Ghosh’s film on Amartya Sen explores personal side of the economist

There is this strange sociological phenomenon. In-laws in India can never be trusted with their daughter-in-laws.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published:January 4, 2012 5:39 am

“There is this strange sociological phenomenon. In-laws in India can never be trusted with their daughter-in-laws. I’m sure that’s why expecting mothers are always sent off to their maternal homes,” said Amartya Sen to a laughing audience,a little after the screening of Suman Ghosh’s documentary Amartya Sen: A Life Reexamined.

The screening of the documentary was done at Kolkata chapter of the CII, on Monday.

Ghosh’s film captured Sen in the same essence – as a man who reflects on his achievements and failures with the objectivity of another person and the self-deprecating humour that only comes with a lot of self-assurance.

The nearly an hour-long documentary dwells on Sen’s academic achievements,his political ideas,his very early battle with cancer apart from interviews with other Nobel Laureates and Sen’s teacher and mother. It smartly oscillates between critical appreciation of his work on welfare economics and more personal appraisals of his personality.

“One day he called me up to ask how I was. Just after I ended my list of complaints,he said,‘let me give you a good news’. When I enquired about it,he said,‘I won the Nobel prize’. I asked him to stop joking but he persisted. Then I told him I would believe the news only when journalists here confirm it. The moment I hung up and looked out of the window – there was a swarm of media people standing in my courtyard,” says Sen’s late mother,Amita Sen,in the documentary.

The film documents Sen’s criticism of Manmohan Singh’s economic liberalisation policy he pursued as a finance minister in the nineties. Ghosh has also shot Singh defending his measures in the face of Sen’s criticism. However,Singh doesn’t let Sen’s criticism get in the way of his admiration for the economist. “He is almost like a puzzle to me. He is so many persons in one man. An economist,a social scientist,a philosopher…” says Singh in the documentary.

Finance Minister of the Left Front government,Asim Dasgupta is captured explaining how several of Sen’s ideas on development converge with the Left’s ideas. The film also captures Nobel Prize winners like Kenneth J Arrow and Paul Samuelson discussing Sen’s ‘human choice theory’ that won him the Nobel.

After the screening of the documentary,Professor Sugata Bose,Gadiner Professor of Ocean History and Affairs,Harvard University,said the cultural history of Bengal can be reinterpreted by exploring the ideological thread that binds Rabindranath Tagore,Satyajit Ray and Amartya Sen. “These personalities have shaped the cultural consciousness of modern Bengal,” he said.

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