One of the most prolific filmmakers in the country and the pioneer of new wave cinema in India, Mrinal Sen passed away on Sunday morning due to age-related ailments. He was 95. He reportedly died of heart attack at around 10:30 am at his residence in Bhowanipore. His wife passed away last year and is survived by his son Kunal Sen who stays in Chicago.
The caretaker who was looking after him informed the media about his death. “A doctor called was in after his health deteriorated. The doctor pronounced him dead. He suffered a cardio respiratory failure. As per his wish, his body will not be kept anywhere. His body will be kept in a mortuary and we will await the return of his son. Further decisions will be taken after Kunal’s return,” the caretaker told reporters outside Sen’s residence.
The National Award-winning director and recipient of Padma Bhusan award was not keeping well for some years and had withdrawn from public life. He had also been conferred with Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2003, besides receiving awards from several film festivals across the world for his films.
Along with his contemporaries Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, he is often considered to be one of the greatest ambassadors of Bengali parallel cinema on the global stage.
Sen was born on 14 May 1923, in the town of Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. After finishing high school there, he left home to come to Calcutta as a student. He studied physics at Scottish Church College and subsequently earned a postgraduate degree at the University of Calcutta. As a student, he got involved with the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. Although he never became a member of the party, his association with the socialist Indian People’s Theatre Association brought him close to a number of like-minded culturally associated people.
Mrinal Sen made his first feature film, Raat Bhore, in 1955. After making five more films, he made a film with a shoe-string budget provided by the Government of India. This film, Bhuvan Shome (Mr. Shome), finally launched him as a major filmmaker, both nationally and internationally. Bhuvan Shome also initiated the “New Cinema” film movement in India.
In 1982, he was a member of the jury at the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival. In 1983, he was a member of the jury at the 13th Moscow International Film Festival. In 1997, he was a member of the jury at the 20th Moscow International Film Festival.
During his career, Mrinal Sen’s films have received awards from almost all major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago and Cairo.
Our country is grateful to Shri Mrinal Sen for giving us some of the most memorable films.
The dexterity and sensitivity with which he made films is noteworthy. His rich work is admired across generations.
Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with his family and admirers.
Saddened at the passing away of Mrinal Sen. A great loss to the film industry. My condolences to his family
“My almost 60 year long association with him ended today. I am devastated by his death,” said veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee.
Malayalam filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan said, “Mrinal Sen was one of the greatest Indian filmmakers. With his demise, we have lost the last of the formidable trinity of Ray, Sen and Ghatak in our cinema. He was a humanist to the core, and a filmmaker par excellence. He was never shy of experimenting with the medium. He, of course, had to a fight a lone battle to be noticed as opposed to the early recognition that came to Ray in abundance from the beginning. But he never gave up. His films have been greatly inspired by the hapless, and the downtrodden. His concern was for the have-nots and the uprooted.
He added, “For me, he was a guide and an elder brother who always used to have keen interest in my work. Every time I made a film, I was particular to show it to him and get his response. Fortunately he was generous in his comments which encouraged me to continue with my struggles. Cinema was his passion. He dreamed cinema, breathed cinema and lived cinema. This is to quote him when he talked to the students of cinema at Film and Television Institute of India.”
Sen’s movies Bhuvan Shome, Chorus, Mrigaya and Akaler Sandhane received National Award for Best Feature Film. He made his final feature film Aamaar Bhuvan in 2002.