Mrinal Sen: Celebrating the real India

Mrinal Sen: Celebrating the real India

Mrinal Sen. Image courtesy:

May 14 marks the birthday of legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen. Born in 1923, Faridpur, the iconic director turns 95 today.

Starting off as an audio technician for a studio in Kolkata, Sen first made his entry into cinema through his debut film 'Raat Bhore' (1955).

An iconoclast, he romanticised poverty-stricken India in contrast to his contemporaries. He used his camera and direction as a tool to transform films into mediums that questioned the social and political circumstances of the country. 

Mrinal Sen was renowned for his politically and socially-conscious filmmaking. A member of the Indian Peoples Theater Association, he was often called a Marxist artiste as his ideologies always found a way to seep into his filmmaking. 

Be it his Calcutta trilogy: 'Interview', 'Calcutta 1971' and 'Padatik' that foregrounded colonial symbols that India adopted long after the British left or Mithun Chakraborty's debut film 'Mrigayaa', which painted a realistic picture of the Indian feudal oppression, Sen's movies always managed to blend social and political dimensions. 

His film 'Ek Din Pratidin' challenged the ingrained patriarchal mindset when an entire family was dependent on the daughter's earnings for a livelihood.

Sen was acclaimed for being a pioneer of parallel cinema which was a film movement that started in West Bengal as an alternative to mainstream commercial Indian cinema or Bollywood. 

Standing true to his homeland, his films always contained an essence of Kolkata with its culture and broke away from traditional filmmaking. His films engaged the audience to be part of the plot as it developed over the course of the movie. 

In his film 'Interview', the protagonist breaks the fourth wall and engaged the audience in a conversation. 

'Akaler Sadhane', directed by him, introduced the style of a film within a film. Most of his films also revolved around the complexities of middle-class India. 'Bhuvan Shome' starring Uptal Dutt and Suhasini Mulay in lead roles and Amitabh Bachchan as the narrator was a satire about Indian bureaucracy. 

A strict Indian bureaucrat raised with a strict British mindset, he rediscovers himself and the world when he embarks on a hunting trip and finds himself in a rural village. Due to his new cinematic way of storytelling, Mrinal Sen still remains an influential figure in contemporary cinema even after all these years.

'Bhuvan Shome' gained him international stardom and two National Film Awards for 'Best Film' and 'Best Director'. 'Mrigayaa' received the National Film Award for Best Flim. While he was awarded Best Director for his film 'Khandar', his film 'Ek Din Prathidin' received the award for 'Best Direction'. Apart from being recognised within India, Mrinal Sen has received various accolades from international film festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Montreal, Chicago and Cairo.

Mrinal Sen is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan award and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Mrinal Sen was given an honorary membership in Parliament and Rajya Sabha between 1998-2003. 

In 2002, he was was awarded the Order of Friendship by Russian President Vladimir Putin. As of 2017, he was inducted as a member of the Oscar Academy.

Today, Mrinal Sen is remembered as a force behind the camera that transformed mainstream Indian cinema to tell tales of social and political issues. His innovative cinematography has gained him a presence in the world of cinema and storytelling. His cinematic tale is one that will be remembered for years to come.