2008 is the 54th year of Tapan Sinha's film career. But if we consider his joining of film industry in 1946 (as an assistant sound recordist), this year is 62nd year of his association with movies. He made his directorial debut almost in the same time as Satyajit Ray, Ritwick Ghatak and Mrinal Sen did. But he made most number of films than the other three. In his five decades of career he made 40 films. But he never became the first benchers of the Bengali Film Industry. He always remained in the second bench as an average film maker.
Tapan Sinha has been one of the great film makers of Bengali Cinema, who was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Central Government. Film Critic, historian and writer, Chandi Mukherjee shares his thoughts on the film-maker.
2008 is the 54th year of Tapan Sinhas film career. But if we consider his joining of film industry in 1946 (as an assistant sound recordist), this year is 62nd year of his association with movies.
He made his directorial debut almost in the same time as Satyajit Ray, Ritwick Ghatak and Mrinal Sen did. But he made most number of films than the other three. In his five decades of career he made 40 films. But he never became the first benchers of the Bengali Film Industry. He always remained in the second bench as an average film maker. Everybody considers him as a story teller par excellence, but his main problem was he never tried for any cinematic adventure or experimentation like Ritwick Ghatak or Mrinal Sen. He made more films on Tagore stories than Ray, but none of his films reached the heights of Charulata or Ghare-Baire or Teen Kanya. Like Ray, he used to compose the music of his films in the later years, but none of his music became highly cinematic. But inspite of these he remained in the same position for long 50years only because of his story-telling ability and variety in the contents.
Tapan Sinha was born in Calcutta on October 2nd, 1924. His father Tridibesh Chandra Sinha was a small Zamindar of a small place in the district of Birbhum. At the age of 9, he left for Bhagalpore. His elder sister used to stay there. He was there till 1943. His schooling was in Bhagalpore.
It was his English teacher Gurudas Babu, who inspired him to see films A Tale of Two Cities. Ronald Coleman was in the role of Sidney Carton. The film and the acting of Coleman moved him so much, that it was according to him subconsciously responsible for him becoming a film maker. He started watching films regularly.
He returned to Calcutta from Bhagalpore in 1943. He got admitted in Jadavpur Engineering College. But it was then the Calcutta of the Second World War. He left the Engineering College and took admission in a college to study B.Sc. and in 1945 he started studying M. Sc in Applied Physics. But he discontinued his studied after one year and joined New Theatres in the year 1946 as an Assistant Sound Engineer. Right from the day one he became the assistant of famous Sound Recordist Bani Dutta. He left New Theatres in 1948 and joined Calcutta Movie Tone During that time he got chance to work in Renoirs The River which was shot in Calcutta. But because of his mothers illness he missed the opportunity. But the sound engineer of Renoirs film Charles Prallton gave Sinha a scope to learn film making in Pinewood Studios in London. He went to London in 1950 and joined as an observer sound engineer in the film unit of director Charles Geighton who was shooting The Haunted at that time.
He stayed there for one and a half years and was exposed to modern techniques of film making. He came back to Calcutta in the middle of 1951 ready to make his own film. He was fond of a story titled Sainik by Narayan Gangopadhay. The story deals with a contradiction between a father and a son. The main character of the story was an elephant named Neel Bahadur.
He changed the title of the film to Ankush. The film was made and released in 18th March in 1954. That was his debut film.
Since then Tapan Sinha relentlessly made his films till 2001. Though his first two films were highly praised but both of the films were not commercially successful. His first success was the comedy film Tonsil. It was written by Bihutibhusan Mukhopadhay. Madhabi Mukherjee acted in that film, though in that film she used her real name Madhuri.
Tapan Sinhas major success was in his fourth film Kabuliwalah based on the short story by Rabindranath Tagore. The lead actor of that film was Chhabi Biswas. The film was screened in the Berlin Film Festival in 1957. It was highly acclaimed in the festival. Raj Kapoor was present in that festival. He told Sinha that if the technical quality of the film was good the film could have received the Golden Bear that year. But Ravi Shankar, the music director of that film was awarded.
After Kabuliwalah, Sinha made two more films based on Tagore story Kshudita Pashan and Atithi. Though the both the films were awarded with National Award for the second best feature film but both the films were not up to the mark. Neither of the stories dealt with the complexity of human mind. Why he didnt choose difficult stories of Tagore only he knows.
Tapan Sinha always adopted stories from Bengali literature, only few are exceptions. He used stories written by Tarashankar Bandopadhay, Samaresh Basu, Dibyendu Palit, Balaichand Mukhopadhay, Jarasandha, Ramaprada Choudhury, Saradindu Bandopadhay, Subodh Ghose and many others.
His first film dealing with a man-woman serious relationship was Jatugriha. The theme of the film was reason behind husband-wife break up. Basically the film was structured on the series of flashbacks. Uttam Kumar and Arundhati Debi were in the lead roles. Apart from their superb acting, for the first time showed his directorial talent in handling a complex subject.
Sinhas flair for comedy was first observed in Tonsil. After he made three more comedies, Golpo Holeo Satti, Ajab Ganyer Ajab Katha and Bancharamer Bagan. In Ek Je Chilo Desh he tried for comedy, but the storyline was so poor that it doesnt click.
Haate Bazare and Sagina Mahato are two films in which Bollywood superstars acted, Ashok Kumar and Vaijantimala in the first one and Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu in the second one. Both the films were commercially successful. For Haate Bazare Sinha won the National Award for Best Film.
The unrest period of 70s also was reflected in his two films Apanjan and Ekahani. But the both the films were so superficial in nature that they cannot be recognised as representative films of the period as Rays Pratidhwandi and Seemabaddha, Sens Calcutta 71, Chorus, Interview and Padatik and Ghataks Jukti Takko Aar Gappo.
Tapan Sinha went to Bombay to try in Hindi Films in the early 70s. He made Zindagi Zindagi with Sunil Dutt and Waheeda Rehman but it flopped miserably.
SInha also made films for children. Safed Haathi, Sabuj Dwipwe Raja, Aaj Ka Robinhood, Anokha Moti are the films of this genre. But out of these four films only Safed Haathi clicked because of the story line and treatment, though the white paint over the elephants body was eye-soring.
With Bancharamer Bagan in 1980, Tapan Sinha had an individual fight once more. Once he told, “I have always believed in individual courage and effort. I think collective system or life hardly allows an individual to discover the infinite strength within him.”
The examples of these are Aadalat O Ekti Meye, Aadmi Aur Auraat, Manush, Atanka, Ek Doctor Ki Maut, Antardhan and Wheel Chair.
To me the post 1980 is the best of Sinhas directorial career. His concentration was mainly to identify to power of individual. In all the films actors like Tanuja, Soumitra Chatterjee, Manoj Mitra, Pankaj Kapoor, Shatabdi Roy, Mahua Roy Choudhury, Shabana Azmi gave their 100%. Apart from their acting skill, the story telling technique of Sinha was superb.
In his long 60years of career Tapan Sinha has proved he is a good story teller and a maker of commercially viable and pleasing films.