After having studied physics at university in Calcutta, Mrinal Sen worked as a freelance journalist, a salesman of patent medicines and a sound technician in a film studio. His interest in Marxism led...
Began 10-year affiliation with cameraman Sailaja Chatterjee, "Neel akaher neechey/Under Blue Skies"
Directed "Calcutta, My Eldorado" episode of the experimental "City Life"
"Genesis", Sen's first international co-production, a Franco-Indian collaboration with additional participation from Switzerland and Belgium
"Akash kusum/Up in the Clouds" sparked a lively debate about form and content of film in the letters column of the Calcutta STATESMAN between Sen and his contemporary Satyajit Ray
"Chorus", Sen's most liberated film as far as technique, bombed with audiences
Championed the rights of women in India with "Ekdin Pratidin/And Quiet Rolls the Dawn", a straightforward narrative that gained wider acceptance than his agitprop films, causing some of his former admirers to accuse him of "selling out"
Feature film debut, "Raat Bhore/The Dawn"
First dramatic feature in color, "Mrigaya/The Royal Hunt"; first film made in Hindi since "Bhuvan Shome"
Directed "Bhuvan Shome", widely regarded as "a pivotal film in Indian film history" and as the beginning of India's new wave"; shot in black and white by K K Mahajan, Sen's cinematographer of choice for the next 20 years
Made color children's fantasy, "Ichhapuran", for India Children's Film Society
First film in color, the documentary "Moving Perspectives
Last feature film to date, "Antareen/The Confined"
Directed his mini-documentary chapter on the Indian cinema ("The Show Goes On--The Indian Chapter") for the larger project "The Century of Cinema"
"Aakaler/In Search of Famine" received the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival
After having studied physics at university in Calcutta, Mrinal Sen worked as a freelance journalist, a salesman of patent medicines and a sound technician in a film studio. His interest in Marxism led him in 1943 to join the Indian People's Theatre Association, a group with links to the Communist Party of India, and his political commitment has remained central to his life and work, though he never joined a party and has always insisted on his right to criticize the Left. His reputation as a film critic brought him an opportunity to direct, and he made his debut with "Raat Bhore/The Dawn" (1956), scripting it as he would all his future films (sometimes in collaboration).
Though often favoring overt political statement, Sen achieved national prominence as the director of a comedy, "Bhuvan Shome" (1969), a film whose delicate and psychological perceptions reminded critics (not for the first time in Sen's career) of Chekhov. The funny and haunting film, which followed a widowed bureaucrat on holiday as he rediscovered his humanity at the expense of his colonial values, was a huge box-office success, dominating India's National Film Awards with wins for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor.
Of Sen's most daringly experimental and rigorously revolutionary works, his Calcutta trilogy and "Chorus" (1974), only "Calcutta '71" (1972) met with commercial success. In order to make his message more accessible, he returned to the Hindi of the popular cinema (instead of his usual Bengali) for "Mrigaya/The Royal Hunt" (1976), his first dramatic feature in color. Its success steered him away from the fragmented narrative of his most radical period to a more traditional form, though he still championed symbolism within the political parable. When he abandoned that for the more intimate mode of "Ek din Pratidin/And Quiet Rolls the Dawn" (1979), a straightforward narrative very much in the manner of his rival Satyajit Ray, the Left accused him of selling out. Sen responded: the "difference between party Marxists and a private Marxist like me is that others think they pocketed truth, whereas I am always in search of truth . . ."
As Sen matured as a director, he became much less authoritarian, insisting on teamwork and using the prepared script as a springboard for actors to interact with him to produce dialogue. Subjecting his cast and crew to the discipline of hard work and modest living conditions, he repeatedly shaped his product on the low budget that was an act of faith for him. In contrast to his method of working, his "Aakaler Sandhaney/In Search of Famine" (1980), a wry comment on bourgeoisie filmmaking, depicts an unimaginative director on location and his charges who only leave their "urban island" for the village to arouse envy, spread discord and force up prices in the market. Among his many international awards, "In Search of Famine" received the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1981, and "Kharij/The Case is Closed" (1982), a scathing look at the hypocritical reaction of a bourgeois Calcutta family to the death of a servant boy, took home the Jury Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival
"Genesis" (1986) was Sen's first international co-production, and on a technical level (particularly sound), it was far superior to his Indian projects which generally ran out of money thereby compromising the product. The new arrangement, however, forced him to mute his style somewhat, to opt for a fable instead of a "revolutionary film," and though "Genesis" met with widespread appreciation at Cannes in 1986, critics at home accused him of losing his fighting spirit. Since then, he has alternated between smaller Indian projects like "Ek Din Achanak/Suddenly One Day" (1988) and "Antareen/The Confined" (1994) and large international projects to which he has contributed his part ("City Life" 1990 and "The Century of Cinema" 1996).
acted in "With Ek din Pratidin/And Quiet Rolls the Dawn" (1979), among other of her husband's films
About "Padatik/The Guerrilla" (1973), the last film of his Calcutta trilogy: "We had arrived at a point when the Left was lying low and in disarray, and at a time when there was a need for unceasing self-criticism . . . I wanted to make a disturbing and annoying film, not an artistic one. And it did disturb and annoy because it told the truth about the Left while remaining firmly against the Center and the Right." --Mrinal Sen quoted in "World Film Directors, Volume 2"