Buddhadeb Dasgupta has established himself as one of India's finest filmmakers and won international acclaim for his thirteen feature films. His works are characterised by technical excellence and artistic beauty and are noted for their extraordinary originality in both style and substance. The themes of his films are as varied as they are many, but there is an abiding concern for the individual in isolation or alienations, for the misfit, the rebel, and the lonely. The films cherish pity as a creative emotion and value innocence and simplicity s constructive virtues. Heroism sometimes consists in honesty and dedication to a cause, although many of Dasgupta's heroes, given his profound sense of realism, are sadly obliged to bow to circumstances.
In this work, every one of the feature films is discussed in detail-the films about the vulnerability of dedication, the struggle against poverty, the integrity of the modern day artist, notions of sanity and insanity and falling out of history, the transcending of human society and its various constraints on creativity, and the triumph of beauty over the ugliness of violence. Dasgupta is also a highly esteemed poet in Bengali, and there is a concluding chapter on the relationship between his poetry and his cinema.
John W Hood is an internationally recognised scholar of Indian art cinema and is known for his work, The Essential Mystery: Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema, also published by Orient Longman. He has also written on the films of Mrinal Sen and has published a book of translations of Buddhadeb Dasgupta's poetry, Love an Other Forms of Death. He has been a scholar of Indian culture for most of his life and is also a translator of Bengali literature. He now divides his time between his homes in Melbourne and Kolkata.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta is well known in Kolkata as a poet and somewhat less well known there as a novelist. He is eminently well known, throughout India and internationally, as a filmmaker. His films have won renown at most of the major film festivals of the world, and retrospectives of his work have been mounted in many cities throughout Asia, Europe, North America and South America.
Although it is easy to identify Dasgupta as an Indian filmmaker and, more specifically, a Bengali one, it is not such a simple matter to attach a defining label to his work. One can say that his films belongs to Indian art cinema (or 'serious' or 'alternative' cinema as some would prefer to call it), as distinct from the popular or commercial cinema of what has come to be internationally known as Bollywood. Whereas similarity and even formula are basic to popular cinema, art cinema is not bound by the same kinds of commercial concerns, so allowing those who make it a freedom that has come to result in a wide diversity of artistic films (many of which have been commercially successful as well), but also militating against the emergence of any distinct Indian art film 'movement'.
Individual artistic freedom is something that the luminaries of serious cinema have jealously cherished. There has been no giant of the cinema to whom many or even some defer, nor has there been any 'school' whose particular ideals or values several or more might share. It can be said that Indian art cinema has a distinct regional basis, which has been in many cases a distinguishing factor, although such distinctions are usually little more than the obvious one of language, as well as, perhaps, the presentation of regional cultural features and customs' in some parts of India, landscape might also be a prominent distinctive feature. Yet, even within one region, the diversity among filmmakers tends take such distinctions little more that cosmetic. The films of the late Aravindan and those of the contemporary Gopalakrishnan-two of the most accomplished of Indian filmmakers-are all set in Kerala, their language is Malayalam, the beauties of the Kerala landscape are prominent, and considerable deference is made to the history and culture, particularly the folk tradition, of that state. Yet it would be naïve to suggest any real likeness between the films of Aravindan and those of Gopalakrishnan except for what, in the total perspective, are surface similarities.
The same is largely true of the art cinema in other regions of India, and certainly so in Bengal. Indeed, it might fairly be suggested that the best regional cinemas in India have been-and continue to be-those of Bengal and Kerala. The most internationally famous name in Indian cinema is Satyajit Ray, many of whose films are classics of Indian cinema; indeed, his Apu Trilogy, Charulata, Pratidwandiand Jana Aranya would stand among the best in world cinema. However, whereas Ray was greatly admired by many younger filmmakers in Bengal, none of them deliberately set out to make films like his. A somewhat lesser filmmaker, though commanding a very strong cult following not only in Bengal but also in other parts of India as well as in Bangladesh, was Ritwick Ghatak. Prominent throughout his work-and one of the major reasons for his popularity-was a reverence for the idea of 'Bengal'-its land, its language and culture, its traditions. Yet while chat reverence has been shared, perhaps just as passionately, by successive filmmakers, none has taken it up in his work to any significant extent. The other 'elder' of Bengali cinema is Mrinal Sen, clearly the most daringly experimental of the three. Whose contribution to Indian cinema has been notable in a number of ways. However, it is difficult to discern his influence-in ideology, in the use of cinema language, in narrative treatment-in the work of the younger generation of Bengali filmmakers.
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