Insights into Films

Anirban Biswas

The book under review is a collection of some insightful essays on films, written in Bengali at various points of time and published in various journals. The essays are immensely readable and touch various aspects of the art called films. The author is a real connoisseur of movies, familiar with the genesis, growth and development of the film industry in India and abroad, as well as with the creations of all celebrated film-makers of the modern world, and he has brought into service all his knowledge and experience on the subject. The first three essays deal with what is called the aesthetic and technical side of films. The author here brings out clearly the special features of this form of visual art as distinguished from paintings, sculptures and plays. On the relation between stories and films, he makes an observation that is both interesting and profound, " The film-maker may take as the basis of his creation some widely read and famous book, but his sight and mind looking for diversity find a path through a story for highlighting a new plan or a special message. For example, the film directed by David Lin, based on Dickens's great novel, 'Great Expectations' has become a singular artistic work. The film version of Gorky's mother is adorned with astonishing beauty in the hands of Pudovkin. Bibhutibhushan's Pather Panchali in its essence and appeal, is also comprehensively successful in its necessary transformation through a new medium in Satyajit's film".

Although these essays were written at different points of time covering a period of nearly four decades, from 1956 to 1995, they are by no means obsolete, because in every essay, there are reflections of the author's thoughtful mind, and his wide familiarity with various sorts of films, both Indian as well as international. He has credited, not unreasonably, Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali with bringing about the much desired change, breaking the stalemate, in the world of Bengali films. Perhaps he could have in this regard mentioned Ritwik Ghatak's Nagarik, which was made earlier than Pather Panchali, but could not be released. This is, however, not to belittle Satyajit Ray's contribution to Bengali film. He definitely played a pioneering role in giving films a noteworthy status in the mainstream of Bengali culture, as well as in enabling the Bengali film to obtain a position of esteem in the international scene. Of course, the author has not berated earlier film-makers like Pramathesh Barua, Debaki Basu, Bimal Ray or Santaram, but in the author's considered opinion, their creations were not comparable to those of Eizenstein, Chaplin or Pudovkin and in this regard, Satyajit Ray was the real path-breaker. This is well-said, but it seems that Ritwik Ghatak's films could have been given a little more attention.

The author's observation on the commercial and artistic success of Bengali films that the number of artistically successful films in India is few, although countless films have attained commercial success is pertinent enough. But he has also noted that there is not necessarily a one-to-one inverse correspondence in this regard. It may be mentioned here that some degree of inverse correspondence is very much there, and in this era of neo-liberalism, lust for money remains supreme in the world of producers, which definitely is an impediment, because avarice stifles creativity.

In short, it can be said that laymen (such as this reviewer) having some interest in films have much to learn from the essays collected in the book. Those having some expertise in the subject, on the other hand, should have much food for thought. For Bengali film-goers having some real interest in the subject, book seems to be an essential reading.

Chalachhitra Bichitra
(A Miscellany on Films)
by Asim Som,
Raktakarabi, Kolkata-700073,
152 pages, Price : Rs 250

Vol. 49, No.10, Sep 11 - 17, 2016