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The Man Who Changed the Face of Bengali Cinema: A Tribute to Mrinal Sen, An Exceptional Filmmaker

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7 months ago
7 months ago
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As we mourn the loss of Mrinal Sen, one of the greatest filmmakers to have lived in this country, let us look back on the highlight reel of his life and revel in the warmth of his glory a little while more.


Mrinal Sen was a Bengali filmmaker based out of Kolkata. One of his most famous contemporaries was Satyajit Ray. Both of them were healthy rivals and were great admirers of each other’s work. Mrinal Sen was one of the strongest pillars of Bengali parallel cinema and was the reason to make a mark against the Bollywood cinema which was entirely mainstream.

He was known for making films that were an artistic rendering of the prevalent social issues and their realistic impact. He shot to fame pretty early in his career as a filmmaker. His third film Baishey Shravan made him notable internationally, while his first two films Raat Bhore and  Neel Akasher Neechey made him famous closer to home.

One of the most notable films of his career was Bhuvan Shome. This was a small-budget film which was provided by the Government of India. It tells the story of a bureaucrat who goes for a holiday in Gujarat, where he meets a woman who changes his outlook on life. This was the film that put him on the map as an acclaimed filmmaker in national and international circles and also earned several National Awards. This movie is also said to be the fore forward in starting the ‘New Cinema’ movement in India.

His films Punascha and Mahaprithivi have shown us the enigma that Kolkata is- they contain accurate descriptions of the city’s way of life, the value systems, the class differences and the Bengali people.

He was most famous among critics for using ideas and concepts that were not prevalent in Indian cinema such as surrealism, Marxism, Italian neorealism, German expressionism and such. This was also the reason his films could be understood by an international audience. Mrinal Sen has featured on the judge’s panel of many International Film Festivals at Berlin and Moscow. He was also the president of the International Federation of the Film Societies.

His last film was released in 2002 and was titled Aamar Bhuvan meaning My Land. It is a story about a place in India which is like a cocoon, where people are at peace despite the entire nation being in turmoil. This film gained him the Best Director Award at the Cairo Film Festival.

Prior to him working on films, circumstances forced Mrinal Sen to take up the job of a medical representative. He then returned to Kolkata to work as an audio technician, which was his first step into the world of cinema.

He had been suffering from age-related ailments for a few years now and passed away due to a heart attack on December 30, 2018. His demise only reminds us of his spectacular films which will stand against the test of time, as a testimony to his quality filmmaking.

By Mathuram Murugaiyan

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