India. 1982. 99 min.
Cast: Anjan Dutta, Mamata Shankar.
A servant boy, a minor, engaged in a middle class family dies mysteriously locked in a kitchen. Police enquiries reveal he was sleeping in the kitchen near a burning coal oven to keep himself warm in winder. Post-mortem report confirms death by carbon-monoxide gas poisoning. The happy household is suddenly thrown into a psychological trauma. Torn between a sense of guilt and fear of a police case and consequently scandal, the young employer and his wife expose their petty, hypocritical selves. Fearing accusation from the father of the deceased, they make futile attempts to please him. That nothing happens to them and the father departs quietly, leaves them completely defeated and crushed.
Mrinal Sen was born in 1923 in Faridpur, now Bangladesh, hi’s a bengalí writer and director. Studied science in Calcutta; worked as apprentice in sound recording studio, as journalist and medical representative. Read voraciously about cinema and aesthetics; also reviewed films. Associated with the IPTA (1943-7) and remained active in Left politics. Early influences include Arnheim’s writings. Authored book on Chaplin (1951) and Bengali translation of Karl Capek’s The Cheat (1946). Directorial début in 1956 and his 2nd film was banned for two months by the government. His Bhuvan Shome, made in Hindi, was a commercial success in Bombay and is said to have pioneered the New Indian Cinema, generating the 70s debates about low-budget alternatives to commercial cinema. In his films Sen has consistently and unambiguously downgraded notions of artistic ‘originality’ and deployed a wide array of influences from Glauber Rocha’s early work to Truffaut (Akash Kusum) and from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed to Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino (the Calcutta trilogy: Interview, Calcutta ’71 and Padatik), Fellini (Akaler Sandhaney) and most recently Bresson (Khandhar). Best- known 70s work evoked the radical currents of Bengali theatre and folk forms, achieving a freewheeling style Sen later described as ‘playing around with tools as often as I could, as a child plays with building blocks. This period was later commemorated by Reinhard Hauff in his documentary Ten Days In Calcutta: A Portrait of Mrinal Sen (1984). 80s work, introduced by Ek Din Pratidin, returns to a storytelling style he presents as a more contemplative way of advocating ‘a greater awareness of reality’. In addition to scripting his own films, also wrote Ajit Lahiri’s ‘Joradighir Choudhury Paribar’ and Ajoy Kar’s ‘Kanch Kata Hirey’ (both 1966). Published books on cinema: ‘Chalachitra: Bhoot, Bartaman, Bhabhishya’ and ‘Views on Cinema’ (both 1977), and ‘Cinema, Adhunikata’ (1992).