Remembering legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen

While he may not be as famous as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen was a master filmmaker, and along with Satyajit Ray and Ritwick Ghatak, formed the three pillars of Bengali cinema. Sen, one of the pioneers of Indian newwave cinema, showcased contemporary realities of life through his films.

  • Sen’s first Hindi film was Bhuvan Shome (1969), is generally considered as the starting point of India’s parallel cinema movement.
  • Mrigaya (1976), based on the plight of tribals in India, marked the debut of Mithun Chakrabarty in films.
  • Genesis (1986) featured Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi, and was based on slavery and freedom.
  • Shabana Azmi did three films with Mrinalda — Khandhar, Genesis and Ek Din Achanak.

Mrinal Sen directed Khandhar
Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi in Khandhar (meaning Ruins)

Sen’s first Hindi film ‘Bhuvan Shome’ had voice-over by Amitabh Bachchan.

Mrinal Sen had gone over to the house of friend and script-writer, K A Abbas, who had just begun work on Saath Hindustani. Abbas was sitting with a group of actors from which he proposed to pick his cast and crew. Sen told Abbas that he was looking for a good voice as the narrator of his film “Bhuvan Shome” and was looking for a new voice.

A lambu stepped out from among those seated and told Sen “Ami Bangla jaaney” (I know Bengali). Sen told “the boy” his Bengali was bad but his voice good, which was good enough for the narration in Hindi. Abbas allowed Amitabh to take on the assignment and paid him Rs.300 for the job.

Mrinal Sen & Mithun
Mrinal Sen gave Mithun Da his first break in films

  • Sen believed cinema, besides offering entertainment, could be used to enlighten and educate the masses.
  • Sen was best known for films like Bhuvan Shome, Mrigayaa, Akaler Sandhane, Akash Kusum and Antareen.
  • His trilogy – “Interview”, “Calcutta 71” and “Padatik” – is considered to be a masterpiece; depicts the social and political upheaval in Kolkata of the ’70s.
  • The legendary director also made feature films in other languages, such as Oriya and Telugu.

“A director in the middle of a shoot is like a student preparing for an exam. You shouldn’t disturb him. But I do have a lunch break. We could talk then.”

  • Mrinal Sen won the highest film honour, Dadasaheb Phalke award, in 2005, won five National film awards, besides winning many other film awards.
  • Sen was honoured with the Padma Bhushan (India’s third highest civilian award, in 1983).
  • Sen was a member of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and was chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
  • Sen was also a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1998 to 2003.
  • Sen was born on May 14, 1923 in Faridpur, East Bengal, now Bangladesh