As it is said, the director is the Captain of the ship. It is he who is responsible to ensure the best out of every one. A film becomes more attractive and appealing when it is directed by a famous director. Let us take a look at the famous Bengali directors of all time who have left a mark on Indian and World cinema.
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Perhaps one of the biggest names in the film fraternity, Ray was regarded as one of the foremost directors who welcomed the Indian New Wave to the Indian screen. However, till his death, he was against the idea of terming his own films as “parallel” ones. In his films, he has portrayed the adversities faced by people of all classes—and of women in general. He also made two Hindi films (one short and one full length) in his lifetime—Sadgati and Shatranj Ke Khiladi. With a debut that jolted Western critics into putting Indian cinema on the map, Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ was one of the most profoundly humane movies we have ever seen. Ray followed this up with two sequels (‘Aparajito’ and ‘Apur Sansar’), giving birth to the famed Apu trilogy.
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The underrated star in this elite line-up, Ritwik Ghatak was one of the troika of Indian legendary film-makers. The subject of most of his 8 released films dealt extensively with Partition and his inability to mentally adjust with the change. His trademark included a non-linear storytelling, handheld camera movements and the liberal use of Eastern classical music and Rabindrasangeet. He had once openly declared that his films were not for the masses. It is very unfortunate that his brilliance went largely unnoticed till the later part of his life, when he was asked to head FTII, Pune in honour of his contribution to Indian cinema. Notable was the fact that Ghatak’s first film Nagorik was released in 1977, twenty five years after it was made and a year after Ghatak’s death, thanks to an overdose of alcohol through time.
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The life and work of Mrinal Sen cannot be quantified in a few hundred words; in fact, nothing can. One of the most contemplative auteurs cinema has ever seen; he along with his contemporaries Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, revolutionized the face of parallel cinema in India. Despite being heavily inspired by Western cinematic ideas like surrealism, German Expressionism and Italian Neorealism, Sen’s cinema was always undeniably Indian in its execution. From ‘Bhuvan Shome’ a layered exploration of the emotional isolation of a quintessential government servant to his underrated classic ‘Kandahar’; a common thread that runs in all of Sen’s films is their exploration of existentialism, loneliness and isolation. While his penchant for experimentation lost him a fair share of followers, Sen’s genius was in the emotional engagement of his audience with his cinema; his films rarely had a definitive ending, leaving behind a pondering audience.
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Aparna Sen started her career in films as an actress in Ray’s Teen Kanya. After working with great directors like Ray and Mrinal Sen, Aparna went on to direct her own film in 1981, 36, Chowringhee Lane which won worldwide accolades and positive reviews from the critics. It was in her directorial debut only that she won the National Award for the best director and also the Grand Prix at Manila International Film Festival. A leading actress of the late 1960s,1970s,1980s, she has received eight “BFJA Awards”, five for best actress, two for best supporting actress and one for lifetime achievement She is the winner of three National Awards and nine international film festival awards for her direction in films. She was awarded the “Padma Shri”, the fourth highest civilian award, by the government of India in 1987. Her other brilliant on-screen critically acclaimed films are Paroma, Unishe April, Sati, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer among others.
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Probably the most visionary director in this list, Rituparno Ghosh was arguably one of the greatest Bengali filmmakers ever, no mean feat considering the contribution of Bengal to Indian cinema in general. Ghosh’s films, whether it is the emotionally wrangled ‘Raincoat’ or the Miss Marple inspired ‘Shubho Mahurat’; have always managed to end up being a subtle examination of complex human relationships. A self-proclaimed Satyajit Ray fan, Ghosh’s films do have Ray’s trademark simplicity and realism, but what makes him stand apart is the grace with which he tackles complex emotional entanglements. Undoubtedly a genius, his untimely demise in 2013 left a huge void in Indian cinema, but Ghosh will continue to live in our hearts through his timeless works of art.