Auteur extraordinaire and angry man of Bengali cinema, Mrinal Sen has always been daringly provocative in the potshots that he loves taking at the petite bourgeoisie. However, even by his exalted standards, the incisive and pointed observations in Chalchitra are truly extraordinary, and in a way quite akin to his Interview. Made in a template that has a strong Godard-ian feel about it in terms of its irreverent style and an almost absurdist sense of black humour, the movie crackles with incredible wit, dare and energy. Anjan Dutt, long before he became a wonderful songwriter and a filmmaker, acted in a few of Sen’s movies. Here he has played the role of a young, cynical and glibly apolitical guy, who is asked by a newspaper owner (Utpal Dutt in a cameo) to write an intimate though sellable article on the ‘middle class milieu’ within two days to prove his prowess as a writer. Searching for a spark at every corner and event, a simple question asked by his brother as to how many coal burners are there in Calcutta acts as the catalyst he was frantically looking for. And then a Fellini-esque dream about repressed and deeply subconscious anger at the bourgeoisie acts as the clincher. The movie isn’t just an example of bravura filmmaking, it is also a brilliant commentary on social structure and urban life. Finely acted and aided by a terrific script and an observant camera, Chalchitra is a must watch, and not just for Sen aficionados.
Director: Mrinal Sen Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Avant-Garde Language: Bengali Country: India