Mrinal Sen gave new perspective to Indian cinema

One of the most talented directors in India cinema, Mrinal Sen, passed away on Sunday after a prolonged illness at the age of 95.

The end came around 10.30 am at his home, a family member said.

Along with late Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, Sen made some of the best films in Bengali language in the 1950s and 1960s ushering in the new wave cinema focused on social reality, bold experiments, and technical perfection.

Parambrata Chatterjee, grandson of Ghatak, said Sen’s passing away marks the end of an era. Sen was a legend and legends never die, he added.

Actor Prosenjit Chatterjee said the year is ending on a sad note with Sen’s demise. Sen gave a new perspective to Indian Cinema and his passing away is a huge loss, Chatterjee said.

Sen had a unique way of story-telling for which he evolved a language. As a leftist thinker, he mainly focused on the plight of the working class exploited by employers. He also understood the social and personal upheavals affecting the middle class and mirrored them in most of his films.

Among Sen’s acclaimed films are Neel Akasher Neechey, Akaler Sandhane, Bhuvan Shome, Baishey Shraban, Ekdin Pratidin, Mrigaya, Khandhar and Chorus.

Sen was born on May 14, 1923 in Faridpur in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Although a leftist sympathiser from his University days in Kolkata, he was more involved with Indian People’s Theatre Association.

A work on aesthetics in films moved him as deeply as the famine in Bengal and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s last days.

To make ends meet, he worked for a while as a journalist and as a medical representative.

Later, he became an audio technician in a film studio in Kolkata.   

Sen made his debut as a filmmaker with the feature film Raat Bhore in 1955. He won recognition in 1959 with Neel Akasher Neechey which was banned by the government for two months for its political overtones.

His Baishey Shravan released in 1960 was screened in the London Film Festival. The Hindi language film Bhuvan Shome made in 1969 catapulted him to global fame.

Sen’s films have won awards at film festivals in Venice, Cannes, Berlin, Montreal, Moscow, Karlovy Vary and Chicago. He won India’s highest film honour, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 2005.

In 1983, he was awarded Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, for his outstanding contribution in the field of cinema.

Between 1997 and 2003, he served as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.