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Marxist Filmmaker Mrinal Sen's Centenary Celebrations Start in Kolkata

The Kolkata programme saw Manish Ghosh, a new-age filmmaker, presenting Sen through his docu-films.

Kolkata: Through various programmes, Marxist Filmmaker Mrinal Sen's centenary celebrations started in Kolkata on May 14. Through the lens of Western experts, the much acclaimed Sen is known as a Marxist filmmaker; however, in West Bengal, he is known as the filmmaker who has taught us to question society, its undulations, poverty, and bureaucracy, among others.

The programme held at Saralabala Memorial Hall in Kolkata also attempted to decode Sen and his works. Bhuvan Some, a film by Sen, centres around the oppressed people of the state. 

"Events like the breaking up of the Soviet block in the 1990s have come in Sen's films. The realist new wave films he made were excellent creations," said Shantanu Bandhopadhyay, a journalist and theatre expert. 

Controversies were nothing new to Sen. He raked up controversies umpteen times, questioning the prevalent world order and the societal oppressions. 

Known as a political filmmaker, Sen won awards at several international film festivals and national honours, including 18 Indian National Film Awards during his career. He received the Padma Bhushan, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honour given by the Indian government to filmmakers. 

Among others, the French government awarded Sen the Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters), the highest honour given by the country.

The Kolkata programme saw Manish Ghosh, a new-age filmmaker, presenting Sen through his docu-films. Ghosh presented various trajectories of Sen's life. 

The evening started with songs rendered by Bangladeshi artist Shama Rahaman, and the guest of honour was Tanvir Mokammel, a famous film director of Bangladesh, who presented the maestro. He said that he had grown up seeing Sen's films in his budding years, and his films gave a perfect understanding of how to use films to understand society and politics. 

"The hangovers of colonial rule, its bureaucracy and its ill effects on society, vis-a-vis the humane face of creativity, have been fostered in his films. His films present a lively version of partition, poverty, and riots and their effects on contemporary society. His films also pointed to internal and external enemies," Mokammel said. 

Renowned filmmaker Pathik Bhat who assisted Sen in his film Genesis said that Sen was the first teacher of his film life. 

"He has taught us how to paint the life and struggles of the average commoner through the lens of creativity." 

Actor-director Anjan Dutta pointed out that Sen had taken retirement for films as every creative person takes retirement. 

"He had imbibed the essence of questioning through his films, questioning all before deciding. His film Mahaprithibi (The big earth) is on this questioning aspect only, and this truth is reflected in many of his films."

Renowned National film award-winning actor Danseuse Mamatashankar said that it was through Sen that she first got her salary as an actress. Sen's relationship with their son Kunal Sen was like a friendship. He recollected how Mrinal Sen used to hear his stories and used to change them in celluloid. 

Singer and music director Debojyoti Mishra made a beautiful presentation in the evening, stringing the songs used by Sen in his films. He also recollected the 'Mrinal effect' in his music life. 

Elocutionist Rajat Bnadopadhyay concluded the whole event on a beautiful note.

"The programme on the day also heralded a year-long celebration of the life and works of Sen in all the 22 districts of the state. The life-oriented theatre on Sen's works and ethos will be presented in all the districts," said Dibyendu Chattopadhyay, Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) general secretary and joint secretary of the organising committee.   

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