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Chasing the Truth

Divya Bajpai Jha

Edited by Dipankar Mukhopadhyay
Harper Collins Publishers, New Delhi, 2009, pp. xv+317, Rs. 399.00

Magic Lantern Foundation, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 304 +18


The point is not to pocket the truth, but to chase the truth’, wrote Elio Vittorini in a letter to a fellow European Marxist, Palmiro Togliatti. Mrinal Sen quoted him in a paper that he read at the National Institute of Advanced Studies at Bangalore on 12 July 1994. Dipankar Mukhopadhyay, in his book Mrinal Sen : Sixty Years In Search Of Cinema also refers to it, as he tries to analyse and understand not only Sen’s remarkable body of work but also his relationship with his craft; his politics, his beloved Calcutta and the world around him. The remark was made by Vittorini when he was being attacked by the orthodox elements in European Marxist circles. Mrinal Sen too has fought similar elements in West Bengal’s politics, particularly on issues of artistic self expression. A blind following of the official party line is anathema to him. He is against the tendency to sacrifice self-criticism at the altar of complacency, be it in his cinema or in his political views. As Deputy Director in the Directorate of Film Festivals and later as Managing Director Of National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), Dipankar Mukhopadhyay has had a long and fruitful engagement with cinema in general and with Mrinal Sen in particular. This is borne out by the fact that he has two earlier books on Mrinal Sen; namely, Kathapurush (in Bengali) and The Maverick Maestro—a biography, to his credit. Mrinal Sen : Sixty Years in Search of Cinema is a reworked, updated version of the latter book. The book shows ample proof of this deep and abiding interest in the maestro’s work.It retraces, and in the process, practically resurrects Sen’s entire cinematic oeuvre, a no mean task in itself, given the fact that the prints, scripts and other production materials of his earlier works no longer exist. It is interspersed with some carefully chosen snippets of conversations between the writer and his muse. Mukhopadhyay is able to see some interesting continuities as well as parallels in Sen’s cinema, be it in the use of some recurring motifs like an aeroplane flying or a ruin of a once glorious house, or the use of Calcutta as the setting of many of Sen’s films. Mukhopadhyay is of the view that Mrinal Sen introduced the genre of political cinema to Indian films. Sen’s acceptance of this fact in an e-mail ...

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