Saturday, January 17, 2009

Remembering Tapan Sinha - the legendary storyteller.

Remembering Tapan Sinha – the legendary story – teller.

Tapan Sinha, the legendary story-teller and path-breaker in Bengali cinema had died recently at the age of 84 years. Very recently he had been awarded the highest award Dada Saheb Phalke for his notable contribution to films for more than 50 years. Being a big admirer of John Ford and Billy Wilder, Tapan Sinha worked under the dynamic personility Charles Cryton in Pinewood Studios in London.He returned back to India with a vision of merging the environment, mystery, tribal reality, social concerns with literary flavour and his dynamism shaped and nurtured silver screen from its infancy to a field of exhibition of work of art.

Most of his films received awards in India including national awards and also international awards. He had used the immortal literature of legendary writers of Bengal including Rabindranath Tagore, Jorasondho, Sorodindu Bandhopadhyay, Subodh Ghosh, to name a few and mesmerized the audience with his powerful script, outstanding camera work, meaningful casting and innovative story-telling.

The subjects with which he had made films never matched with each other showing the dynamism of the legend of legends. The story of Kabuliwala was based on Tagore’s realization of affection of an afghan father for his small daughter. Chabi Biswas astonished the viewers with his dynamic performance and created a standard which was not reached by even stalwart actor of bollywood Balraj Sahani in Bimal Roy’s Kabuliwala.

In that respect, no other director other than Satyajit Ray had such a strong casting sense that was exhibited by Tapan Sinha. His team of actors varied from film to film and the audience found that the actor or actresses he chose in the respective film matched the literary character that was depicted in novels. Nirmal Kumar, the jailor in the film Louhakapat was matchless with his poetic eyes which expressed his compassion towards the prisoners.

His casting of Uttam Kumar in the film Jhinder Bandi, the adaptation of Anthony Hopp’s Prisoner of Zenda, stormed Bengali films in the early 60s. Uttam Kumar looked like a European actor on horseback which was required in the film considering the chivalry that was required from Shankar Narayan Singh, the prince of Jhind, a land of warriors. The same Uttam Kumar was used in a different way by Tapan Sinha in the film Jotu Griha.

Uttam Kumar was a notable engineer in the film, who married Arundhuti Debi, but could not beget any child due to deficiency of Arundhuti Debi. He had property, pomp, grandeur, recognition in the society, yet due to lack of children ultimately the relationship ended up in separation. In their separation also the relationship between Uttam Kumar and Arundhuti Debi was divine, and their feelings for each other touched the souls of the audience when in the last scene their trains crossed one another thereby providing a new path for the spouses. The depiction of Anil Chatterji, a middle-class worker in Uttam Kumar’s firm who had many children and was needy, yet happy with his struggling life, had not been forgotten by cinematic audience.

The same Tapan Sinha brought out the best from Tragedy King Dilip Kumar in the film Sagina Mahato, which was remade in hindi as well. Dilip Kumar was tribal leader and leader of worker’s union in the hilly districts of West Bengal. He was used by the local political leaders including Anil Chatterji for mobilizing the ideal youth of the place, but when Dilip Kumar gained popularity, his powers were taken away and he was proved to a traitor. The powerful performance of both Dilip Kumar and Anil Chatterji had not been forgotten by cinematic audience even after 40 years of the date of creation of the film.

He used Ashok Kumar and Vaijayantimala in style in the film Hate Bajare, where the notable contribution of a compassionate doctor attracted the attention of the viewers. Villains like Ajitesh Banerjee and comedians like Chinmoy Roy surprised the viewers with a different style of acting. Again in Nirjan Saikate, Anil Chatterji’s performance as an observer questioned the fate of five widows in the film namely Sharmila Tagore, Ruma Guha Thakurta, Bharati Devi, Chaya Devi, Renuka Debi, all of whom received National awards for their individual performance.

When the works of Tapan Sinha are analyzed it becomes a question to the historians in respect of where to start and when to end. The work of Kali Banerjee, a compounder in the film Arohi, with an emotional relationship with his master played by Bikash Roy, requires special mention. The feelings of a semi-educated rural person was displayed in style by Kali Banerjee who sacrified his earnings for the education of his master’ son.

Tapan Sinha’s other landmark films include Khudito Pashan, Khaniker Atithi, Golpo Holey Sotti. Tapan Sinha even showed the unrest existing in Kolkata during the naxalite period in films like Ekhoni and Aponjon. Besides there were films based on reflections like the film Atithi were Tagore’s complex observations were highlighted. His comedy films like Bancharamer Bagan and Baidurjo Rahasya addressed the interests of common audience of the country.

Radhamohan Bhattacharya, an eminent scholar and versatile personality was used by Tapan Sinha in dynamic roles like the royal diwan in Jhinder Bandi, the medical expert in Khoniker Atithi, the noted novelist in Kabuliwala and the urdu poet in Khudito Pashan.

In the late 90s, Tapan Sinha even made films based on antisocial activities like Antardhan and Atonko, where Soumitra Chatterji depicted the concerns of middle-class father in a complex society. Most of Tapan Sinha’s films were remade in hindi and provided fresh ideas for other directors in bollywood industry like Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, etc.

He is probably the most unsung, unrecognized, unlamented maestros of golden age of Bengali cinema, but the intellectuals of India and abroad consider Tapan Sinha as the greatest director of all times after Satyajit Ray and had remained an institution by himself.

The viewers pay their regard and respect to the departed soul.

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