The authorities of Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) 2016 have dispatched plans of a retrospective of films by Mrinal Sen, one of the oldest masters of the Indian new wave cinema, to the cold storage. And the reason appears to be the political leanings of the 93-year old filmmaker.
According to sources at KIFF, the chairman of the festival filmmaker Gautam Ghose, met the ailing filmmaker at his Kolkata residence and Sen agreed to the idea. His son, Kunal who lives in the US, too showed interest in the proposal.
“At least 10-12 films were shortlisted for screening at the film festival. We were also told that the National Film Archive of India was also contacted,” says the source.
Sen, like octogenarian Dadasaheb Phalke awardee Soumitra Chatterjee, is one of the few intellectuals who have refused to distance themselves from leftist politics even after Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee resoundingly defeated the Left in 2011 and 2016.
None connected with the KIFF were willing to comment on Sen’s retrospective.
In 2011, just a few months after the new government assumed power, Sen refused the invitation to be present at the inauguration of Kolkata Film Festival. However, he did inaugurate an exhibition of photographs by Satyajit Ray at Gaganendra Pradarshashala, which was a part of the 2011 film festival.
Sen’s relation with the current state government has always remained strained. In 2012 there was discontent among city intellectuals when the government didn’t invite Sen in a function organised to felicitate film personalities of the city.
Sen came to film making from a completely unrelated profession of selling medicine, and his films always had strong social and political statements. Among his important works are Bhuvan Shome, Kharij, Akaler Sandhane, Calcutta 71, Khandahar, Ekdin Pratidin, Baishey Shravana.
He made his last film, Aamaar Bhuvan, in 2002, at the age of 80.
Between 1998 and 2003 he was also an MP from Rajya Sabha nominated by the Left. In 2000, Russian president Vladimir Putin honoured him with the Order of Friendship.
Actors such as Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Smita Patil worked with him. He launched the career of three-time best actor national award winner Mithun Chakraborty in Mrigaya.
“He is one of the last living masters and it would have been befitting to organise his retrospective at Nandan. But it’s sad if it does not materialise. Political leanings should not be of any consequence here,” said a Bengali actor-director on conditions of anonymity.