One of the most prolific filmmakers in the country and the pioneer of new wave cinema, Mrinal Sen passed away on Sunday morning due to age-related ailments. He was 95. He died after suffering a heart attack at his residence in Bhowanipore area of the city. He is survived by his son Kunal. His wife, actor Geeta Sen, passed away last year.
With his demise, the Golden Age of Bengali Cinema came to an end — an era defined by the famous trio — Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Sen. Family members said Sen’s body will be cremated on January 2 after his son and daughter-in-law return from the US on January 1. “He died at around 10.35 am after suffering a cardio respiratory failure. His body will be kept in Peace World,” Sen’s family doctor told reporters.
Director Anjan Dutta, actress Mamata Shankar and others visitede Sen’s house to pay their respects. The Padma Bhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke awardee was not keeping well for the last few years and had withdrawn from public life. Despite his poor health, Sen made a brief visit to the Kolkata International Film Festival in 2012.
A career spanning over six decades (1956-2002), Sen made 27 full-length feature films, 14 short films and four documentaries. Sen made his directorial debut with Raat Bhore in 1955. His second film, Neel Akasher Neechey, earned him local recognition, while his third film, Baishey Shraban gave him international exposure. He made a film with a shoe-string budget provided by the Government of India, Bhuvan Shome. This film also initiated the “New Cinema” film movement in India.
His other films such as Ekdin Pratidin, Akaler Sandhane and Khandhar earned him national award for best direction. He also won national award for the best feature film for Bhuvan Shome, Chorus, Mrigaya and Akaler Sandhane. His Calcutta trilogy — Interview, Calcutta 71 and Padatik — is considered a masterpiece that depicted the social and political upheavals during the ‘70s. Social crisis of the middle class has been a dominant theme in his films. A life-long believer in Marxism theories, Sen portrayed the emotions of the working class through his movies.
Jumpcut, montage, blackouts and point-of-view shots were some of the techniques which were a regular feature in his movies. Although most of his films were commercial flops, they won numerous awards around the world. During his career, Sen’s films have received awards from almost all major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago, and Cairo. His 1982 Bengali film Kharij won the jury prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.
Along with his contemporaries — Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak — Sen was one of the greatest ambassadors of Bengali parallel cinema on the global stage and belonged to the Golden Age of Bengali Cinema. Condoling the death of the veteran filmmaker, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi said, “Mrinal sen, a Padma Bhushan and Dada Saheb Phalke awardee, along with his contemporaries Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak paved the way for parallel cinema in the country with gems like Mrigaya, Ek Din Achanak, Bhuban Som, Padatik, Akaler Sandhane. His cinema is known for artistic depiction of social reality. His death is an irreparable loss to creative Indian cinema.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took to Twitter to condole his death. “Saddened at the passing away of Mrinal Sen. A great loss to the film industry. My condolences to his family,” she tweeted. “My almost 60-year-long association with him ended today. I am devastated by his death,” said veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee. Actress and dancer Mamata Shankar, who made her cinematic debut in Sen’s Mrigaya, said, “What I am today is because of Mrinal Da. I have lost my father today.”
Actor Mithun Chakraborty, who also made his debut in the same film and won a national award, in a number of occasions described Sen as his “godfather”. Filmmaker Gautam Ghosh said Sen’s films must be restored for the future generation. “I met him a fortnight ago and he was in a jovial mood. Today he is no more. A legend has departed who taught us not to compromise with anything while making movies… The state government should preserve and restore his films. This will be a fitting tribute to him,” Ghosh said.
Sen was born on May 14, 1923, in Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. After finishing high school there, he came 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.
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. He made his final feature film, Aamaar Bhuvan, in 2002. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1998 to 2003.