The audience’s equation with films extends beyond what they see on screen in that duration of 120 minutes. Aparna Sen was among the brigade of content creators who identified the romantic relationship her viewers shared with the films she made. Equation makes it sound pseudo intellectual. Romance is organic. All her films left a void in me ever since I was introduced to Aparna Sen – the director’s body of films. Many of her films meant the emergence of an independent voice of womanhood. While her skills at calling the shots have been widely appreciated, the charismatic aura around Sen charmed in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, when she appeared on screen as an actress dominantly of the Bengali film industry.
Unlike the stereotypes, I differ from recounting her contributions to cinema from the early ages of the doe-eyed beauty. Goynar Baksho, her last appearance as a director shall kick off the bottom up parsing of the works of Sen. While the film borrowed premises of a horror comedy set in 1949 from writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story; the director added one feather, or rather another stroke of variety to her canvas. Aparna Sen’s films have won more than 5 national awards in various categories and the veteran has also been bestowed the Padma Shri in 1986.
She feels gay and snug in picking on scripts that defy the norms of the entertainment industry. In 2011, Iti Mrinalini, a Bengali film by Aparna Sen went on to become the first Indian screenplay from an Indian film institute that was actually filmed. Sen in the 2000’s remained less active as an actor. She was seen doing cameos and brief appearances in the works of prominent directors from Kolkata. Antaheen, in which she co-starred with Rahul Bose and Sharmila Tagore, saw her team up with husband Kalyan Ray.
While Kolkata is her home ground; her experiments with the celluloid took shape in the form of English language films as well. 2010-2005-2001 defines her phase of films which were predominantly bilingual. The Japanese Wife, 15 Park Avenue and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer pooled in consumers from the non-regional space of films that widened her domain of followers.
In her years active as a film personality, she also switched sides to write and edit Bengali editorials. Rahul Bose, daughter – Konkona Sen Sharma, Shabana Azmi and Moshumi Chatterjee often formed the principal cast of her films in latter stages.
While the Android generations of users have seen her name credited as a filmmaker more often than an actor, Aparna Sen’s acting prowess has been witnessed by the seniors. Landmark films include Titli, Paromitar Ek Din, Unishe April, Paroma, Kotwal Saab, Jana Aranya, Basanata Bilap and Teen Kanya to name a few. Her debut directorial, 36 Chowringhee Lane is still fondly remembered as one of Aparna’s best works.
A legacy of films from time to time has spoken about her ability to understand the strength behind the craft of movie making. In 1989 she was a member of the jury at the 16th edition of the Moscow International Film Festival and later in 2008 she was elected into the jury of Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
Kolkata – 1961. Photographer Brian Brake who visited India to photograph his monsoon series found Sen to be the face that’d do favor to his lenses. And dressed in a red sari and a green stud on her nose, Aparna Sen’s iconic photograph of a village girl in the monsoons still remains as one of her most loved images.
By Soham Bhattacharyya