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Tearful farewell to Mrinal Sen, the loveable rebel

Published : Jan 01, 2019 17:40 IST T+T-
Mrinal Sen, a 1994 photograph.

Mrinal Sen, a 1994 photograph.

With Satyajit Ray at an exhibition of photographs on Charlie Chaplin, in Kolkata in 1989.

With Satyajit Ray at an exhibition of photographs on Charlie Chaplin, in Kolkata in 1989.

On location in Rajasthan, in 1986

On location in Rajasthan, in 1986

Indian cinema lost one its greatest figures when the iconic Bengali director Mrinal Sen passed away in Kolkata on December 30. He was 95. Sen, who along with Satyajit Ray and Rwitik Ghatak, formed the great triumvirate that put India cinema on the global stage, was considered the last surviving member of the elite group of filmmakers who had ushered in the golden era of Bengali cinema. With such immortal films to his name as Bhuvan Shome (Mister Shome), Interview , Calcutta 71 , Padatik , Mrigaya (the Royal Hunt), Oka Oorie Katha (the outsiders), Ekdin Pratidin (And Quiet Rolls the Day), Akaler Shandhane (In Search of Famine), Khandhar (The Ruins) and others, Mrinal Sen carved out his name not just in the history of Indian arts but also world cinema.

Radical, experimental, provocative, fearless, uncompromising, Sen was a pathbreaker in every sense of the term. To him cinema was the ultimate vehicle for self-expression; it was through his films that he articulated some of the most powerful statements on life, art, ideology and humanity. He was a loveable rebel who never sought commercial success, remained undeterred by harsh criticism, and treated both success and failure with a shrug and a smile. For all the national and international awards he won, including the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005, for all the honours bestowed upon him by his own country and by other nations, Sen maintained a jovial disdain for fame and glory. He lived modestly, answered the phone and the doorbell himself, welcomed everybody into his house, and gave as much time to a common person who sought his appointment as he would to an international celebrity.

Mrinal Sen’s appeal transcended the world of cinema. Not only was he one of the most important icons of West Bengal’s cultural history, he had, in fact, become a symbol of his beloved city of Kolkata itself. On January 1, as his mortal remains were being taken to the crematorium, hundreds joined him on his final journey. Alongside tearful celebrities from the world of cinema, theatre, fine arts and literature, there was the nameless, faceless mass of common people that Sen so loved and upheld in his movies. He understood them better than anyone else and they knew it; dry-eyed and silent, they had come to say goodbye to one who always belonged to them alone.