Tapan Sinha, remembered for Kabuliwala’s tear, is dead (Obituary)

January 15th, 2009 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Jan 15 (IANS) From adapting literature to making movies on social issues, veteran filmmaker Tapan Sinha, who died here Thursday, was too versatile to be classified as part of the parallel cinema movement. But he remained a key figure near its orbit by making movies like “Kabuliwala”, “Sagina”, “Ek Doctor Ki Maut”, “Upahaar” and “Louho Kopat”. The man who made over 40 films was recognised in India and abroad for the quality of his work. He won laurels at international film festivals like Berlin, Venice, London, Moscow, San Francisco and Seoul. He also served as a member of the jury in film festivals at Tashkent and San Francisco.

Sinha’s stint in the film industry started in 1946. He joined New Theatres Studios as a trainee assistant sound-engineer and also learned his craft at Calcutta Movietone Studios.

Later, he worked for two years at Pinewood Studios, London.

Born Oct 2, 1924 in Kolkata, Sinha was the fifth child of Tridibesh and Pramila Sinha.

A masters degree holder in physics, young Sinha was enamoured by American and British movies. Directors like John Ford, Carol Reed and Billy Wilder were his favourites. One movie which influenced him the most was Ronald Coleman starrer “A Tale of Two Cities”.

But the Dadasaheb Phalke award winner was more inspired by the works of Rabindranath Tagore than by anybody else all through his life.

After working in London for two years, Sinha returned to India in 1952 and started making movies in Bengali. His first film “Ankush”, which had an elephant as central character, was released in 1954 and since then he made about 40 movies till 2000.

In 1961, he paid homage to Ronald Coleman by making “Jhinder Bandi”, based on Coleman’s 1937 movie “The Prisoner of Zenda”.

Sinha made a casting coup for his film “Upahaar” by bringing together Uttam Kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee and Manju De.

But it was his fourth movie “Kabuliwala” (1956) that established him as a director to be reckoned with. Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s short story, it was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and won an award.

Later Sinha filmed two other stories of Tagore - “Khudita Pasan” (1960) and “Atithi” (1965), which starred his actress wife, Arundhati Devi.

Fascinated by literature, Sinha adapted the works of other notable Bengali writers, including Banaphool, Jarasandha, Tarashankar Bandopodhyaya and Samaresh Basu.

His “Louho Kopat” (1957), a realistic depiction of prison life, was based on Jarasandha’s novel.

In sixties and seventies he tackled burning social issues in films like “Apanjan” (1968) that deals with the frustrations of the unemployed within the backdrop of the emerging Naxalite movement. “Sagina” (1970), starring Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu, was about a tea-garden labourer who rises against the oppression and “Ekhoni” (1971) dealt with the contemporary youth and their predicament.

Sinha also made a memorable feminist movie “Nirjan Saikate” (1963). Written by Samaresh Basu, it is about five widows, played by Sharmila Tagore, Chhaya Devi, Ruma Guha Thakurata, Bharati Devi and Renuka Roy. He tackled the issue of widow re-marriage with great sensitivity in the film.

Besides making films of social importance, Sinha also delved into the personal conflicts of people in his later productions like “Jatugriha” (1964) and “Aarohi” (1965).

The versatile director tried his hand at comedy too and churned out three hits - “Galpa Haleo Satyi” (Hrishikesh Mukherjee remade it later as “Bawarchi”), “Ek Je Chilo Desh” (1977) and “Aajab Gnayer Aajab Katha” (1998).

Apart from tackling social issues, Sinha also directed four movies for children - “Safed Hathi” (1977), “Sabuj Dwiper Raja” (1979), “Aaj Ka Rabinhood” (1987) and “Anokha Moti” (2000).

In 1982, he also made a telefilm in Hindi called “Aadmi Aur Aurat”.

Some of his significant Bengali movies include “Apanjan” (1968), “Khoniker Atithi” (1959), “Ekhoni” (1971), “Aadhar Periye” (1973), “Harmonium” (1976), “Adalat O Ekti Meye” (1982) and “Wheel Chair” (1994).

In 2001, he completed a six-part movie, “Satabdir Kanya”, based on woman-centric stories by Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Gourikishore Ghosh, Prafulla Roy and Dibyendu Palit.

Sinha’s work won the National Award 19 times in different categories

In 2008, the acclaimed director was presented with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

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