Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hysterical Madness

Film-fest season is upon us, and I'm missing it. While this sucks, the whole blogging phenomenon means that, thanks to posts like this one, I can be there in spirit if not in person.

Meanwhile, I recently rediscovered one of the unheralded gems of Indian film criticism online. For those of us who crib endlessly (as we should) about the stuff that passes for 'reviews' in Indian newspapers, you haven't seen anything until you've read Ramkamal Mukherjee, who reviews (mostly Bengali) films for a website called This man makes Nikhat Kazmi seem like a veritable fount of erudition. But he has provided me with endless hours of roll-on-the-floor type moments, so I may as well share some.

Here, for example, is an article he wrote on Madhabi Mukherjee, star of Ray's quiet masterpiece Mahanagar, and of Charulata, both showing at Cinefan. The laughs begin with the title. I mean, Beautitious Creeper??? WHAT? Then I realise this is his attempt at translating Charulata, which, I suppose, literally means beautiful creeper. But really. And it gets better and better.... His vocabulary is wonderfully inventive. So, something is filmatized (why not, why not?) Anyway, the full text is below..... I need to find his reviews of some mainstream Bengali crap and post them, they are truly works of art in ways the films he reviews can't quite aspire to.

Beautitious Creeper

Endless is the attempt of some strong minded lower middle class housewives who have to go in for office job to feed their family. Arati is one such office going bread earner who keeps her lipstick hiding in her ladies bag – to make herself presentable before the boss.

At the same she is hesitant about how her husband and in laws would react. This ‘very often come across’ feature was picturised by Madhabi Mukherjee in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Mahanagar’ (1963).

Satyajit Ray had hawk’s eye and a master like him could find a great possibility in Madhabi who was almost a dejected fortune seeker in the film world. Ritwik Kumar Ghatak another master mind deployed the famine sticken like figure and appearance of Madhabi in ‘Subarnarekha.’ The directors in the said two cinemas are undoubtedly genius, but preciousness and dimming glow of Madhabi’s figure and acting are not overshadowed by the great director’s craft.

Madhabi Mukherjee in 'Charulata'Ray decided to filmatize Tagore’s tragic romantic novel "Nasta Neer" in 1964 and he could not think of anybody else than Madhabi Mukherjee to appear on the screen as "Charu". "Charulata" as described by Rabindranath was a 19th Century lady whose husband Bhupati loved her but Charu was alone as Bhupati gave more time to his Printing Press.

Tagore wrote this novel as experiment on human character, loneliness, passion, rejection etc. Tagore’s "Charu" was perfectly visible in Satyajit’s selection Madhabi. Perhaps the director became passionate with the actress and presented her on some shots which she beautifully performed. Charu’s loneliness, her passion for boisterous Amal, deprivation of motherhood, women lib, were all very prominently visible through the acting of Madhabi.

Many may not have known Tagore’s "Charulata" in Nasta Neer, but thousands have known and bear in their minds Satyajits "Charulata" cast by Madhabi, for which Government of India conferred on her the "Urvashi" award.

Tagore’s another critical short story was picturised by Purnendu Patri who was originally an artist and whose artistic choice went for Madhabi to be the heroine in "Streer Patra" Tapan Sinha found a suitable character artist in Madhabi to picturise the character of an agonised aged mother in "Antardhan."

During 60’s immortal novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s short stories and novels were filmed in series. Different commercial directors like Gurudas Bagchi, Arobindo Mukherjee etc. marked Madhabi as "reserved for" the pinion character like Bindu (Bindur Chhele), "Biraj" (Biraj Bou), Narayani (Ramer Sumati). She was not a stereotyped character artist and exposed her versatility as hot romantic heroine in "Shankhabela", "Chadmabesi", where she paired with Uttam Kumar and Basanta.

Madhabi not only walked along with celluloid avenue, she also stepped on stage and for several nights she starred with Soumitra Chatterjee in symbolic non commercial drama "Fera", directed by the actor himself.

Madhabi thought of presenting her capacity as director of a film and she directs "Atmaja", produced by NFDC, where in Indrani Halder was in the lead. Madhabi proved her effort, but there is no hesitation to say that she could not properly channelize her skill in the sphere of direction and frankly speaking she failed to expose that she learnt something of direction from great directors like Ray, Ghatak, Patri, Sinha and Tarun Majumdar.

Ramkamal Mukherjee


Blogger Jabberwock said...

Hey, thanks for putting this up - definitely a roll-on-the-floor moment! Only thing is I hope I can keep this out of my mind when I watch Charulata on Friday.

10:50 PM  

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