it a highly stimulating film shot in extreme htu'ry on I6 mm and immediately blown up to 35 mm. One interested in international politics would love to know" how the film is received by the Okinawans and the Japanese and how the ruling power reacts to it. Exquisitely photographed, Siddhartha is an atrocious film; infantile, crude, vulgar and just as could be expected from the American establishmentarians. A number of films shown in the main section as well as in others show the emptiness of affluent societies which, in the process, drive the young adventurists to run away and seek another life : some take to hippie-way, some go to the tribals, some are lost on the way. La Valle from France is one such film indulging in the luxury of a brief adventure into the community of tribals. To be frank, it could be good material for an anthropological study, but an awfully disgusting film otherwise. Here I see a class who will hate to part with their parental fortune but will embrace temporary ‘hazards’ of a primitive existence. With no real love and respect for the circumstances in which the primitives live and with no effort to communicate with them, these handful of aflluent people in self-imposed exile are in a senseless pursuit of more excitement and selfish pleasures. All this is vulgr and pretentious, it is sheer hypocricy. Thank God, the underprivileged of the world can no more be beguiled by such parade of affection offered by the fashionable radicals. ‘bl:-iglslta Oshima’s Dear Smrtrner Sister has been discussed in a separate article After Masters. Who?

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vssiics FILM FESTIVAL, I972


Nidlianoyo (The hidden treasures) by Ceylon’s Lester James Peries is a quiet film marked by utmost restraint. It is the story of a broken man's mad hunt for money and prosperity. The Indian section showing Siimaskttra and Sttiitotrt, Court Chain Alia shown in Critics Section made considerable mark at the festival. Satyajit Ray's Seemabaddlitt shown in the Inflormation Section and Bus Ya Btthari made by Kuwait’s young director Khalid Siddik shown in the Young Cinema Section were considered by one of the critics’ organisations as the best in the festival. Another group of critics found "t’ugoslavia’s llfoestro Margarita to be the best. A third group considered yet another as the most outstanding. Anglo-Saxon critics, in particular, found Ray‘s to be a highly stimulating film. They found in it a subtle portrayal of social exploitation. The performances including Harin Chattopadhhaya‘s, according to a British critic, were of very high order. He, however, found Girish Karnad of Somnrlrnra to be somewhat of a conventational actor. I violently dilfered. In the Documentary Division there were a good number of films, eittrezrnely well made, making sharp points on social, political and economic issues. Block Forittisjv by Lionel Rogosin and Steve Hormck's The Twtllglit of the Moyaas, both from USA, are worthy of spectal mention I missed A Clockwork Ora:-ige, a much publicised film by Kubrick but rejected by a large II1fl]Ol‘llZ)' at Venice According to many it was pornography and pointless violence Since Calcutta 71 is my own film and since discretion is the better part of valour, I desist from reporting on it. (Am I trying to be imP"rtant ?) Inspite of too many films exposed to a great vanety of spectators having diverse tastes, the festival at Vemce was indeed very exciting

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After Masters, Who. '?

AKIRA KURDSAWA, the liveliest of all Japanese masters, after a prolonged silence and soon after his attempted suicide, was seen at an international get together in Moscow during the last festival in July wheie he was reportedly busy preparing the script for his next film being made in collaboration with Soviet Union.

While, now, the world audiences will wait and see how

this Nippon-Russian amalgam works, one is compelled to conclude, at least for the time being that in Japan the masters are no more making masterpieces. To know ‘why’, one needs to make an intricate study into socio-political situations of contemporary Japan and come to a very generalised truth that without a defined ‘social’ attitude it becomes quite dilficult even fora master to operate his brain to a fuller measure at a certain stage of socio-economic and political crisis. Having not enough materials at hand, therefore, can we in India pertiiiently ask if the film art in Japan is rally hibernating today? True, the Japanese masters are not making masterpieces any more. True, the masters today are keeping themselves at a safe distance from the ‘contagion’ of the contemporary reality. But there are non-traditioiialists in Japan, as in other coimtries of the world, who feel an irresistible urge to come forward to build issues out of contemporary situations and make statements in such terms as suit their ideologies best. The films made by them are not certainly masterpieces in strict classical sense, but they are timely, socially active and artistically valid. The most eloquent of such film-makers is Nagisa Oshima, now in his early forties, making cases on most immediate issues and on what the Japanese people are most concerned with. There are others too, politically engaged, building a new case for the Japanase cinema. On May I5, 1972 the island of Okinawa reverted for the third time to Japanme rule. Politically it was a big event, a measure imposed forcibly by the ruling class on the Okinawans. Osliima reacted sharply to it and immediately collected his crew and rushed to the island equipped, interestingly enough, with I6 mm

accessories. The film was made hurriedly, blown up to 35 mm

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and was immediately passed on to Venice Festival where it was seen by an international audience. Made in less than 3 months, this film Dear Summer Sister can be rightly called an allegory. It is the disturbing story of an Okinawan boy in search of his half-sister who, he presumes, lives in Tokyo. The sister and the brother are allegorical representations of Japan and the Ryuku Archipelago of which Okinawa is the mainland. The sister, having received a letter from the Okinawan brother, comes to Okinawa. The little sister, defined as a creature in need of protection, wanders about in search of her ‘big brother‘. In the film, Oshima lms reversed the political and historical relationship of the protector and the protected. And according to Japanese ethnology, the sister deity, even though it is younger and frailer, is the one who controls the elder brother through her power of witchcraft. What Oshima attempts in his film is projecting a bitter grievance as a Japanese citizen; he challenges the little sister's witchcraft and her right to rule. That Oshima is openly opposed to Japanese expan-

sionisrn is very clearly indicated in the film. A highly stimulating film as it is, one interested in international politics would like to know how the films is received by the Okinawans and the Japanese and how the ruling power rmcts to it. This year in Berlin, at the International Forum of Young Cinema, I saw another film by Dshima which was made years ago capturing the disturbing scene when American troops got engged in a bitter fight with the militant Japanese students. The film is called Night and Fog Over Japan in which Oshima has given his own criticism of the vile American operations. Cinematically the film, by and large, contains the excellence of the Japanese tradition and is visually exciting, marked by brevity, grace and, of course, by a great deal of anger." In its totality, the film is as bitter, disturbing and compelling as it should be. mhima, till today, has made more than a dozen films, mostly with political content making over comments as often as required. One of the youngest film-maker, politically charged and acutely painstaking, Noriaslti Tsuchirnoto, recently made a very long documentary, 156 minutes‘ duration, called Minamoto. This, to my mind, is a highly evocative record of a great tragedy happening to "a minority community in Japan. This film brings an inexorable accusation against the crimes of pollution and in quite unambiguous terms shows how a persistent crime inflicted locally can be placed in a wider perspective, given a

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political orientation and finally made into a national case. it is all about a small village called Minamata where a small community of fishermen gradually grows up to an industrial complex of

30000 inhabitants with a highly sophisticated factory operating in a neighbouring arm and continuously draining methylrncrcury. The chemical provoked a terrible illness which the doctors called ‘Minamata disease‘ and which killed hundreds of people before the authorities were forced to react at much later stage. For I? years the people Minamata shouted a great deal and, then, after 17 ymrs, the people of Minamata got merged into the militant collective and made a trenchant attack on the big bosses who, for I7 ymrs and more, had been throwing methyl-merctuy into the quiet waters of Minamata. Minamoto is a great film, perhaps a little too long, but made with utmost love and rage. . A participant at the Afro-Asian Film Festival at Tashkent in I972 and also a mndidate at the Karlovy Vary Festival in the same year, Land of the Rising Flag, is yet another film by a new film-maker which captured immediate attention of the international audience. All this is not all. An acute awareness vigorously infiltrating into the film-scene of Japan is a growing phenomenon today. A trend is clearly seen to be set in modern Japan which, now, is sprmding like ‘contagion’ all over the world. To diffuse such trend, as in other countries, is also a part of the reality in Japan. So, one can see a continuous battle, as elsewhere, being fought on film front in Japan, both on ideological and aesthetic planes.


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The Chicken-hearted Intellectual

Wa,'rntt practitioners of the various arts, are called intellectuals. That is, we are practitioners of the intellect. But the question will arise if ‘livelihood’ is intimately connected with ‘intellect’? Can the latter advances as it will? Or, in all fields, will the intellect be guided by the necessities of ‘livelihood’? And, particularly in the field of films, where a colossal amount of money is needed, will there not be vigilance on the ‘intellect’,

either direct of indirect? To tell the truth, in the domain of films, such vigilance on one’s intellect is a major factor. And for a number of reasons there is no conscious effort to change this factor. By this practice much can be said, and it is not dilficult to make these justifications look credible. And, exactly this is happening in the film world. With the help of numerous arguments and by quoting several examples, only this is sought to be proved desperately that the film is a very big affair in which there are innumerable obstacles at every step, iunptccn governmental and non-governmental do’s and don’ts; therefore, in the film art, the use of intellect is nearly wholly determined by livelihood. ' On the other hand, however, in the day-to-day life, happenings continue to occur agitating and angering the conscious person and the active intellectual. In consequence, the boldness to ignore the intimidation of the higher-ups has become necessary. Ignoring all the direct and indirect warnings, to employ the ‘intellect’ properly in the right way is your reponsibility and mine, of each social being, of each thoughtful and active intellectual. I may speak from personal experience now because it is easier to make the situation understood through one’s own experience. Nearly five years ago I had made Bhutan Shame. It had made for me a niche in the nation and abroad. This film had delighted all, the elite and the lowly wage-earners. Overnight I became valuable in the film business. Many top film magnates asked me to make films. Perhaps at the time I could have made ten more Bhavon Shornes. And perhaps the effort could have brought a good deal of money. But just then in Calcutta, and many places in W. Bengal and India, many things started happening,

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His Book, My Comments

A filmmaker is not a film historian; he is not supposed to be. And very seldom does a film historian go beyond just cateloguing.

But when a historian, in addition to ‘collecting events and putting them chronologically, also interprets, he does a real good job. Satyajit Ray, the filmmaker, has done it. He has done a remarlcable job—writing about himself, about others, about what happened in history and in doing so he has made surgical incisions into the reality -and technology of cinema, and has shown significant perspectives on all this. ‘Our Film, Their Film‘ is, in essence, about him and by him. There are in all 25 essays in the book, written from time to time, within a span of 26 years—twelve about Our films and the rest about Their. A long introduction to precede them all is, by itself, astimulating piece, punctuated by autobiographical anecdotm and interspersed with satirical and vitriolic and even sceptical comments about the domestic and the international scene. And what will never be missed by even a casual reader is Ray's inimitable sense of humour which is strewn lavishly all

over the pages. It is a work of investigation and of revelation without sounding in the least pedantic. ‘Cinema has never been saved by writers, ‘ Ray says in his introduction. ls it a dig at himself, particularly when an introduction is almost always written to justify the publication? fir, is it a dig at others—dcctrinaires'l Whatever it is, it is a m-sa.rure—-a measure of Ray's keen sense of a particular humom and also of his intense passion for his medium. ‘Words are not enough‘, he continues, ‘Words need the backing of action, or there is no revolution.‘ In his book, through his own cognition and practice, Ray has focussed on this wonderful connection between words and action and has analysed facts of ‘revolution’ in the works of the masters. This and many more of experiences, reminiscences, tributes and all—both as anintense practitioner and as a voracious viewer, have made this book a worthy one, even though it is priced too high, almost beyond the reach of our perceptive readers. Talking about the wrongs in Indian films Ray finds it incre-

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Vtsws on Comm

diblc ‘that a country which has inspired so much painting and music and poetry should fail to movethefihnmaker’. Ray wrote it in 1948, years before he came to actual filmmaking, but considering the huge lot of rubbish we still continue to put on celluloid, and taking into account the fact that quantity does never ensure quality, the comment remains valid even today. This needs a thorough probe—the why ‘s and how’s of such atrocious incongruity. Ray, in a few pages, has briefly outlined the state of confusion prevalent in our country and has figured out the reasons for our aesthetic bankruptcy. Elsewhere, in the same article, Ray speaks about the inevitability of growth of cinema in America and says that ‘a country without any deeprooted cultural and artistic traditions was perhaps best able to appraise the new medium objectively.‘ If this is so, a very pertinent question immediately comes to my mind. Could it be true, if I may ask, that too much of such allegiance to the high-soundingconcept of ‘tradition’ driving us to the point of servility, was what had stopped us from looking ‘objectively’ into this new medium ‘i Could it be true that we needed traces of iconoclasm to be able to accept this superb bastard art ‘l' Extracts from a Banaras Diary and Long Time on the Little Road are fascinating accounts of Ray at his work. Every line of these two pieces gives one a vivid picture of the agony and ecstasy Ray and his unit passed through. And through such agony and ecstasy the reader derives a particular aestheic delight, the delight of sharing the creator's complex experiences. Ray’s language, incidentally, scintillates, vibrates and lends agrandcur which is rarity itself. The physical palpability and grace of his language are perhaps best examplified in his account when he, after a week, returned to the village to do the rest of the filming of tall grassy landscape in Pa-titer Panchaii. To his utter disappointment Ray could see that ‘the cows and buffaloes had come to graze the day before and had iitsrniiy chewed up the scenery’.

In several of his chapters Ray comes down to brasstacks and discusses issues which vitally concern a filmmaker of our country. Problems of various nature, both, artistic and organisational, have come up in these chapters. He has explained them all

with utmost candcur and clarity and has come to the conclusion that ‘ten years of filmmaking has taught me, above anything else, not to make a fetish of anything’.

Clo 31¢

Hts Boon, MY Comasnrs


But Ray pulls out bits from his experience and raises doubts about tackling a political theme. ‘Can we show a corrupt congressmani", he asks bluntly. ‘Can we show a poor bank clerk getting rich by dubious means and wearing a Gandhi cap to hide his baldness '1" Talking about political cinema Jean-luc Godard once eategorised it into two : making films politically and making political films; he drew a sharp line between the two with utmost precision. Who knows, in these days of high polemics another acsthete of intense sensibility will come up one day and will attempt further divisions in this area ! ‘Whatever they are and whichever arguments are placed in defence or against such categorisations, the fact remains that mere forcing of a Gandhi cap on a character's head or making fun of one sitting in the parlour with the portrait of Indira Gandhi hung up on the wall does not alone qualify a film to be considered one with political substance. Right at the time of writing this piece we hear of a national film policy being shaped in Delhi where questions of this nature and various others are likely to crop up. As the oflicials discuss the pros and cons of the do’s and don‘ts of Censor codes, and ask the filnunakcrs to speak their mind, the believers of what is known as political cinema, judging from their own understanding of the current social scene, can do nothing but keep their fingers crossed.

In one chapter, relating to the practicals of film making, Ray talks about the paucity of means and immediately recalls how such a phenomenon, forcing filmmakers to practice austerity, once gave rise to a much talked about movement called the New ‘Wave. Later, in another chapter, he elaborates on the genesis of the New Wave in France and comes back to the Indian scene saying that what goes i_n India as the New Wave is ‘essentially old fashioned‘ inspite of its ‘occasional sipky syntax.’ The film Ray refers to here is one made by me. Titled Bhttvart Shame, the film was made in 1969 and was released a few

months later, in October. True, we could procure only meagre funds to make the film. We had, therefore, no choice but to be austere. We made efi'orts to be inventive, and almost with ‘youthful’ defiance, we broke away from the moth-eaten conventions which, in our country, have been eating into the vitality

of cinema. The film, however, became an accidental success. The critics made favourale comments, the people liked it, the

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people and the critics considered it oil’-beat. Understandably, we were happy. Soon after appeared Ray‘s An Indian, New Wave ('1'). ' ‘Whatever might have been the catalytic agent, Ray, in this long essay, has explored the fundamentals that have gone into the experiments with film and have given it ever newer dimensions both in forms and content. Yes, indeed, film, fromits very inception, till today, has been a stupendous story of experiment and innovation. ‘Experiment’, Ray says, ‘is at best a vague term meaning different things, different context.‘ True, in a certain context Friese-Greene was an experimenter. So were Meiies and Porter. Years later, Griffith appeared on the scene and revolutionised the language of cinema. Masters followed.

They experimented with the medium, they expanded

the area of operation. Thus, growing from strength to strength, film today is what it is now, with trends coexisting, fighting, decaying, relieving in different shapes and forms and colours. And here, talking about a particular trend called the New Wave, Ray mentions Godard as ‘the one thorough-going iconoclast‘, putting him ‘not far below Griffith.‘ I-Ie is all admiration for Godard in a particular context and he says: ‘Any analysis of the New Wave unorthodoxy must in the end boil down to an analysis of the methods of Jean-luc Godard‘. And that is what follows in the next few pages--an analysis of the quintessence of Godardian form, highlighting his new innovations in syntaxing, pacing and in rhythm, juxtaposition and all in defiance of every existing convention. To Ray, Godard is the end-all and be-all of the French phenomenon called the New Wave. But looking into the work of Godard‘s colleagum, including Chabrofs, and making sure that, unlike the Italian Neo-realists, they had no ideological fraternity, I would rather reconstruct Ray’s line and say: ‘New Wave is at best a vague term meaning different things for different filmmakers‘. ' I may be wrong, but going through Ray's longest essay I have developed a feeling that he is unnecessarily worried about the ‘Indian counterpart‘ of the French New Wave. ‘Whether or not Bhuvmr Shame is an old fashioned film of ‘Big Bad Bureaucrat Reformed-by Rustic Belle‘, (or, tobe more accurate, Big Bad Bureauerat Chastised by a Cl1armer‘s Cheek), it never

claims to be of the Godardian variety. For whatever it is worth,

GL1 51 re

Hrs Boos, My Cosorsurs


Bhavan Shanta was accepted, so they say, for a certain freshness in approach. And that is all. In this connection I recall an incident at Venice where Lindsay Anderson, perhaps after a press meet, got terribly annoyed and asked me if I had found his ‘. .lF’ Godardian. For altogether different reasons I find An Indian New Wave ('l) to be one of Ray's best essays. I only wish he dwelt solely on experiments which he discussed with profound mastery.

Ray‘s thesis on British cinema. presents a short argument to explain the inmpability of the early British period to catch up withthe times. He thinks that the British, precisely because of the constructive inhibitions of the British character, are not ‘temperamentally equipped to make the best use ofthe movie camera.‘ To further quote from his thesis, ‘the placidity and monotony of habit patterns that mark the British way of life are the exact opposite of what constitutes real meat for the cinema..’ l wonder if this argument can go undebated. I am not sure if I am treading on sure ground, but I am reminded at this stage of the British documentaries of the thirties. And, here, I am tempted to quote a passage from a letter which Basil Wright, one of the stalwarts in British cinema, wrote to me. ‘I remember well,’ he said, ‘how we here suffered from this (hard core chauvinism with Governments) at the end of the thirties, when our social documentaries were excluded from the ollicial British

film programme because they depicted the existence of slums, malnutrition, pollution and bad conditions in state schools.


the event we arranged for them to be shown in a different cinema

at the New York World's Fair, where they made a contrast to the touristic films shown in our Government's pavillion and were, indeed, smash hit and regarded as excellent propaganda since they revealed Britain as a responsible democracy with a lively social conscience.‘ - This, I am afraid, does not seem to conform to what Ray says elsewhere about the pre-war British documentaries—‘far more typical products of the British imagination than the feature

films of the same period‘. Besides, taking this argument for granted, how would one explain the tremendous growth of the art of the written word, of the _emergence of D.H. Lawrence, the fury of the greatest of the iconoclasts—G-eorge Bernard Shaw ‘l But I confess this is not my area, so I stay apart.

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Views on Clnesu.

POSTSCRIPT: In I949, Satyajit Ray, with his usual humour, assured himself and his readers that Renoir, when he would return to India to make his film The River, would have a taste offreedom, for, here, among many irregularitim, the trains, unlike in USA, would never run on time. Had the great French master come now, l wonder if he would get the same freedom in India where, from June 26, l9'i'5, trains have all been running on perfect time !

I Clo 311.:

Revolt of the Adolescents

Enough l Enough of bad words, all too bad, about films that have been filling the columns of Frontier. For a change, now, let us find a good film to talk about. . Jf is the film of my choice, one that I saw for the second time in Delhi during the festival last December. My first viewing was at Venice where, unconnected with the fmtival programme, a very private show was quickly organised in an exclusively private theatre.

At Venice it was an after-dinner show. The fashionables, among others, visiting the festival and holidaying at the reviera, hustled together, all strictly formal in dress and the customary how-do-you-do’s. As a contrast appeared the director of the film on the scene, violently informal in outfit, pacing up and down, squating on the floor for brief moments, stretching his legs when he must yawning without offering any apology and, by doing so, outraging the fashionables‘ sensibility at every moment.

A vicarious thrill, indeed !

Lindsay Andersonis the name of the director, born and made in England : angry, intolerant, intense and yet endowed with an inimitable sense of htnnour. In Delhi, three months later, the film was presented at the festival “outside the competition and as a condition for all festival showings it was untouched by the Censor Board. In May I968, the students at Sorbonne made a big noise and soon it grew into a major national event; a kind of mini revolution, drawing world attention.

in May, 1969. . . .{f got

the Grand Prix at the Cannes Festival where, exactly a year ago, Godard and his colleagues had ntshed to the big screen of the festival theatre and created a militant scene chanting Mao and succeeded in paralysing the traditibnal functioning. lean see a connection between the two : the ferment in I968 and the verdict of the International Jury of the I969 Festival at Cannes. The script, I am told, was written before the May event in France. But changes were made, changes that made the connection more obvious. The story of the film, if it is to be called a story at all, is all about a juvenile attack on the Establishment.

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Vu-:ws on Cinesta

From the beginning to the end. . . .5‘ is an outrageusly protest film, absurdly funny of the surface and bitter to the core. In its overall structure, in its thematic exploration, the use of tools and in the minutest details of its anatomy. . . .ff defies all conventions. It aims, at times, at the ludicrous, sometimes at the grotesque, but is always dangerously rebellious. And nowhere in

the film has anger said good-bye to humour which, to my mind, has given Lindsay Anderson‘s film a fascinating dimension. If all these had happened in a public school : the silent protest of the students, the fermentation, the defence, even the fun and violence of the inevitable sex-act among the adolmcents, the way it happens on the screen and ultimately the resistance and the crusade-—all this is the story of....ff. A kind of wish-fulfilment : queer, youthful and vibrant, all dream-like in form and in content. The students of the public school dream a lovely dream, that of putting an end to the hateful businms of ‘licking the frigid fingers‘ of the caretaker of the Establishment for the rest of its frigid life. ‘While, in essence, the message of the film gom much beyond the frontiers of the school premises, itis interesting to notethat thedirector, in order to finda ‘model’ school, did not have to cross the English Channel. The area of operation is a typical British public school. A duty-bound discipline-ridden inspector of the school lodging walks into a room. The inspector smells alcohol. The students feign innocence. Silence : awkward and amusing. Fuming within, the inspector walks out. Quietly do the boys pull out their bottles from under the pillows and cushions. ‘In Calcutta‘, says one, an expert among the students, ‘there is one death out of starvation every few minutes‘. ‘The war’, declares an" inmate, gulping beer, ‘is the last creative act’. And you see a queer assembly of pictures and posters hung up on the walls : Che and ‘Mao and also the Black Powers which, according to a lodger, is ‘fascinating’, not to speak of the guerillas and nudes and, of course, a familiar portrait of a Bengali girl who now is Aparna Sen. . In the gymnasium, two boys play-act sword fight, all so infantile. Suddenly they see blood. So do you. Follows an instant silence-silence that is intense, profound and electrifying. Offering blood the ‘warring’ boys perform a ritual, pledging revolution. And thus, ‘through wisdom’ the students ‘get understanding’.

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Rsvotsr or ms Aootsscsars


Charge-sheets are framed against a few boys for breaking the moral of ‘the house’. They are punished which remind you of the horrors of the concentration camp, while you see the law-breaking juveniles being caned mercilessly and in the process getting steeled, surreptitiously does the camera capture another boy in another room looking through the microscope. The bacteria spread. So sprmd anger and violence. The Establishment continues to function with apparent efliciency and considerable tact. There is no end to the big talk about the loyalty-bound public school and the tall promises about producing super-market managers. But the boys refuse to be beguiled any more. In utter desperation they rise in revolt. They take a pledge : Death to the oppressors. Resistance, they

say. Liberty, they promise. . Everything is now on war footing. They call it a ‘crusade’, the visuals and auralslargely resembling modern warfare. And, then, in the midst of sound and fury the film ends abruptly not with the customary ‘The End’ but with a big. . . .IF. . .1?" is a funny, bitter allegory of an unusual kind where the implications told through words and visuals are as familiar and communicative to a Calcuttan as they are to a Parisian or a Britisher or a New Yorker or, for that matter, to any one who livm and grows in the contemporary climate. . .3‘ is a sharp note of defiance—a violation of the AngloSaiton understanding of the British code of ethics. It is ‘ttn-British‘!

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The Latin American Scene

The Hour of the Furnaces is a manifesto. It is unabashed propaganda from the first shot ot the last. It is didactic, it is agitational, it acts like a detonator. -lt is, in essence, a guide to militant action. it is a film made in Argentina. lt was made in the midsixties. It was an incredible time. It was made secretly, it was shown secretly, also discussed secretly. It was a part of the guerilla movement shaking the whole of Latin American continent. Much later, after hundreds of clandestine screenings, the film was legalised by Peron. Understandably, immediately after it obtained the certificate the film went into world circulation. It is a shame that this gem of a film could be made available to the Indian audiences after such a long time and that too for not more than, alas, a dozen showings. The Hoar of the Furnaces is a feattne length documentary. It was made to sharpen one’s understanding of the reality growing under constant pressure of the physical and psychological violence of the neo-colonial system. The film is a trenchant attack on the polities of neo-colonialism, it is an indictment of its terrible system. The system, as the film ruthlessly exposes, manifests itself on various levels of the society—-in the industrial belt, in the urban milieu, in the agrarian base. With militant fury the film shows the ugly face of the system which, under the guise of social respectability and radicalism, beguiles the people with very many false beliefs. Hit by bit, it unrnasks the lies and hypocrisies behind the facade and then, in unambiguous language, aslrs the people to learn to hate. The filrn is full of such explosive lines.

‘A people without

hate cannot triumph’, the film says in a certain sequence.


another sequence it makes a categorical statement that the colonial education is just ‘to legalise dependence‘ . And it does not fail to comment on the ‘mass communication‘ which is where the ‘intellectuals’ are seen to be quite active. ‘Mass communication’, the film says, ‘is more effective than Napalm‘. All this and many more, lines and words, punctuated by hosts of images, movie and still, move at rapid pace and that is

Cit‘) git:


‘Tue Lxrns Antsalcart Scans


how Solanas, the director, builds his film. Solanas addresses his spectator directly. He tells him the real truth behind the exterior eahn of the neo-colonial system. And, as the film reveals this truth, Solanas says : ‘We fear peace more than war’. This ‘peace’ must be combated. Solanas names his spectator as ‘the humiliated’; he asserts that his condition is ‘rebellion’. The film asks the spectator to organise revolution. The people must react. To be able to rmct in the most revolutionary manner is magnificent. Since the people are not allowed to choose life or death, only by choosing death

they can choose life. And instantly appears Che Guevara on the screen, dead. Every bit of details of the film, thus, speaks of political sagacity, of ideological profundity. Brick by brick, the film, through consistent analysis, redefines the history of Argentina, of ‘balkanised’ Latin America which in a broader political context, can rightly serve as a model for the whole of the Third ‘World countries. And here lies the universal significance of this stupendous document called The Hoar of The Furnaces. Structurally the film is one hundred percent cinema. As I watch this film I can unmistakably see a glowing tribute being paid to Dziga-Vertov who, many years ago, prop-ounded the theory of I(.ino-Eye and who, in his manifesto asked the future filmmakers to organise revolution. The film, in a way, also pays homage to Sergei Eisenstein who, during his life-time could not fulfil his desire to film Karl Marx's The Capital. Lastly here is a film which, with remarkable accuracy, juxtaposes image and sound in apparent contradiction and in the process, draws a brilliant case for the aesthetics of audio-visual montage. The last shot, that of Che in big close-up, lasts unmoved for more than three minutes. The soundtrack continues to play percussion. You look deep into Che. You too remain unmoved. The revolution germinates within you. It spreads its contagion. It grows around you. This is cinema par excellence. Peron in exile came back to his people after twenty-one years. Peron, when he assumed power, Iegalised the film. Peron, then, lost his lustre. But the film The Hours of The Furnaces is still with the people. It belongs to the people, to the persecuted, to the humiliated whose condition is ‘rebellion’, who have nothing to lose but their chains.


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Barman-Ray-Sen Controversy

[In I965, I made a film called Akasl: Kusurn (Up in the Cloud) based on a script written jointly by me and Ashis Barman on

Harman's original story. It was the story of misadventure of contemporary young man of a lower middle-class set-up in

his desperate bid to break the wealth barrier. Some considered the film to be a good one, some found it indilferent, others felt it was just lousy. A Statesman review provoked Barman to

make a short comment. Satyajit Ray found it necessary to make further comment on Batman's. And immediately started a battle—-a battle on words, lasting for two months, more than 50 correspondents talking their minds in the columns of The Statesman. In the context of Indian cinema this 2-month old wordy battle was funny, intriguing and, perhaps, important too. The following are the letters, arranged chronologically, from Barman, Ray and me and none from others.] ' Sir : As the writer and joint scenarist of the film Alcash Kusum allow me to express my appreciation of the review of our film in your paper. I-lowever,'it is diilicult to reconcile the first few lines of the review with the concluding passage : ‘It would be a pity if this film proved too adult, too antisentimental for our matinee crowds‘. Secondly, we feel, a Don Quixotic ending for a contemporary story with all its immediacy of the scene would have been totally unconvincing and hence disastrous. For a period-piece, no doubt, this could have been a plausible postulate. The cinema mirrors the reality too objectively, with a ruthlms precision and lucidity of the images; hence it is almost impossible to lend stylised ambiguity toa topical theme. lstrees the word ‘topical’. I am writing on these two points precisely because your critic does not challenge the inevitability of the ending of "our film. In fact, by implica.tion he concedes its logical development in the body of this criticism. --Asuts Baasttttv, July 25, 1965. (Published in The Stataonan, August 3, I965). I

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Views on Cmam

Sir : Mr. Ashis Barman writing about the film story Alccsh Karurn in his letter in The Sratesrrtau 3-4, lays much stress on the topicality of his theme. May I point out that the topicality of the thetne in question stretches well back into antiquity, when it found esprfision in

that touching fable about the poor deluded crow with a fatal weakness for status symbols? Hadlvlr. Barman known of the fateof this crow, hewould surely have impartedthe knowledg to his protagonist, who-now acts in complete ignorance of traditional precepts, withwnced 1 _add.—t‘ consequence. .—Sa:rvaJrr Rav, August 5, -1965. (Published in..T7Ie-Sarresnatrt, August 10, 196$). t.







.Sir :. I feel flattered-to-see that Mr. Satyajit Ray, one-of tlm -gratest filmmaker of the world, has, in his-letter today, taken .note of my letter {August 3-4)"pertaining to your film critic‘s review of our film Akash Kusttm. . .Inhis nimble comments however he has mixed up two different aspects ofa topical theme : for, the topicality of a story does not negate the basic human urges like love, jealousy, hunger, hope, or thedesire for. a better life. What it. don is to stamp these basic .urges with the contemporary. forms of. expression and the urgency of a central focus. As far as the question of imparting the precepts of antiquity to theprotagonist is concerned, may I remind Mr. Ray that great men like~Christ, the Buddha and Gandhi have-done the -same from ages past--evidently, with not ntuchsuccms. Our task is to portray the reality and-not to live in an itnaginery world of our own creation. —-As!-ns Bastian, August 10,1965. (Published in The Statesman, August 14, 196$). _#_





" . Sir : Satyajit -Ray -(August. 10.-ll) has. raised -the question of topicality with regardto. the film-story Alcash Kusarn.

Doesrhlr. Ray dismiss -the topicality-of-the theme in question -on the ground that the kind of practice as adopted by the protagonist dates back to antiquity? -I do not feel sure. ' - . ' .In this connection I am rather tempted to bring a- champion in this seemingly exciting polemics~—Chaplin who, much in the image of the poor deluded crow of Aesop's Fables expressed, to quotehis own words, ‘my conception of .the average man, of any man, of myself.’ -His derby,- according to hint, strove for dignity, his moustache for vanity and so on, and in later years,

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after World ‘War ll (when the world was atrociously different), this ag-old fatal weakness for status symbols drove Chaplin to kill a dozen women. And I am sure Mr. Ray will not certainly doubt the topicality of Chaplin’s theme brought out with such masteryduring the long years of his fihn career. Was not this madums, which is so palpable in all of Chaplin’s

works, evident in Don Quixote which yet remained contemporaneous, and in our days do we not share the same aberration in lesser or greater degree with indeed, ‘fabulous

consequences’? . To conclude, I do not, by any chance, wish to take refuge under the fable-crow‘s wings and claim to be an Amop or a Cervantm or a Chaplin. I have made a film called Aitarh Insure and that is all. —M'att~IaL SEN, August I0, 1965. . (Published in The Sroresmtnt, August I5, I965). '





' Sir: I have so far been crediting Mr. Mrinal Sen'—the

director of Akarh Kusara—witlt having largely camouflaged the nealcnm of his story bytneans of some audacious cinematic sleight-of-hand, and blaming him only for the sentimentalityof his ending. I see now from his letter (August I5-16)" that I have been wrong. Ivlr. Sen, along with his writer Mr. Barman,

rates his film as a valid contemporary fable. It really doesn't bother me much that his hero‘s behaviour dates back to antiquity. In fact, I'm prepared to believe that such naive perversity may exist even today if only to receive a moral lesson at the end of a film. What I fail to see,- however, is what conceivable topical point such behaviour and its consequencm are likely to make or have made in the film. If Aicnsh .IIu.s-um has any contporaneity, it’s on the surl‘ace—in its modish narrative devicm, and in some lively details of city life. But

where is the topicality inits theme, and where is it in the attitude of its makers? Do Messrs Sen and Barman believe they have made an angry film about struggling youth as-sailing the bastion of class? But surely any such notions developing in the course of the story are wholly dissipated by the ending, which givm us not a confrontation of Have and Have-not (whicltmight have made a social point, however haelcneyed), but an indignant father concerned about his only daughter's future ticking ofl‘ a suitor who has turned out to be an impostor. Hardly a topical predicament, one would have thought. . 1 -

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Views on Coretta

I wish Mr. Sen hadn't dragged Chaplin into this, although

by doing so he has revealed that his defence of his own film stems from a misunderstanding of the trmtp character. The tramp knows only too well that he is not fooling anybody for any length of time with his Derby and his moustache. The only person he ever tried to fool was a blind flower-girl who. found him out the moment she found her eyesight. The tramp, in fact, is not Aesop's foolish crow at all, but a wise.crow who has learnt Aesop's lmson and yet wears the peacock‘s tail as a constant reminder of the inherent absurdity of status symbols. It is this .worldly cynicism which makm the tramp—as well as it makes Verdoux——a figure of our times. —SA.Tv..ut'r RM’, August 16, 196$. (Published in The 'Sreresraan, August 2!, W65). i




Sir: Mr. Satyajit Ray in his letter (August 21-22) has exposed himself more than he hm our film, Akesh Kttrum. A story reflects topicality on two levels—in the books of Mrs. Gaskell, Kingsley or Dickens the stress is on the physical plane, on confrontation; in those of Thackeray, Trollope or George Eliot it is on intellectuality, on value-judgentent. And all of them belonged to the same era. -Two stories or plays by the same author may mirror different approaches; for example, Ibsen‘s An Enemy of the People. is more social and physical, whereas his A Doll's House. is on the personal plane. The topicality of the former is evidently more social, while that of the latter intellectual. The same is true of Gorky‘s Mother in contrast with his The Arrem-unovs; in mother art-form, Mr. Ray's Kanclte.-njungha and Mahanager can also be cited as examples. " The topicality of Akcsh Kusum, whatever its worth, is in its value-judgement, apart from its atmosphere, locale, speech, attitude, behaviour and style. Both the hero and the parents of the girl measure ‘success’ in terms of money. Precisely because of this, the hero's idol is a tycoon—not a scientist, engineer, painter, teacher or singer. The unattainability of this idealfrom his social stratum is another aspect of the truth, of topicality, also of value-judgement. , . ‘ Mr. Ray has totally overlooked this cardinal point. As a consequence, he has misunderstood Chaplin, for there is ‘fooling’ in every scene of Verdoux; in fact, Chaplin kills a dozen women in a gusto of fooling around, or, perhaps, Mr. Ray, on adolescent

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confrontation as was reflected in the disastrous ending of his film Malaanagar. —-Asnts Bsasuev, August 21, I965. (Published in The Statesman, August 27, 1965). F




Sir : Instead of disputing and giving a valid opinion on my argument on the question of topicality of the theme, allegedly stretching ‘well back into antiquity’, Mr. Satyajit Ray in his letter (August 21-22) has given an independent mlysis of my film Akash Kttsum which perhaps is uncalled for. About Chaplin and his tramp-—-who are two seperatc perso‘na1ities—-I do not wish to be inventive like Mr. Ray and shall

only quote the film-maker himself. ‘This fellow‘, Chaplin says, ‘is many-sided, a tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure. . .. trying to meet the world bravelyto put up a blulf, and he knows that too‘. And he is always buffeted by life—a fabulous consequence indeed! Is he then a wise crow, aware of the inherent absurdity of status symbols? It is, in fact, Chaplin's profound wisdom which makes such a character—-the little fellow, and I,/erdaux who, after each murder, ‘goes home as would a bourgeois husband after a hard day’s work’. Further, on the eve of ‘World War II, Chaplin felt the edge of his character needed sharpening and that is howthe little fellow underwent a metamorphosis. This, perhaps, further clarifies my previous argument. But then, I did not bring in Chaplin‘s tramp and I/erdaux to show exact parallels in Alrash Kusam :_it was just to illustrate my own comment on the question of topicality. -ivnmnt. SEN, August 24, I965. (Published in The Statesman, August 28, 1965). I




Sir : Here is a brief resume of contemporary reality as depicted in the contemporary film Akasl: Kusum.

Rich. barrister‘s daughter and handsome popular singer meet at wedding, precipitate contemporary phenomenon: love at first sight. He lives in hovel but by contemporary luck is blessed with physical attributes of well-bred afiuenee. To further big business ambitious hero borrows money from convenient rich friend, invests in contemporary galvamometers. Also borrows rich friend’s car, clothes, telephone and apartment in ftu-ther ambitious romance. Romance, marked by frozen eontemporaneity, involves persistent lying but not in beds.

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Rich friend uses contemporary discretion against putting foot down on hero's aberration, lets scenarist, not logic, have way with story. Hero resists own qualms for ditto reason. Enter contemporary calamity : trusting hero swindled by treacherous broker. Ambition thwarted, romance threatened. Enter contemporary personage called Bras Ex Machine. DEM reveals hero's antecedents to girl’s father. Distraught hero turns up at girl's residence to make clean breast, is turned out by father. Contemporary finale with boy and girl waving sad farewell.

Contemporary moral : A crow-film is a_ crow-fihn is a crow-film. --*SJ\.T'i'.i\.llT RAY, August 20, I965. ' ' (Published in Dre Statesman, September l, 1965). 1




Sir : A story, claiming to be topical, has at last been retold by Mr. Satyajit Ray (September l-2), and in doing so he reminds me of one who, in a desperate bid to impress upon his buyer, approached a film-producer to sell an exciting story of a murder in a Royal House highlighted by a host of saleable ingredients — ghosts - m.ystery- ron'iance- betrayal - incest episod ending in the heroine turning mad and killing herself and the hero committing suicide with, of course, some more killing in between and a play within a play. The story, incidentally, is

Harnler. [wonder if some one would like to make a contemporary tragedy on celluloid with the desperate story-seller as the protagonist.



' In trying to derive a ‘contemporary moral‘ Mr. Ray, by adding three doubtful prefixes, has conveniently reconstructed a famous line which originally belonged to the French film director Jean-luc Godard : ‘A film is afilm is a film‘. In this connection it may be interesting to note that Mr. Godard, unlike Mr. Ray, prefers to remain amoral and will perhaps ‘suffer’ many human frailties including ‘persistent lying’ even ‘in beds’.

—Mntu.u. Sun, September l, I965. (Publishedin The-SIIIIESMGH, September, I3, 1965). i




Sir : It is no pleasure either for myself or for Mr."Mrinal Sen to nettle Mr. Satyajit Roy whose artistic sensibility continua to inspire us. .Wc'feel, however, considerably assured by the fact that his anger is actually directed towards his own totally untenable position regarding topicality as enumerated in his first letter (August 10-ll). In an inadvertent moment perhaps he asserted by implications, that topicality negates basic human

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HARHAH-RAY-SEH Corrrnovenstr


org. The entire history of art falsifies this unguarded assertion and hence Mr. Ray finds himself, theoretically, enmeshed in a helpless posture. I This ooneeptual bungling notwithstanding, and the question

of taste involved in his unexpected intrusion, our boundless admiration for his creative stature remains undiminished, though not for his analytical acumen. --A51-us BaRMAH,- September I, l965."' _ I .(Published in The Statesman, September I3, 1965).

‘The correspondence was closed by the Editor, The Smtesnmn. on Septentllen 13, 1965.

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Nyon Film Festival and Basil Wright

In October, 1912, I acted as the Chairman of the International

Jury at the International Film Festival at Nyon, Switzerland. To conclude the last day's ceremony Mr. Moritz D’!-Iadeln, the director of the Festival, organised a special screening of my film Calcutta H and invited the Indian Ambassador Mr. Arjan Singh, the ea-Air Chief Martial, to preside over the function. The film was shown in a packed theatre but the Indian ambassador, so it seemed, was not quite happy. Two hours after the function the ambassador met a large gathering in a get-together. In an after-dinner speech he made it known to the invitees that Calcutta H did in noway project the real Indian scene. The en-Air Chief Martial admitted that there was a famine in India, not in recent time but in 1943, and that the same was restricted to Bengal and did not spread outside. Mr. Arjan Singh was seen visibly agitated while making his speech. In conclusion he made a categorical statement about the country which he represented in Switzerland in l9T2. He said : ‘Oars is a country which is more affluent than many countries; ours is a country where we have surplus food; ours is a country where we make jet planes‘. _ By ‘ours’ the ambassador obviously meant the Republic of India. I-Ie served the Republic very well indeed as the Air Chief Martial and while serving he did not fail to make the most effective use of his experience under his Imperial bosses who, during the war years, created the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 in collusion with the hoarders, profiteers and black-rnarketeers of British India. - Mr. Basil Wright, the veteran British film-maker was with me, listening to the Indian ambassador. Later, from his London home, he wrote me a letter which is the following :



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Little Adam Farm, Freith Henley-on-Thames, Qxon RGQGNP High _Wycombe 831408 (STD 0494) 4th November, I972. Mr. Mirinal Sen 4E, Motilal Nehru Road, Calcutta 29, India.

My dear Mrinal, when we parted the other day at the end of the Nyon Festival I had the impression that you were unduly disturbed by the intemperate and rather ridiculous attack on Calcutta 7! by your ambassador. I beg you to keepa prespective on this. Nothing can alter the social and‘aesthetic excellenoes of your film or its value to a nation which is fighting so boldly for the betterment of its people. However, l need not repeat the praises I so gladly heaped on you to your face during our talks in Nyon. Let me rather remind you that your ambassador represented a point of view with which film-makers in all countries are, alas, only too familiar. There are always hard-core areas of chauvinism within Governments and Government departments, where the idea of a film even suggesting that their nation is anything other than an earthly paradise is viewed with horror. I remember well how we here suffered from this at the end of Thirties, when our social documentaries were excluded from the oflicial British film programme because they depicted the existence of slums, malnutrition, pollution and bad conditions in State

schools. In the event we arranged for them to be shown in a different cinema at the New York World’s Fair, where they made a contrast to the touristic films shown in our Government's pavilion and were, indeed, a smash hit and regarded as excellent propaganda since they revealed Britain as a responsible democracy with a lively social conscience. So please, dear lvlfrinal, put your ambassador in proper perspective, at the wrong end of a telescope, for instance. It was really no more than a rather funny little episode, and was so regarded by those at the reception who bothered to listen to it. Yours ever, Basil Wright

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-Convocation Address at the -Film Institute _ of India, Poona I must tell you that for ymrs together I happen to be an inseparable part of the anatomy of the Institute mingling freely more with the students than with the administrators, believing rnore. in a kind of give-and-take principle than in one-way imposition, -giving the students my own experiences and my tolerance

and taking a lot of their enthusiasm and warmth and, indeed, their intolerance and defiance too. I must tell you a. truth: having lived a professional life for so many years cotmting financial worries and feeling continuing insecurity—both physical and ethical, quite often have I felt terribly lonely. Yes, in creative work one needs solitude at times, not lonelinms. It is killing, terrifying—thjs unprocreative loneliness which any one in professional work,.if he keeps his sensibility alive, can never escape. At such moments of my career, believe me, I have come here to this Institute, to meet these young students, to talk to them, "to argue with them, to difi'er from and agree with them and thus to refuel myself. While, in his mrly days, Chaplin used to -come over to Europe only to get emotional stimulus, I say I also find the same here, in this Institute. I love the climate that has been built here. It is quiet and unpredictably turbulent, it is disciplined and despicably irregular, it is thought-provoking and also grossly physical. It is an aesthetic delight to enjoy and to live this kind of madness here, because, in such madness, there is an underlying method, deter-

mined, to a large extent, by all that is youthful, vigorous, wild and even vulgr. And having closely watched the students in their classrooms and outside I have always derived a queer feeling similar to what I had felt in a session of pop music--ecstatic, vibrant, rebellious and, yes, vulgar too. I wish I could get back to my youth! ' In recent years we have seen writings on the Institute walls, moderately extremist in content and style. Yes, there have been writing on the walls these days-—writings which offend the authorities as well as the individuals. I can see a point in


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authority taking offence at such alfronts. But how can one

stop it, particularly when we live in an age where to say ‘no' to power is no more considered a taboo? Besides, writing on the wall, as I see, is as irresistible as the age-old practice of drawing figures in the lavatory. At this, I fear, is all praise for the new generation, all this is my effort to build an invulnerable mse for the angry lot. But, in all fairness, I think I should also mention that their performance does not always tend to lend dimension. There are times, as we have been here and elsewhere, when much of the violent passion of the young boys and girls just fails to be creative. The students here are devoted to their work. I have seen a certain dedication in them—-an unshaken allegiance to what they will live by. Ever since I have known them, I repeat, I have never doubted their integrity. But at times I have found them indulging in over-enthusiasm which quite often has led them to infantile aberrations. They have been found at such moments to feel much superior to others 1 displaying their knowledge of the new language that is Cinema, unceasingly dropping namm from the pages of the books on aesthetics and finally making pathetic efforts to remain diflerent from the profmsional variety, just different, and to be enigmatic. This tendency, I am sorry to say, has -been found to be physically perceptible inside the Institute campus. Besides, I have also found that they do not react socially as much as I have expected them to do. All this, I shall emphatically .say, is suicidal. The basic task and the sole task is to communicate. To communicate intellectually and emotionally is all that the Cinema or, for that matter, any other art-medium stands for. And to communicate in terms of film one is given a new language born of the physical properties of Optics and Sound. . The language as we have found it for the last T0 years and more is always in a state of continuing evolution, multiplying its vocabulary and expanding its area of operation. And since film, unlike other arts, is a direct product of technology and since innovation is a continuously growing reality in the world of science, the language of the film has all along been defying all grazmmatiml conventions and is manifesting itself in every newer forms independent of national and regional barriers. I would call it a superb ‘bastard art‘ ruthlessly disowning

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Convocxrlon Annnnss lvr "rm: Flu: lnsrrrurs


ancestral heritage yet capturing all the delicacies, all that is buoyant, flexible and wild. With such a languap as this and with something born out of mrth to comntunimte, film, as we see, has grown into the most enviable social entity of our time. And I take this opportunity to tell my friends here who, having spent their time at the Institute are now to walk into the world, that they must take note of what they are in possession of. I ask you, my young friends, to fear nothing. I ask you to prove your allegiance to your medium, I ask you to remain true to the world that has shaped yon. As you walk into the world you must react socially and also respond intensely to the properties of the tools of your medium. I shall also ask you, if you can afford to do so, to develop the spirit of inconoclasm. And I can tell you confidently that among many attitudes in human behaviour I see a valid point in self-exp-erssion too. So, walk into the world. As you keep on serving your medium and your conscience, go on taking chances. And as you do so, perish or prosper. I wish you all a very tough time. .

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On Connection, On Intellectual Perception, On'Cho.ito.nyo. " ' '

Recently, in a national seminar on how to motivate the people through films, an eminent intellectual made a point basing on his own experience. Once he was posted as a very important oflicial in the most backward area in the state of West Bengal.

Since he had some oflicial fund. to spend on. recreational programme for the tribals, he once organised screening of a few films for them. Several excerpts from films like Eisensteinls Battleship Porcmlcin and his film on Mexico, Satyajit Ray’s Father Pnnclnrli and Cluzot’s Picasso were shown. The screening, according to the speaker, was great success. True, the tribals did not have the benefit of the words spoken in the films of Ray and Cluzot, nor did they have the slightest idea of the uprising of the Russians in I905 and of Mexican history. Yet, so the speaker claimed, they understood the films. He watched them intimately as theyt saw the films ‘wide-eyed, open-mouthed’. And, as they came out of the theatre, he could clearly see the reverence of a new experience on their faces. The point that was made by the speaker is the following : The tribals are unlettered, raw, without the least sophistication. But they did follow the film, could get the essence of messages captured in them,

could, in fact,


And isn’t it

what Froster said about the understanding of art-—‘to connect’? To connect is the thing, it is precisely what a writer wants his reader to do. While watching the Odessa steps sequence in Battleship Porcmkin, the tribals could immediately connect the same with the battle which their forefathers had fought against the Britishcrs and the Indian landlords and traders. And the very sight of the Mayan rituals in Else-nstein’s Que Viva Mc:rico—Mask dance and all-made them remember their own rituals on birth and death. Similarly, Parker Pnnchnh‘ could easily touch their souls. The magic, therefore, that worked was their ability to connect.

To me, all this is over-simplification. I admit the tribals saw the films wide-eyed and open-mouthed. I shall never say that ‘the reverence of a new experience‘ could not be seen on

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their faces.. But what are _alI these due to‘? To be -honest‘, and I am pretty-sure about it, the tribals were awed by the wonder that is -einema~—multitudes of pictures appearing in --quick succession and eclipsing soon, a pair of eyes- covering the- whole

screen, an angry crowd’ growing enormous and in a moment reducing itself to a small dot and a host of marvelsas offered

by the technological performance called cinema. And, then, in Picasso there are colours and shapes and forms presenting a large variety of illusions for the uninitiated. All these, are, indeed,-great wonders not for the habitual viewer but for the ‘unlettered, raw and unsophisticated’ tribals who had .no opportunity to watch a film before. ‘ _ Here, I am -tempted to recall an incident which Flaherty described so beautifully and vividly. Having edited his Nnnooic of the -Noni: and giving its final shape Flaherty took a copy of the film to the Antarctic to show it to Nanook and his people among the Eskimos. It was their first look -at a film and also at themselves. Understandably, it was an exciting experiencewatching the visuals on the screen, also looking back to see the 16 mm projector. Suddenly came the sequence of the sealhunting on the screen. The viewers saw themselves on the screen. The viewers who were so long relaxing in the improvised auditorium could no more remain passive. They grew restless, they became tense. And the moment the screen-seal, in a dmperate bid to escape, rushed towards the camera, the viewers lost. not a moment to jump on the screen to catch it. What followed was big laughter, both from Flaherty and from the viewers who, just at that very moment, became wise. _ The Eskimos did, of course, connect, but that was certainly not the kind of connection mentioned earlier.

A sense of

identification through connection, as suggested by Froster, is an experience born out of artistic stimulation. But here, in the case of the Eskimos watching their first film, it was just gross, too physical to provide for any artistic urge. What Froster meant by connection is what Eisenstein called Intellectual Perception. The two arms of a clock forming a

right angle with the shorter arm on ‘3‘ and the longer on ‘l2’ is just Physical Perception to one who does not know what time it is. To be able to know that it is 3 o'clock one is required to have the Intellectual Perception. A friend of mine, having seen Antonioni’s Ln None, got instantly furious. He found the last sequence depicting sex act unashamed pornography. I,




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for one, felt a lump in my throat in the same sequence. True, the sequence depicted sex act and consequently my friend felt outraged. What I-could see : his was just Physical Perception and he did not have the Intellectual Perception to discover some-

thing else which is a leap into a concept. He failed to connect and so made such disastrous conclusion. To connect-is what Froster prescribed. Eisenstein described two ways of perceiving a thing. Alongside stands one of Tagore‘s remarkable experiences when he could see the difference between seeing with his eyes and seeing with his chnitnnyn. (‘All thme years I have seen the world with my eyes only. New I have

learnt to see "through choironyo’. --Tagore, I802.) ‘Whether he is a tribal or an Eskimo or a member of urban elite, the point is to see through choitnriyn. Having eyes to see and the ears to hear are not enough for one to be an ideal spectator. -'' 1


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On Violence

Anil Grover, a free lance journalist, quoted from the noted playwright Tendulkar and asked me to comment. -

- Vfioy Tenriuikor : ‘The flashpint of violence is momentary, and if this moment passes, the incident may not occur at all‘. I said : I don't really know in what context Mr. Tendulkar has spoken this line. Fm sorry I don't know about his thesis on violence. But since you want me to comment on-this line, I can try to give you my scrappy ideas. ' When Cain, the son of Adam, killed his brother Abel—this was the first murder in the history of mankind, as the Bible says —that was an accident. To analyse the state of mind of Othello when he killed his wife Desdemona, Mr. Tendulkar‘s observation may have ‘relevance. But when the Pandavas fought the battle of Kurukshetra, unleashing a lot of violence for I8 days, it was the result of very cool deliberation. And I hope you will agree with me when I say that the Russian Revolution of I917, which had its ‘dress reharsal’ in 1905, was the result of rigorous preparation for years. -_ Personal vendetta, therefore, should never be equated to social or collective vendetta. And then again, social or collective acts of violence are not always identical in character. Look, for instance, at our current history. Examine the factors that -led to the communal massacre at Bhiwandi a few years ago. Or take up the flimsy issues that led to some lousy violence in Delhi in the name of anti-cow slaughter movement. All these and many more certainly do not have any connection with incidents of glorious lawlmsness in the '42 movement. You know as much as I do, the '42 movement was not at all nonviolent. Ftuther, think of the agrarian uprisings in rural India, both in the past and in recent times. Finally, the act of violence, by and large, operatm on two levels—-physical and mental. To sum up, all that I can tell you is that all acts of violence need to be judged, in all fairness, in social, political, economic perspectives, and also from psychological motivations. - -

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Baishey Srnnnna and the Great Famine in 194-3 I have developed a kind of love-hate relationship with my early films, but for Baishey Srnvonn (The Wedding Day), made in I960, I still have love and affection and no hatred at all. Boishey Srovosro dwells-primarily on exploring the relation

between a middle-aged man, ugly by Indian standard, and his pretty young wife. This is the story of birth, growth and degeneration of relatioship with no ‘third man’ to heighten and aeeelerate the reaction. The first_ quarter of the film is the story of the three; the mother dies and it remains, till the end, the story of the two. It describes many situations, alt based in a distant village, and finally eaptures the ruthless seene of the great famine in 1943. _ In 1943 I was in Caleutta. Those were terrible days. The famished people from the interiors of the agricultural belts rushed to the eity, begged for the left-overs and dropped dead. There eould be seen eorpses on the pavements, in the parks _and_all over the eity and also in the outskirts before they eould enter the eity. There was stink in the air but not much anger. The war raged in Etlrop-e and five. million -Pfiflple died in united Bengal

in Wat and East just out of starvation. It_ was a famine made by men who, as they served the eolonial bosses in their war

efforts, cared only for profiteering and blaeltmarketing. Those were the days when, driven by terrible hunger, the hungry millions redueed themselves to, subhuman animals.



. Slowly but inexorably does famine walk into the seeond part of the film. From here to the end of the film eamera moves inside the family and goes out only onee to e_apttu'e the villagers moving to the eity. Outside, is the _famine growing uglier (and this - our camera deliberately avoids), -inside the family all is quiet but oppressive. Till the end-it remains the story of the t_wo_—-of a bitter husband and a bitter wife, hurling against eaeh other and breathing stink. There is nothing to salvage them, to pull them out of this filth and this is what the film captures. At the end -the woman hangs herself._ The man was, no villain, the woman was _-all_ graee. It was a e_ruel time. , _ , _ I wanted to make a eruel film and Boishey Srnvann is one sueh.


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To Build an Attitudir:

"Whenever I am to-make a film I have always felt that I have to serve three mistresses at a time :- (i) my story which belongs to a certain period, (ii) my medium, cinema, to which I have my obligations and (iii) my own time which I can never escape. Each of the three demands very special attention and I know very well that I am committed to them all. A tough job, indeed! - _ _ , The Ramayana is an Indian epic, written by the ancient sage Valmiki. Many years later a Bengali poet called Krittibas translated the Ramayana in his language. While translating, the Bengali poet remained faithful to theoriginal. According to the pundits he did not make any attempt to project contem-

porary thoughts into his rendering. Once again, in the midnineteenth centrury, there appeared yet another poet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, who pulled out one chapter from the Ramayaaa,_ recreated the same and declared, ‘I hate Rama and his rabble‘._ This, indeed, was revolutionary! _ _ Without distorting Valmilt_i‘s text Michael made a trenchant attack on the traditional belief according to which Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, is_an ideal man, the ideal husband and the ideal king. Understandably, many pundits called l'vIichael’s an act of saerilege, but others felt that by doing so llvlichael had served his own time extremely well. Arid, incidentally, Michael was a rebel in his private life and equally intense in his literary approach. _ No doubt, Krittibas did a good job, but Michael's was a major work where he served the ‘three mistresses’ and remained faithful to them. Krittibas did the job ofan_efiicier_it archivist, Michael made it _a contelnporary event. _ _ _ The point, therefore, is to build an attitude. This is possible only when you care to tmderstand your own








, Throughput my career I have tried in my_ own limited way to_understand my own time and t_hus to grow an attitude. To gt'ow- an attitude means to put soul into your work, to make yours a dynamic concept.

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The New Vocabulary

Years ago my son was six-year-old. At this age he was just an average boy with average intelligence. l-le and I, we, once went to a public park. It was late in the afternoon. The sky was cloudy. Soon the sky darkened. We apprehended a storm popularly known as nor‘wester. We thought of hurrying back. 'Suddenly there flashed a. terrifying lightening. My son looked at the flash, so did I. It was unusually large, its length stretching from one end to the other end of the eastern horizon. Amazed, my son said -: ‘TFO mm screen’! He was so eloquent, so expressive. In a similar situation my grandfather or yours would have compared the lightening to, perhaps, amythical bird spreading its wings; may be, he would have used some other expression from the Paraaas. But, now, ‘in these days of science and and technology; my son uses an expression which belongs essentially to-the technological world. It has no barrier! We are fast approaching a -time when, because of the tremendous growth of science and technology, the gaps on

various front are narrowing. ‘Now is the time when the frontiers of national culture no longer remain invulnerable. Now is the time when I reach out to understand the other, to break the barrier, to find new language and new vocabulary. The fact of cross-fertilisation is now found to be a growing reality all over the world. i ‘I0 mm screen’ was an expression which my son and I found quite valid on the occasion. Now and later such an expression will be found obsolete. Another expression will then come up and will hardly take any time to replace my son's. And another father, in an identical situation, will make an immediate note of it and will, perhaps write a short note. This is the march of time, this is progress. Being, to a large extent a technological performance, cinema looks always for an ever growing language. This has no barrier. This has very little of national features. This is international. ' Do not tell me I am suffering from what you may call ‘cosmopolitanism’. '

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Patfalik and Its Time


Fadarik is the third of our trilogy on Calcutta. The first two films are Interview (ISITO), Cafcrara T1 (1972). -In the first two as well as in Padarik we have tried to capture life which is in continuous. movement, steps forward and steps backward

too, and which, in .the process, reveals socio-economic and political scene of one‘s own time. On purely physical plane the locale is always Calcutta. But Calcutta, as we have tried to show in our films, is India where, according to oflicial statistics, sixty out of one hu.ndred people are below even poverty line. The discontent being, therefore, a continuously growing reality, we have made very effort to draw gruesome picture of a crowd of discontents in our films and, without offering any apology, have quite often done some kind of pamphletee'ring.\ And wherever we have found an excuse to cross the barrier of time and space, we have done so and have thus tried to arrive at univeljsalised truth. That is precisely how and why we have quoted bits from Afro-Asian situations and those of Latin American countries in order to illustrate our points. Padatik, unlike the first two, is somewhat of a defined story

having an introduction, a beginning and an end. In this film we have discussed a peculiar situation the parallel of which is not altogether non-existent in other Afro-Asian countries.

For obvious reasons, Sino-Soviet ideological dispute created problems for almost all communist parties all over the world. In India the crisis surfaced at a growing pace and then, in I964, the split was complete, each one of the two factions claiming to be truly Marxian. But, inspite of organisational split and growing bitterness, these two parties along with other splinter groups of the left varieties formed alliances from time to time to fight elections both at the state and at central levels. In 1969, following militant unrest particularly in the agrarian belts of West Bengal and also in Andhra Pradesh in the south and elsewhere, there was further split, the newly formed party popularly known as ‘Naxalites‘ discarding all forms of parliamentary politics. All these partim were fairly active all over the country, more so in West Bengal, but in addition to their

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respective party programme as declared, there was something else too-—inner-party struggles and inter-party clashes. The clashes, however, assumed dangerous proportion at quite rapid pace. In Podarik we pick up a city-bred young man, a dedicated activist, now in hiding. While in hiding in a lu:.t.urious apartment in a posh locality, the young man, finding himself cut ofi' from

the mainstream of political life, indulges in what. we may call stock-taking. He is angry, he is bitter without being cynical.And here, without losing our focus on a consistent fight against all kinds of reaction, we do soul-searching. Is everything okay on anti-establishment front? Isn’t it the time to examine the validity of the mandates of the leadership? . And to question? Isn’t it proper to challenge the establishmentarianism in the leadership? Isn’t it necessary at times ‘to go against the tide‘? - The line, we know, between slandering and self-criticism is a thin line. It is like tight-rope walking. And it .is not easy. One needs tn cultivate in oneself -a kind of unshaken faith to successfully walk along the rope. While making Padarflr we

were aware of it. . We believe in united action, we believe in building solidarity. '

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On Mrignynn

Mrignyau (The Royal I-luntlwas never intended to be a

strictly anthropological film. Having made _the fihn we do not claim it to be so. I do not put up a defence, it is a statement of fact. _ _ ln essence, Mrigayoa is_ the story of the till_ers of the soil lost in neglect, ignorance and humiliation. They are the-poorest of the poor deprived of the barest of the bare human necessities.

They haveno freedom to exercise, no will_ to assert; they are made to sell their right to sell labour. The locale is one of the countless tribal villages which once were all jungles and subsequently reclaimed. Such reclamations have always followed habitations and then cultivation and finally the most inexorable of all sociological facts of historyEitploitation. To see how-simple is this inhuman process one has just to pull out a few lines from the enormous findings on the tribals by Prof. Nirmal Kumar Bose: ‘. ...‘When a jtutgle or difficult patch of land has to be reclaimed for the first time, when the pioneers have to struggle against snakes and tigers, the tribal people are often welcomed with open arms by the landed proprietors. The latter are told that they mayclear as much as they wish, and for the first ten or twenty years need pay no rent to anybody. They naturally set to work with an avidity which is not possible for more routine-

bound farmers, whose soil has been prepared after generations of labour. After some time, however, the tribal people need money, and they accept loan either from the landlord himself or from a money-lender. The rate of interest is enormous; they go on paying interest year after year. Yet there are cases where they are still in debt after having paid the capital back three times over by way of interest. The poor man’s labour is practically forfeited until he one clay purchasm his freedom by selling the land which he built up by the sweat of his brow. And thus is added one more to the number of proletarians in our land who have nothing to sell except their labour.’ And it is these settled agriculturists among the tribals who sooner or later, merge into the vast multitude of the

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agricultural proletariat that Mrigcyua is primarily concerned with.

No attempt has therefore been made anywhere in the film to make the tribals stand in isolation and thus to build an exclusive tase for them. And nowhere in the film has any effort been made to stress on the metaphysics of the tribal rituals. Instead of projecting a less prosaic and more romantic picture of the of the tribe and making them into museum pieces we have tried to treat them as a continuously growing phenomenon. They are an inseparable part of the vast masses of the agrarian complex who, through years of privation, have learnt to live, to despair and, in desperate bid, to grow militant. The story of Mrigayna dates back to early l93ll‘s. While, on one hand, we have spared no pains to characterise the period,

we have, on the other hand, invmted the characters and situations with contemporary attitudes. And this is how, without traversing history and without being unfaithful to its details, we have tried to understand our own time. Thus, basing on our understanding on the history, we have defined the characters and situations. Having thus made the film which, in English, we call The Royal Hunt, we now hopefully expect the spectators not to draw literal conclusions but to look beyond. Mrigayaa, as we feel, cannot and should not be localised in a particular village where a particular set of people live and rot. Mrigayen stretches far beyond... .anywhere. . . .cverywhcre . . . .whereyer there is exploitation by man on man.

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Filming in Telengana—l

Kafan is a cruel story, perhaps the cruelest of all of Prem Chand‘s storim--the story of bitter protest against the monstrous society where blood sucking is an ugly fact of reality. The

village which served Prem Chand as the model was somewhere in Uttar Pradesh. it could be anywhere else, in any part of the country, wherever could be seen the ‘rich grinding the poor and swallowing them up’. Oica Oorie Katha (A village story}, based on Kafcn, is our under-product_ion venture, spoken in Telugu language. Understandahly, we were on the look~out for a location in Andhra Pradesh which could be found suitable for a story like this.


chalked out a week-long programme : two days in Krishna district and the rest of the week in three districts in Telengana—Khammam, Nalgonda and Warrangal. We were three in our scouting unit and together with our driver we became four.

A fifth was added, as often as we availed of, a local guide to give us every bit of. information about everything we asked for. Having thus covered some select areas in Krishna and Khammam districts and making relevant notes on people and places and on the available facilities, we three, not to speak of our driver, returned to Vijayawada. We spent the night in a hotel and early next morning, a little before sunrise, we rushed to Hyderabad along a national highway. In Hyderabad we soon met a man who, later, became our friend, philosopher and guide. u Krishuamurty is his name : tall, dark and fascinatingly youthful. His is a brilliant past and, indeed, a vibrant present. During the Nixam’s rule he fought against Nizamsahi—against the Razakars and the landlords. For six long years he fought in the fields and in the terrains and escaped, as necessary, into hills and jungles. Since then and till now he remains a consistent fighter for his party. For forty years he has been working as a whole-timer organiser and a political activist. And for five days we requisitioned him. As a guide Krishnamurty was ideal for us. He listened to us quietly and made mental note of everything we required. He thought for a while and then very modestly asked me if he

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could know what the story was about. Briefly did I give him an outline of our script and he seemed to be visibly thrilled. A.nd__beiieve- it or not, tvio hours Krishnamurty threw us into a village which offered us all we needed. lt was incredible. The next four days were spent on befriending the villagers most of whom were rightly eligible to be Kafan characters. They told us their stories and, as we very well knew, there could not be two different stories for the Indian peasants. The same old stories were repeated, the same miseries, the same savagery, the same bitterness and finally the same cold acceptance. But what they told us of the Niaamsahi was terrible. ‘Look’! Krishnamurty drew my attention, as we proceeded to another village about fifteen kilometres away. I looked and saw fifty people engaged in digging and carrying earth. I felt happy. l said, ‘This is exactly what we need for a sequence in our film’. Krishnamurty smiled and said that he imagined so. He assured me that he would orga.nise this and anything that we would be needing. _ Du Krishnamurty’s insistence we got down and walked close to them. As is common everywhere, there were men and women employed at the job-—men digging the earth and men and Women carrying the baskets. A very familiar sight though, one never gets tired of watching them working in a highly disciplined order

—one carrying the basket to the other, the other to the next, the next to the further next and so on. It is monotonous, but such monotony has an inner charm.

Just charm? We found a few women carrying their children tied to their waists-—a familiar scene, indeed. The children, as they hung on, never looked like appcntages but as inseparable part of the anatomy of these working women—sleeping, looking around and also sucking mothers‘ breasts. And there stood Krishnamurty to tell me the story of these mothers during the Nizamsahi. ' ‘You know‘, said Krishnamurty, pointing his finger at one of the working mothers, ‘the two-month old children or six-month old or even eight or ten-month old cannot be taken out.

They cannot stand the sun, nor they should suffer the

hazards. They are left at home. But they need to be fed at least two or three times during the day. During the l*~liram's

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time whenever the working mothers wanted to go home, even for ten to fifteen minutes, to enable them to breast-feed their children at home, they were asked to voueh for themselves. They had to press their breasts and publicly demonstrate that milk was abundant in their breasts. This was a regular practioe -during the Nizantsahi only to prove that they did not tell lies‘. . And that was where we started filming our Oka 0-arts Katha from May 25, 1977.


i Clo 311.:

Filming in Telengana—l[

Up on a hill just on the fringe of a small village called Rangapur was a small plot of table-land made and there stands the famous observatory of the Or-mania University. Close to the observatory are several bunglows scattered at various levels of the hill, some of them almost hidden behind the rocks. It was vacation time in May and June and the bungalows, therefore, were all empty. Consequently, we had no problem in obtaining permission to accommodate ourselves in some of those tenements during the period of our shooting. The technicians, workers, organisers and actors combined, we were about or a little more

than fifty in our filming unit. Necessarily, aminimum of fotu persons had to be huddled together in each of the 12-feet by I0feet rooms. The left-overs among us who could find no space to spread their beds on the floor had no choice but to sleep outside. And when there is no rain——-and, happily, there was practically no rain at all during that period—-it is quite pleasant sleeping outside. As on all previous occasions, here also, in this little Telengana village, we lived a highly disciplined and exhilarating commune life. The first shot of our film was taken on May 25-,-the protagonist father coming out of his shattered hut at early dawn, leisurely crossing the unkempt courtyard and then urinating at ease. It was a perfect shot, with every bit of relevant details perfectly poised. We thus made a good beginning. From May 25 to June 10 the heat in the whole of Telengana was terrible. Our area was also equally hot but, luckily, the lighting condition was mostly steady and, therefore, more or less favotuable to our filming. Occasionally we had unwanted sunshine and also unwanted shade. On the whole, with very little ofweather hazards, we thus had an uninterrupted programme for 16 continuous days after which we rushed to Hyderabad to shoot for just 3 days in a studio. On June 14, we organised a shot of the hut collapsing due to heavy rain. With such a desired collapse we came to the end of our shooting schedule. On June 15, we, the members of the unit, quickly dispersed; and that was all. In less than three weeks of intense activity

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we thus shot a complete film which we immediately called Ola: Oorie Karha—A village story. We had surprises, plenty of them, but the biggest of them all was Vasudeva Rao—one who played the father, standing uushaken between sanity and madness. I saw him first in Karanth‘s prize-winning Chomnarne Dudi and I was instantly impressed. When, later, Imet him in Hyderabad l was doubly sure that he was the man for me. And, then, -as he stood halfnalced in the middle of the courtyard, with big and small boulders scattered around, he looked magnificent. Every bit of his masculine movement, every piercing glance of this shortish man and the minutest of everything about him made everyone of us feel that he was as naively wild as the pre-historic cave-man who, having lived for centuries in hiding, had just come out at our call. Throughout the whole film Vasudeva Rae performed with absolute conviction and then, one day, I asked -him to yawn which he tried and failed. I insisted that irwas quite simple

to act yawning but- still he failed. .1 felt surprised, I got frustrated, I grew tense, I became impatient. He tried over and over again but could never deliver the goods. At long last, when a dozen members of the unit started practising yawning and I was about to burst into savage rage, quietly did Rae tell me : ‘I am sorry; Inever yawned in my life; I have worked all my life‘. Krishnamurty, one-time guerrilla-fighter of the Telengana uprising in the late forties and now a whole-time left-winger, also created a stir by the grace and conviction with which he played a rural type. Besides, throughout the entire period he acted a perfect conscience-keeper of the unit. ‘Wherever we had gone—from one village to another, from one set of people to a different lot—-we had experienced warmth and affection and, indeed, a great deal of active cooperation. With all their life-long experiencm of grinding proverty and yet of intense passion for living, the villagers walked right into our shots. As they did so, we sharpened our own understanding of the rmlity, correcting our own failings as often as we felt necessary and adding authenticity to our work. To be candid, never before did I find myself thrown into such a creative milieu. My unit members and I were stirred by the contagion of this collective passion. In the midst of all this it was really a sight to see a Bengali girl Mama-ta Shankar moving around, walking freely into the

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huts, talking to the women, mostly by gesticulations, collecting exciting materials and, in the procms, imbibing in herself a spirit which she immediately used to the fullest to lend balance and support to her performance. I just cannot resist the temptation of recalling a sequence when a middle-aged actress playing a good neighbour in the fihn asked lvfamata (in the film she is Nilamma) not to overwork and not to lift heavy load because all these might do harm to the child to be born. An old woman among many others watching the shooting was so genuinely touched that she moved quietly to one of our men and asked him : ‘ls it the first time that she is bearing a child‘ '3' -We had, of course, moments of frustrationbut those were momentary phases. So much was the intensity of our work and so much was the creative involvement of all of us that we took hardly any time to overcome them. What finally did we achieve was something we shall never forgt. As I have always felt, I have considered my latest to be my most satisfying film till I make my neat. Oke Oorie Kathe

is-now our film to come.


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The Interiiieiiii

Set in the city of Calcutta, a metropolitan milieu, The Interview

is a blending of fictional narrative,newsreel coverage and nearcinema-verite-type documentation. The time is the present: the compleii, disturbed and angry seventies. The locale is Calcutta : the big, sprawling metropolis, a city of varied moods, unpredictably buoyant and explosive. The story is the dawn-todusk account of a man, 23 year old, in search of a place in the sun. It is an important day for the youngman, the day of his interview for a prize job in an Indo-British firm. He has to look his best. But his only suit is in the laundry and, as luck would have it, the city laiindries have gone on strike for an indefinite period from that very day. So he plunges into a search for another suit and in course of his sojourn throughout the day the young protagonist does not object to Mrinal Sen and his unit doing the coverage as they please. And here, as the camera goes out of doors, into the streets and crowd, Mrinal Sen and his unit attempt to tell reality and also to indulge in fantasy and then, transcending the barriers of time and place, to come to a universalised truth Out of a queer love of digression and out of sheer fun the film, at a certain convenient point, captures the young protagonist Ranjit Mullick [in his private life too he is Ranjit Mullick) facing his audiences and assuring them that he is no actor, that this is a most uneventful life, that he serves in a language weekly doing everything including securing ads and also proof-reading, that a person called Mrinal Sen—-one who makes films and has always an eye on boa oflicel-is out into the open with his unit to record everything that is happemng to him (R.an_|it} today All very real, no play acting except, to be frank, one actor or two whom lvlrinal Sen has requisitioned to play as required

In the press Ranjit Mullick does proof-reading In 1964 when the split inside the Communist Party of India was ofiicially announced, my old father lamented over the tragedy and predicted collapse, at least for 25 years, of any popular political movement in the country But hardly had 5 years passed when, in spite of the split, you see anger and violence in the air +‘



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Views on CIHEHA. And instantly the camera captures the fragments of political

scenes that belong to the city, all newsreel coverage.

At the end the protagonist is pulled out of his natural environment and -is interrogated by an unseen spectator, Eli provocative questions and uncertain answers. And at last we arrive at a moment of judgement--that of value-world. The verdict : What we need today is revolution!

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Calcutta 71-

I am twenty. For the last one thousand years I have been living this age of twenty. For the last one thousand years I have been passing through terrible times : I have walked through proverty, squalor and death. For the last one

thousand years I have been breathing despair and frustration. ' And now, as I stand before you, I see : ours is the history of uneeasing proverty running through one thousand years and more. A young man of twenty walks through history. During his unending journey are captured five days spreadout in forty

years, days not by any ehanee marked by eaeeptional events by their natural quality : poverty. The foeus is on poverty: 11813’, ruthless, unrelenting. The physical look of hunger and poverty, as the film shows, is the same; it is the mind that ehanges—from eold aceeptanee to indifference and, perhaps, to eallousness or, may be, a kind of eynieism and then to bitterness and finally to anger. That is where the film eome to—to I97] and then looks beyond. In I97] an angry young man is being tried in the Court of Law. Issues are raiscd—-legal, moral and also flippant and, in course of eourt proceeding, _a point is submitted : whether, at all, it is possible not to be angry." Anger as a soeial entity is, however, not disputed. In I933 a slum is caught at night in the thiek of torrential rain. It is the story of a family of five, keeping awake throughout the night. The story attempts at eapturing the humour, the eynieism, the bitterness and other essentials that are inseparable from the life they pass through. At the end the family of five is forced to stage a mini-exodus rtutning away from uneeasing rain and finding a eomparatively safe plaee under an areade to live among the homeless—the destitutes. In 1943 a story is told of a lower-middle elass family thrown into the total eonfusion of the great famine that has killed

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millions. The family disintegrates to pieces, the norms of the society that lend a look of respe-ctablity to it go into liquidation. The characters do not free the necessity to offer any apology for violating such norms. The anger is seen to surface. In I953 a new generation appears on the scene, born out of the debris of the past. This is the story of the teen-age smugglers making their living on meagre deals. This band of intrepid boys have learnt how to face reality in the most adverse situation. They fear nothing except starvation. They grow new values which threaten the culture of the petit-bourgeoisie. As a sharp counterpoint the film now catches men and women of diverse walks of life and of uneven tastes, all happily placed in society, all highly civilised. The year is 1971, the time is an evening, the place a posh hotel. Do they react to the unpredictables occurring daily in and outside of their world‘? They claim they do. They react to everything that makes noise in the society, so they. claim, and as they do so they look unmistakably radical. Here is a sequence of the privileged class exposing themselves. At a climatic height, when the stupidity, hypocrisy and the frivolity run riot in the crowd of afiluents, the lights go off. Confusion reigns. A voice is heard, followed by the appearance of a young man of twenty introducing himself as one who had travelled for one thousand years and had just been assassinated. Who killed him and why? The young man of twenty, now killed, turns into the ehronicler of history urging the need to change the society.

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A young Calcuttan, politically engaged, escapes from the prison van and goes into hiding. He finds a shelter in a flat in an upper-class locality. -The flat is owned by a young woman who is comfortably placed in an advertising agency. Both

of them, the man and the woman, have more than one secret to preserve, the" man for political considerations and the woman for reasons as gradually revealed in the story. She has run away from her husband. She now lives alone in an otherwise male-dominated society and, understandably, lives within a shell. And since he is a fugative, he is forcedto live an embarrassing life of confinement. Both of them are rebels, she on social level and he on political ground-. Both are bitter about many things. In the desperate moments of his solitary confinement he looks back and realises that he and his fellow-travellers are isolated from the mainstream of life. Not everything, therefore, is perfcct on this side of the world; one needs to check and doublecheck one’s inspiration. The fugitive engages himself -in selfcritieism and, in the process, questions the leadership.‘ The leader who expects his cadre to obey and‘ not to -question is displeased. The displeasure thus caused leads to bitterness, bitterness to total rift. But the fugitive, instead of - getting demoralised, collects enough of courage and political understanding to combat what he calls aberrations. She, for one, keeps herself at a respectable distance and tries to understand him; they exchange words and even ideas. They come closer to each other, they- know each other better.



Outside, for obvious reasons, the political scene shows gradual disintegration. The father meets the son in another moment of their desperation. Once a freedom fighter, the father, standing shorn of all prejudices, has known to keep on fighting. The fight is endlms, says the father, the fight is to ‘build a new society. . The father and the son part. And the struggle- continues, within and without. - '

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It begins like a fairy tale. It starts with a ritual. A bird appears on the screen and sings: Glory be to the new gods who have descended to the Earth l Glory be to the masters of want, dressed immaculately in their suits! The oflice of time mighty gods is inside a fortress. At the heart of the fortress, in its innermost cell, sits the chairman, the great

leader of the land, flanked by his counsellors, devising means for the welfare of the millions of people. The Chairman, gracious as he is, is deeply concerned over the problem of want. with the outcry of people asking for their bare necessities. The chairman finally decides to arrange for at least a hundred jobs. The candidates, he prophesies, would number a few thousand times the number of jobs. Jobs are for one hundred people, but the crowd, thousands of them, must not go empty-handed. Give them application forms! From far and near, from the remotest corners of the land, people assemble in queues before the gate of the fortress. There are men from the fields and farms, from the mills and factories and there are job-seekers of the cities. Too many people, too many faces, too many problems l It is a wild situation. The news-camera continues to click, the tape recorder of the newsman records scraps and pieces and fragments of desires and despairs of the people in the queue. The tape unwinds the story of a boy from the village—-the story of a villag starving to death in the maws of the terribly gluttonous money-lender and ybtedar. The tape continues to roll and a young man from the industrial base reveals the painful shattering drudgery of the industrial workers. A young girl living in the city does not hesitate to tell the truth about her family. All thme are the stories of thestrain of living, of the horrors of the struggle to survive, distorting the faces of the people, of terrifying tension and depressing dessension. The broken homes crack further. Everything is sinking. A voice sing from somewhere and a faltir appears:


O lord of Grace give us our daily plates,

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For the plate is as good as food. O Lord, give us our daily platml The Lord is moved to pity. M ordained, the plates are liberally distributed among the job-hungry people of the country. And there are now thirty-thousand applicants for one hundred jobs. A new threat appears. The job-hungry thirty thousand send a message from some secret den. They declare that alI- the measures taken by the fortress and the promises made by the masters are a massive deception. They now call for action and destruction. They say they will soon appear as raiders and not as applicants. They distribute slogans far and wide. The slogans spread like wildfire from the villages to the citim, to the industrial regions. Mysteries begin to happen everywhere, the toiling people are touched by the magic of the mysteries. They are electrified. . The gracious lord of the country is scared. Who are they? The control room of the Fort explodes into activity. The

state of emergency is about to be declared. ls it only a fad ? A meaningless flutter '1' Is it -possible that the ‘circus’ of the thirty thousand will soon come to a quiet close? The old clown plays his act on thetrapeexe-and recites: ' A hoax! Just a hoax! IT IS NUT !

assert the persecuted.

The persecuted, who

now grow into a million and more and more, turn militant. . . .


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Wild pigs invade the village and destroy the crops. The human exploiters lay their hands on the left-over. The tribals who are just another variety of the agricultural proletariat fight against the animals and can do nothing but .to surrender

to the moneylenders and the traders—the Dllrus. The tribals are the broken masses bleeding for ages under the stress of per-

petual struggle to live. Appears a white horseman on the scene: a perfect administrator and an cmasional hunter. While on a htutting spree he meets a young tribal and instantly likes him for his hunting exploits. They build a strange rapport ever after. A bad man fallen among the good folk is hated by all, but dreaded too, for, he can do many mischiefs and for each misdeed get reward from the Dikus. Once, in broad daylight, he rushes to the villagers, collects them all and whispers to them that the tribal fugitive who leftthe village long back to join an intrepid band of political revolutionaries has come back to the village. Gut of sheer curiosity the villagers follow the bad man and crowd in front of the hut where the fugitive’s mother lives a lonely life. The man comes out, followed by a confused mother. I-lere is the man hunted down by the administratofis men and his native lackey—-the Dike. A brief but a significant encounter, and by a stroke of miracle the entire village stands by the rebel and drives the bad man away. The odd man is thus out and here, amidst hills and jungles, stands a man who reminds the old man of the village of what happened in history—the tribals rising in armed revolt against the Dikus and the Impcrialist protectors. Soon after a Government treasury is looted in a distant town and a sentry killed. The white administrator promptly acts and sends his men to arrest the leader for his act of what is oflicially known as ‘banditry’. The leader is none other than the tribal who came to see his old mother in the village. The administrator declares a reward on the head oi‘ the ‘criminal’. Dead or alive, bring his head and you get a handsome reward for serving Law and Order l

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The bad man, aided by the police, kills the man and bags the eoveted reward for tlus legal murder The system of bloodshed eontinues unabated and, proteeted by Law and Order, the Dike turns uglier than ever. And then one day the young wife of the young hunter is kidnapped by the moneylendefs men. _ The gasping village stands ereet. The young hunter with whom the English administrator has built a strange rapport rises in elemental fury. He kills the tyrant who kidnapped his wtfe. It is an illegal murder, decrees the Court of Law. The young tribal is hanged by the neck until he is dead. While the young man dies at the hand of Justice, the tribals stand ‘eiose’ to the sun and perform a new ritual. s


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Filmography Raat Bhore (The Dawn), I956 Nil Akasher Niehey (Under the Blue Sky), 1959. Baishey Sravana (The Wedding Day), 1960. Punaseha (Over Again), 1961. Ahasheshey (And at last), I963 Pratinidhi (The Representative), I964. Aka-sh Kusum (Up in the Cloud), I965. Matira Manisha (Two Brothers), I966. Bhuvan Shome, 1969. Iehhapuran (The wishfulfilment), ISITO. Interview, 1970. Bk Adhuri Kahani (An Unfinished Story), l9?l.

Calcutta ‘H, 1972. Padatik (The Guerrilla Fighter), l9?3. Chorus, I974.

Mrigayaa (The Royal Hunt), 1976. Motiro Menisho is in Oriya language. Bhuvon Shome, Ek Adhuri Kaheni and Mrigoyoo are in Hindi. Iehhopwnr: is a short feature film made for the Children.’s Film Society of India. Moving Perspectives (I96?) is a long documentary made

for the Government of India on 5000 years of Indian history. Under‘ production is The Story of Two I/Fosters, being made in Telegu and Hindi versions.








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