Articles by: Vidyarthy Chatterjee

Today’s Anxious Workers Could Do With A Kedar Das

Today’s Anxious Workers Could Do With A Kedar Das

The mind is a winding river, its churning waters both cluttering and cleansing many shores and various ports of call. The broad outlines of the 1958 strike by the steel workers of Jamshedpur are still there in my memory; I was all of ten years of age at the time. The strike was a spontaneous uprising under the banner of[Read More…]

by September 29, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Cinema of Insurrection – Rebels, Gentlemen and Other Players

Cinema of Insurrection – Rebels, Gentlemen and Other Players

“Ritwik Ghatak’s stint as Vice-Principal of FTII left something of him in his students. A John Abraham would never have happened were it not for the tutelage of Ghatak. John did what he did because Ghatak validated his angst. Similar was the case with his other protégés, but besides these few men, the legacy of Ghatak seems to have terminated.[Read More…]

by September 26, 2020 Arts/Literature
Something’s Rotten About The Republic Of Reaction

Something’s Rotten About The Republic Of Reaction

(This essay was written in 2015,but remained unpublished. The thing to note is that practically everything it says holds good five years later.) At least three subjects of continuing public interest are on many lips these days – namely, the 40th anniversary this year of the Emergency; the hurried initiatives shown by the Modi government to raise the height of[Read More…]

by September 21, 2020 Arts/Literature
Devi Chatterji

When Journalists Were Loved, Feared & Respected…

When I was a boy I once heard my father wondering to my mother why “a day did not have more than twenty-four hours”. I know it is difficult to believe, but it is a fact that my father spent several decades of his life working fourteen to sixteen hours a day. When he ate, slept or relaxed, only he[Read More…]

by September 18, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Enduring Relevance of Garam Hawa

Enduring Relevance of Garam Hawa

Mysore Shrinivas Sathyu, who turned ninety on July 6 this year, is an important figure in the annals of New Indian Cinema by virtue of just one film- Garam Hawa (Hot Winds, 1974), a scathing dissection of the diseased mentalities that caused the Partition of the country (read, Partition of Bengal and Punjab). Garam Hawa achieves its purpose by portraying[Read More…]

by September 15, 2020 Arts/Literature
Manto: Only Politics, No Politicking

Manto: Only Politics, No Politicking

            Each time, Saadat Hasan Manto changes position in his 65-year-old grave in Lahore, “wondering whether he is a better short story writer than God”, the subcontinent, more than any other part of the world that recognized his genius belatedly, goes into raptures. Some recent films, books, and stage adaptations to do with the great writer and liberal humanist provide[Read More…]

by September 12, 2020 Arts/Literature
Strangers In Their Own Home

Strangers In Their Own Home

The 24th edition of the Kolkata international film festival, held in November 2018, showed a surprisingly large number of films from Australia, which has never been counted among the foremost film-making nations of the world; no less than two dozen in all. It is hard to tell whether the ‘focus’ had anything to do with an increasing interest in Down[Read More…]

by September 9, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Vidyarthy Chatterjee

Parents and Progeny

In my personal calendar of gains and losses, September is a craven, cowardly month. It robbed me, born the same month, of my two closest relatives. I don’t expect everybody to be interested in this humble story of comings and goings, but, who knows, someone out there might read a useful metaphor here. Come late August/early September each year, and[Read More…]

by September 7, 2020 Life/Philosophy
The Untold Story Of M.D.Madan

The Untold Story Of M.D.Madan

The Tatas have all along been opposed to the idea of having a university in Jamshedpur. In fact, Tisco did not want even a college in the city. Which brings us to the saga of Medioma Dhanjishah Madan (1913 – 1962). Dissidents give a character to a place, as much as devotees do. But since, as a rule, dissidents are[Read More…]

by September 5, 2020 Life/Philosophy
 ‘Venom’ Can Be No Honourable Artist’s Middle-Name!

 ‘Venom’ Can Be No Honourable Artist’s Middle-Name!

Adoor Gopalakrishnan is, unfortunately, ‘at it’ again. Kerala’s best-known filmmaker was recently at his favourite pastime of hitting a contemporary below the belt; trying to belittle someone with whom he started out on his filmmaking journey almost half a century ago. Honestly, I have noted with a mixture of disappointment and disgust, Adoor’s venomous remarks against K.P. Kumaran, as made[Read More…]

by September 2, 2020 Arts/Literature
Mira Nair As A Documentarist

Mira Nair As A Documentarist

Some time ago, another edition of International Women’s Day was observed with the right amount of feistiness. Among other things, women-related films were screened and discussed in some places in this or that city. Two early documentaries by Mira Nair could perhaps have been profitably included in such programmes. Unfortunately, her documentary films have been little seen and less discussed.[Read More…]

by August 30, 2020 Arts/Literature
Remembering Dhirendranath Gangopadhyay ( ‘DG’) — Bilet Pherat (England-Returned) Turns 100

Remembering Dhirendranath Gangopadhyay ( ‘DG’) — Bilet Pherat (England-Returned) Turns 100

A hundred years ago, a silent film called Bilet Pherat (England-Returned) was made. That pioneering work placed its maker by the side of such greats of early Indian cinema as Dadasaheb Phalke and Hiralal Sen. The example and exploits of Dhirendranath Gangopadhyay, or DG, as he was popularly known, were been recalled on many occasions by Mrinal Sen or Dinen[Read More…]

by August 28, 2020 Arts/Literature
Trainloads of Stories

Trainloads of Stories

In the days of my early manhood, a south Calcutta theatre called Menoka used to show Malayalam or Tamil films on Sunday mornings. Since the early years of the 20th century, Tamils have been in residence in south Calcutta, usually as office-workers, thereby giving to this area a second name – Chhota Madras (Madras in miniature). Malayalees are more recent[Read More…]

by August 23, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Mrinal Sen: Pioneering A Movement

Mrinal Sen: Pioneering A Movement

It is difficult not to miss the irony in the timing of Mrinal Sen’s passing on, roughly coinciding as it did with the fiftieth anniversary of perhaps his best-known film, BhuvanShome. It is generally agreed that it is with this film that the seminal movement called ‘New Indian Cinema’ began. The movement was an ideological/political body of work that questioned[Read More…]

by August 20, 2020 Arts/Literature
Sivakasi, An Unlimited scourge

Sivakasi, An Unlimited scourge

 Sivakasi is a curse, a blight, an abomination that India could do without. Here, workers, especially children, are routinely killed or scarred for life in fires and explosions while making crackers and bombs to feed the fireworks industry. A devastation in Sivakasi, 700 kilometres from Chennai, on September 5, 2012, claimed 54 lives. Between January 2011 and September 2012, there[Read More…]

by August 15, 2020 Arts/Literature
Corporate As Predator, State As Accomplice

Corporate As Predator, State As Accomplice

W.H. Auden, the British poet, once wrote that many lives have been lived without love, but none without water – or words to that effect. Auden couldn’t possibly have written about the utter necessity of water without thinking of the billions and trillions of farming families who contributed since time immemorial to the making of human cultures and civilizations. If[Read More…]

by August 12, 2020 Arts/Literature
Philosophers Of Patience

Philosophers Of Patience

            Fifty two years ago, on 20th August, Russian tanks moved into Prague to suppress what has passed into history as the ‘Spring of 1968’ when artists, intellectuals, public personalities and reforms-minded politicians joined hands in an attempt to secure freedom of expression. Among the sufferers was the great long-distance runner, Emil Zatopek, who was dismissed from his senior position[Read More…]

by August 8, 2020 Arts/Literature
The Life & Legacy Of Abdul Bari

The Life & Legacy Of Abdul Bari

   Currently, the impression that things can be made to happen even without the participation of the working class is being sought to be furthered by employers and managements. What to speak of marginalization, it is the evaporization of the worker from public consciousness that is being attempted. Just visualize the surrealistic pilgrim’s progress that we have covered in the[Read More…]

by August 6, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Diaries of Life, Death and Life Anew – Enduring Legacy of Bangladesh Liberation Cinema

Diaries of Life, Death and Life Anew – Enduring Legacy of Bangladesh Liberation Cinema

(This essay is in commemoration of the birth centenary this year of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation; and the fiftieth anniversary of the making of Zahir Raihan’s Stop Genocide, with which the history of short filmmaking in Bangladesh begins.) A road accident on August 19, 2011, robbed Bangladesh of its most exceptional filmmaker, and this writer[Read More…]

by August 3, 2020 Arts/Literature
Remembering Kamlabai

Remembering Kamlabai

Not everyone with a family is destined to enjoy all the fruits that the family has to offer. Let us take the case of Kamlabai Raghunath Gokhale, or simply Kamlabai, who was a Marathi actress in the early decades of the twentieth century and the first woman to act in films in India. Reena Mohan, who trained in editing at[Read More…]

by August 1, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Lorca And A Certain Left Sentiment

Lorca And A Certain Left Sentiment

About 85 years ago, Spanish fascists murdered Federico Garcia Lorca (1898 – 1936), the most important Spanish dramatist of the twentieth century who said “Spain is the only country in the world where death is a national spectacle.” Some 35 years ago, a young woman named Roop Kanwar was burnt alive by her in-laws and village elders on her dead[Read More…]

by July 29, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Athithi, Sayanam – Stories Of Attractive Misfits

Athithi, Sayanam – Stories Of Attractive Misfits

K. P. Kumaran made his first film, Athithi (b/w, 35 mm., 112 mins.) in 1974. I was able to catch up with it in 2017, thanks to a retrospective devoted to the veteran director at the 22nd edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala. Athithi is a tense family drama that unfolds, for the most part, within the ghostly[Read More…]

by July 27, 2020 Arts/Literature
A Nun’s story

A Nun’s story

One of the most widely-known and deeply-admired of all Indian nuns who gave up the habit after receiving the call of liberation theology, is a daughter of Kerala who goes by the name of Dayabai. When she left home at Pullattu Veedu in Poovarani, near Pala in Kottayam district, to become a missionary nun, she used to be called Mercy[Read More…]

by July 24, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Thank God For The Commune!

Thank God For The Commune!

The first edition of what began as the Bombay International Film Festival for Documentary & Short Films (there was no mention of animation in the naming then) was held between March 1 and 7, 1990. I had no place to stay in Bombay, yet the will to attend the festival was strong. One evening, over a cup of tea at[Read More…]

by July 21, 2020 Arts/Literature
Makhan Singh, Who?

Makhan Singh, Who?

            In 2006, I had an opportunity to visit  Zanzibar, a fabled island in the Indian Ocean with which India has had commercial and cultural relations for hundreds of years. Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania where thousands of Indian Africans have lived since long. A few months before I landed in Zanzibar, an important book launch had taken place,[Read More…]

by July 18, 2020 Life/Philosophy
Journeys Into Caribbean Consciousness

Journeys Into Caribbean Consciousness

“Beyond the geographic and cultural identity that defines the Caribbean, is the more complex question of a Caribbean cinema aesthetic which has captured the imagination of some writers and critics. The search for the essence of Caribbean cinema has included theories of Créolité, diversity and Negritude from Martinique and Guadeloupe; Negrismo from Cuba; Indigenisme from Haiti; and Pan-Africanism from the[Read More…]

by July 15, 2020 Arts/Literature
Battle Lines Drawn And Ready

Battle Lines Drawn And Ready

Writing some month ago in a Bengali daily about, among other things, his stint as a security adviser to the vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University from 1999 to 2004 , Debanjan Chakraborty recalled an incident in April 1999 when a large mob was seen  scouring the campus looking for the office-bearers of the university students union. From time to time,[Read More…]

by July 13, 2020 India
Death In The Time Of ‘Development’

Death In The Time Of ‘Development’

In ways more than one, Quarter Number 4/11, a documentary about demolitions and displacements and resultant miseries to a defenseless but defiant working class family, is reminiscent of Anand Patwardhan’s epic Hamara Shahar, made a quarter century earlier. “Quarter Number 4/11 is a ground-zero perspective of urban real estate development, narrated through the plight of ex-factory worker Shambhu Prasad Singh,[Read More…]

by July 11, 2020 Arts/Literature
Desperation As Art: 50 Years Of  Güney’s ‘Hope’

Desperation As Art: 50 Years Of  Güney’s ‘Hope’

Yilmaz Güney’s phenomenal many-sided genius made him a force to reckon with when he came to direction after a long stint as Turkey’s most popular film hero. But in the post-Second World War history of the Turkish State and society, Güney occupies a higher place than just that of a trail-blazing film personality. His strong sympathies for the inhabitants of[Read More…]

by July 8, 2020 Arts/Literature
Politics Of Keeping People Away From Politics

Politics Of Keeping People Away From Politics

Forty-Five summers ago when Emergency was declared by Indira Gandhi, among those who welcomed it with open arms were many so-called captains of industry, notably J. R. D. Tata and K. K. Birla; they did it in the name of discipline, efficiency and good work culture. Talking to J. Anthony Lukacs of The New York Times, J. R. D. Tata[Read More…]

by July 5, 2020 India
Film And Family: Revisiting An Early Patwardhan Classic

Film And Family: Revisiting An Early Patwardhan Classic

 It has been said of Anand Patwardhan, who turned 70 on February 18 this year, that he is ‘a kind of phenomenon in that he has all along faced official apathy, disapproval and, at times, censorship and open discrimination’. Perhaps, this is the way it should be for any creative artist wanting to grapple with political abuses, social injustices and[Read More…]

by July 3, 2020 Arts/Literature
Breaking the labouring back

Breaking the labouring back

The death of Jacques Chirac marked the physical disappearance of, arguably, the most intriguing French president of the past three decades or so. Chirac was conservative in his politics; an opportunist by nature; culture-conscious; and could be both defiant and corrupt. He showed character when he publicly acknowledged the fact of French complicity in the Holocaust, or chose not to[Read More…]

by July 2, 2020 World
Mahanagar –  Formidable Body, Pathetic Tail

Mahanagar –  Formidable Body, Pathetic Tail

In 1963, Satyajit Ray directed Mahanagar, commonly considered to be his first ‘Calcutta film’. True, there is a little of the ‘Big City’ in Apur Sansar (1959). Equally true, Parash Pathar (1958) is about an elderly Calcutta clerk who comes into a sudden fortune, only to lose it in no time. But Parash Pathar is a fantasy film, can perhaps[Read More…]

by June 30, 2020 Arts/Literature