Thursday 29 March 2012

Akaler Sandhane (In Search of Famine) [1980]

Akaler Sandhane possibly ranks, along with the likes of Padatik and Khandahar, as Mrinal Sen’s most internationally celebrated film. Like Satyajit Ray’s harrowing Ashani Sanket, this too was based on the devastating 1943 Bengal Famine. However, unlike the Ray film, where the story was set during the famine, this movie was more self-referential in nature, stylistically challenging, and idiomatically experimental – reminiscent to some extent of his more avant-garde efforts like Interview, Chorus, and Chalchitra. The movie is about a film crew, led by its director (Dhritiman Chatterjee) who is clearly a representative of the urban intelligentsia and a stand-in for Sen himself, which has come down to a small village to make a film about the aforementioned famine. All seems to go fine until one of the actresses, who was to play a crucial role, is dismissed on account of her tantrums. Getting her replaced, however, puts the entire shooting in crisis as the character seems to pinch the village folks at somewhere very deep, reminding them of the sordid sides of the famine that they’re desperate to cloak under their veneers of civility. Meanwhile, the tragic life of a poor village servant girl starts blurring the lines between reel and real, as also, past and present. The story of the dying former zamindar, which formed another thread, provided for a poignant detour. The movie’s dark humour and trenchant socio-political commentary might be distressing for some viewers, but its theme, content and execution are sure to leave one impressed. Noted filmmaker Rajen Tarafdar was outstanding in a key role in the movie. Chatterjee and Smitha Patil were also highly commendable.

Director: Mrinal Sen
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Avant-Garde Film
Language: Bengali
Country: India

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