wiki:Calcutta ’71

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Calcutta ’71

1972 132’ b&w/col Bengali d/sc Mrinal Sen pc DS Pics p D.S. Sultania st Manik Bandyopadhyay’s Atmahatyar Adhikar, Prabodh Sanyal’s Akal, Samaresh Bose’s Esmalghar, Ajitesh Bannerjee’s Calcutta ’71, Mrinal Sen’s Interviewer Pare c K.K. Mahajan m Ananda Shankar lp Ranjit Mullick, Utpal Dutt, Geeta Sen, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sandhya Roy Choudhury, Satya Bannerjee, Snigdha Majumdar, Ajitesh Bannerjee, Debraj Ray, Robi Ghosh, Raju, Suhasini Mulay, Binota Ray

Sen set out the aims of his 2nd film in the Calcutta trilogy (Interview, 1970; Padatik, 1973): ‘As long as you present poverty as something dignified, the establishment will not be disturbed. We wanted to define history and put poverty in its right perspective.’ Extending his anti-naturalist approach in order to explore more freely and with greater complexity the way history shapes the texture of people’s lives, the film recounts three famous Bengali stories by three Bengali authors together with two contemporary episodes, each presenting an aspect of poverty and exploitation: an angry young man (Mullick) on trial in 1971, a rainstorm in a slum in 1933, a lower-middle-class family during the 1943 famine, teenage smugglers in 1953 and, back again in 1971, a middle-class group in a posh hotel. The events are linked by an imaginary figure who, by 1971, has gained an insight into the dynamics of history and urges action for change. Often described as ‘propagandistic’, the film is more didactic in the Brechtian sense, encouraging audiences to learn from the representations rather than telling people what to think. The film became a major cultural rallying point for student radicals, its screenings at the Metro Theatre in Chowringhee, Calcutta, being placed constantly under police surveillance.