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Mrigaya

Mithun’s master act in Mrinal’s masterpiece

Writer and Director: Mrinal Sen

Cast: Mithun Chakraborty and Mamta Shanker

Language: English, Hindi and Urdu [fascinating]

Duration: Perfect

Rating: A genuine masterpiece

Awards: All the national awards plus a lot of international awards

 

This is a testament to the great talent of Mrinal Sen and Mithun, who is the only actor in the history of Indian cinema to win the laurels [national and international awards] in his debut act.

 

It is indeed a sheer pleasure to see him play a fearless young tribal man, proud and noble, exuding raw energy in every frame in a simple langooti [loincloth].

He is the son of the local village headman, somewhere in the mountains of north-eastern India. In the last days of British Raaj, who loves a local young woman [Mamta], she happens to be abducted by a local money lender, in lieu for the debt of ten rupees owed by her father to the Mahajan, who is the local equivalent of shylock,

except this man holds nothing sacred, whether a human  life or a woman’s virtue, he violates every code of ethics, in one scene where a child is eaten by a tiger he consoles the bereaving family by telling them at least they have one less mouth to feed.

 

So begins the Royal Hunt [Mrigaya], a proud warrior on a quest alone against a corrupt system, a solo young man in search of justice even if it has to be self acquired and a landmark in world cinema.

 

I say so because the remarkable similarities between this movie and Apocalypto are too many to be coincidental, only Mel Gibson has not given any comments on his inspiration.

 

The character of the hunter who is also the quarry is a unique portrayal by Mithun, his eyes glowing like fireballs set against his darkly handsome countenance with his superb physique, and he looks more like a jaguar on the hunt which is indeed royal by any comparison.

 

The subplot of his brief friendship with the local Anglo administrator who befriends him and becomes his ardent admirer in respect of his unique hunting talent is a very relevant comet on the colonisation of India and the evils and benefits we derived from that experience. The sympathetic English woman who plays the wife of the commissioner is a symbol for the virtues the British brought to India along with the corruptions as well.

 

The setting is natural, no sets are erected, and it’s the adivasi village and the colonial mansion and the forest which is the playground for this master class in how to direct an entertaining movie on a shoestring budget.

 

The symbolic white costumes reflect the purity of the two main characters, as does the rest of the simple yet totally relevant wardrobe used in the movie, the whites contrast brilliantly with the beautiful black Dravidians bodies of Mithun and Mamta, a tribute to the natives of the sub-continent.

 

The cinematographer is superb in the manner he conveys the calm and quiet, yet the frenzy of the climax, the movie is shot in various techniques, maybe one of the first movies in India where the camera is being handheld to convey the feelings and experiences of the characters directly to the audience.

 

The luscious greens of the tea estates and the rocky terrain alternatively help to build the mood of the movie from a soft core to a terrifying climax; the landscape plays a vital role in storytelling.

 

The background musical score is authentically ethnic as is the movie with tribal women chanting in local dialect melodiously while reaping the harvest or the simple tabla playing in frenzy in the chase sequences culminating in a frantic mood.

 

The director is brilliant, to say the least, every sequence is meticulously planned and the brilliant scene in the colonial compound where the triumvirate of the English, the old Muslim guardsman and Mithun talk about the remains of a human skull dig out from the grounds reflecting on the vanity of human existence is uniquely executed in English, Urdu and Hindi languages, symbolising the rich culture of the paradox that India is, and yet Mrinal Sen doesn’t betray his characters or the audience into sentimentality or unnecessary violent gore, a tribute to his aesthetic sense and to his cinematic genius.

 

He succeeds in making a master thriller without any stuntmen or special effects, a lesson for today’s filmmakers who have turned our cinema into a circus, Mithun has done all his stunts from the archery and the bare hand fights by himself in an extraordinary manner, unique to this actor in an action thriller, the sequence where he chases and captures the deer is proof enough.

 

But then the final accolade goes to Mithun in a role he was born to play, he symbolises India itself, raped, pillaged and exploited yet defiant and proud and eternal, blessed with the soul of a martyr yet humane enough to break  the chains that try to bind it from time to time.

 

They say every true artist is born to do one solo act that justifies their god given talent, Mithun is indeed blessed he found his dream come true in his debut role,

he is a spontaneously natural actor and doesn’t need the help of Methodism, he was perfectly cast and delivered more then required in this Indian masterpiece, there aren’t enough adjectives in English language to praise this performance, in a simple loincloth, his eyes doing most of the talking and his superb body language expressed by his perfectly athletic frame, he is stunning.

 

Mamta with her innocent looks and simple beauty devoid of any makeup matches him all the way; she too wears the same costume throughout the movie.

 

The movie was made at a time when glamour was the order of the day in Hindi cinema, yet this artful but effortless simplicity was a slap in the face for the makers who were exploiting and still are the simple audience by cheap gimmicks and melodrama.

 

By : Usman Khawaja

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Shaukeen

Cast: Ashok Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Utpal Dutt, Rati Agnihotri, A.K Hangal.

Director: Basu Chatterji

 Plot: * * * *

Cast Performance:   * * * * *

Sound Track:   * * *

Cinematography: * * *

Over all Rating: * * * *

Dadamoni, Basuda and MITHUNDA

 

Well its not everyday that Bollywood plans a suave sophisticated party and invites Mithun,Ashok kumar, A.K.hangal and Uptal Dutt along with Rati Agnihotri at her glamorous best, so I decided to gatecrash this great comic event and my man was I amused ,I laughed my head off and fell off the chair but thanks to god I still am blessed with my head and sustained no injury as my host saved the day ..

 

The host is an extremely talented Bollywood chef Basu Chatterjee and he makes the best dishes in Bollywood and this is almost like eating a really good three course gourmet meal and the ingredients are extremely talented and spicy too, and there are enough gags here for a comic series.

 

The plot concerns three old men who fall in love with the same nubile young mata hari look-alike Rati, who has a very handsome but penniless young beau [Mithun Chakra borty] chasing her around while the three oldies who are goldies as well, seem to be infatuated with her without her knowledge initially but later she shrewdly exploits their crush on her as only a woman can with tactics which will make a corpse burst out laughing.

 

The story revolves around the antics of the three musketeers of Bollywood who proceed with their misadventures along with the poor young man who is trying to fool them to make some money.

 

Anymore revelations will spoil the broth as there are too many good cooks here to intrigue even people who are not too hungry for stylish sophisticated comedies which Basuda made in his later days.

 

The movie does suffer from a lack of great soundtrack which is at best [by R. D BURMAN] only above average, compared to other Basuda movies but there are some good songs like jab ki koi kangna bole and the song sung by great dada moni in his own voice [Kishore Kumar was his younger brother] but the background score makes up for it and the cinematography is really good for an eighties movie, watch the swimming pool scene with Rati in a bikini and Mithunda in Speedos and then lets talk about who is sexy in todayĘs generation of star kids.

 

Anyway Basuda made Baton Baton me and also Khatta Meetha which are equally good as comedies as were his friends, Hrishidas golmaal, Naram Garam and gulzars Angoor but Shaukeen is special as it combines the talents of five comic geniuses from Bengal and showcases them in a unique way to an ultimately hilarious ending.

 

This is not slapstick but great humorous cinema to be enjoyed again and again and if you are feeling morose take some laughter pills and I recommend this for now as every gourmet meal finishes off with a dessert or two and this dessert is actually five in numbers and four in stars.

 

The  movie is perfectly cast as the three old men headed by Ashok Kumar have a flair for comedy that is divine but Mithun is superb and his versatility as an actor here is unquestionable as he is equally good compared to the 3 giants and Rati looks an eyeful in her sexy attires without any cleavage displays and reveals a flare again for comic talent seen later in Juhi Chawala and Madhuri Dixit and before in Hema and Sridevi. But it belongs to Basuda, Dadamoni and Mithunda and thatĘs how I justify my title.

 

Hope you agree .let me know your opinions?

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this feisty party and was there for three hours or more and so did my family who accompanied me as it had a wonderfully apt environment unlike the sordid comedies of today as this is a suave sex comedy which even Hollywood would envy any day.

 

Let me say its inspired from Basudas own Chotisi Baat which was adapted from A SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS, and also has shades of the hilarious Victoria no 203 again with the immaculate actor Ashok Kumar who along with the helpless youth Mithun steal this cake and eat it too, much to the audiences delight.

 

A classy affair, which was successful at box office too, a rarity in Bollywood.

 

This review is as a tribute to Ashok Kumar and Mithunda too along with the host who was indeed a great Bollywood chef.

 

How about some good old vintage wine like Shaukeen?

 

 By : Usman Khawaja

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THE NAXALITES(Mera Inquilab)

LAND OF deprived AND DISPOSSESSED

Cast: Mithun Chakraborty

Smita Patel

K.A ABBAS is a true visionary and his movies reflect the deprivations and vicissitudes of Indian masses, so don’t watch this if u don’t have stomach to watch a man being tortured as an ashtray by the cops with cigarette butts , famished peasants wondering in the lush green Bengal as they drop dead,a man selling his mother on the street as a whore, an orphan living in a grave in a cemetery, for these are the soulful but wrathful images which fill the screen in a requiem for the great Bengali nation in quest for their aspirations and deliverance in this veracious drama.

But do not expect sheer pity or divulging melodrama as there is a genius at work here who doesn’t want sympathy for his proud characters who want to shake the yokes of centuries of oppression but rather a passion for their dreams which makes this a celebration for humanity. For this is the man who made the prestigious DHARTI KE LAAl, THE BEST ACCIOUNT OF THE BENGAL FAMINE, as he created SHEHAR OR SAPNA and ASMAN MAHAL, two authentic classics of hindi cinema, what a pity that intellect is not commercially palatable in art, so he only creates money spinners when he writes for the great showman Raj Kapoor, as BOBBY and AWARA are both penned by the same man.

But this is his final offering and it follows the trail of the infamous Naxal Bari movement which was crushed but couldn’t be finished by the hierarchy in Bengal, it was labelled as communism and anarchy when all it was trying to do was restore the basic human rights to a suffering populace , festering like an open sore on the face of India, this remains unchanged with starvation rampant in Assam, Bengal and Bihar but the only difference is likes of KA Abbas have vanished from Indian cinema.

The story wants to wake the conscience of a silent majority who accept tyranny without protest when a minority decide to fight the carnage with violence instead and give rise to a so called terrorist organisation, the protagonists here are ordinary men and women with Mithun and Smita as the leading figures and the plot follows the struggles of its multiple figures as they render their humane sacrifices for a cause which they have swore to serve eternally.

The movie doesn’t treat itself as a doctrine in glorifying them, but rather analyses the milieu which induces their rebellion, yet once it establishes its motive, it doesn’t waste time in a political debate but quickly evolves into a script which is angry but relevant as the armed conflict ensues, unfortunately all true and what newspaper headlines reflected in the 80s and nineties, so it might be too uncomfortable for some viewers but cinematic heaven for others.

This is Mithun’s second Bollywood’s attempt after bagging the national award in Mrinal Sen’s Mrigaya and he is cast superbly as an orphaned grave dweller who lost his parents to the famine and is traumatised by memories of his mother having to sell her body to survive the streets of Calcutta, he is educated by a journalist into his past history ,when he is taken to watch darti ke lal, and he finds himself relating to the characters onscreen in a bewilderingly powerful sequence as Mithun nods off in boredom and then wakes up to the scenes folding out on the screen until he is passionately screaming in a genuine rage at the reality being shown [in the great Dharti Ke Laal].

This was one of the earlier ventures of Smita Patel too, who is cast as an university student,a girl who wants justice for her brother, tortured to death by cops and has to prove her loyalty to the organisation with murder, but it is admirable how convincingly she executes her unconventional role, as does Jalal Agha and Tinu Anand who respectively play a tribal villager and a manual rickshaw driver, both exploited at the hands of rural and urban tyrants.

The cinematography is metaphorical with simple images using earthly colours to heighten the mood of this angry drama but its level headedness is praise-worthy as it never betrays itself into becoming propaganda to resort to violence but emphasises that if justice is denied to the poor in any civilization it will create dissension and rebellion, which is the message conveyed in this story with a multiple character plot used for the framework in this great experiment, but the technical aspects remain extremely neat though you can see the maker economizing his meagre budget, despite which he comes up with an admirable social drama which also works as an action adventure but most of all it remains true to its theme and that is to show the reality in a realistic manner. BRAVO!

 
By USMAN khawaja
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sheesha-mirror,mirror on the wall
 
 
basu chaterjees sheesha mirror reflects more then just an image in the eerie summer light of bombay as it strips a culture to examine a festering sore and that too which is universal rather then limited to india alone ,the controversial and contagious theme of sexual harassment in a workplace is the shocking topic dealt with in this brash movie which spares no one and has no black and whites but still manages to provoke you into a sensible debate which seperates gossip from slander and yet is able to divulge clearly into the moral dilemmas surrounding the workplace sexual ethics .
 
the main protagonist mitun smartly playing the chief exec of a drug firm is accused by a pretty employee of molesting her in exchange for asking a work favour ,this opens a pandoras box as the public sympathy favours the poor girl who seems to be a prey to the lust of immoral boss but at the same time you are left guessing as to how much of this is the truth and whether the accused is not the target of a vicious sex scandal and conspiracy at the by his vicious colleagues ,the ambience created by the master chatterjee is maintained to the very shocking end but en route he examines social attitudes towards working women ,marital disharmony,police corruption ,judicial hassles ,and many other sensitive issues dealing with an alleged case of sexual offence when the accused is a famous married man and the woman is much lower in social status .
 
the wife played by mon mon is perplexed and sceptical as she doesnt know whom to believe ,she wants to blame her spouse but is almost brain washed into believing he is innocent despite` her instincts telling her otherwise ,the role is enacted with extreme sympathy and she convinces you of her disappointment yet the turmoil is genuine as she is torn between her love and hate for her lover ,as the man accused mithun is superb as he initially enacts the non chalant arrogant chief who is indifferent to the problems of his lower staff members yet is rudely awakened by the courage of a helpless woman as he struggles to keep his job and marriage his transformation from a disenchanted husband and arrogant man to a down sized victim himself is very well portrayed ,but the best performance comes from the woman who is the aggrieved party ,you are not aware whether she is describing the truth as the event itself is visualised on screen from multiple perspectives as described by the accused ,the victim and the two witnesses which brilliantly shows the difference between truth and self perception as the accounting of the episode changes colour each time .
 
the line between truth and deceit is very thin and the fragile aspect of a sexual offence can easily be turned into seduction or rape is demonstrated but also the vague and trivial little details as to how people conceive people in the light of their background knowledge is imperative as everyone looks at these issues not objectively but from a total perspective where their opinions which are already in vogue influence their judgment and this applies to all human beings ,so whether an individual can expect justice in this milieu becomes a relevant discussion .
 
fortunately basu chaterjee has a vivid eye and can see the ordinary things with a clear concept and his lucid but complex script and direction mingle to make this an almost dramatic thriller with shades af a social drama where virtually characters from every walk of life rub shoulders realistically and react normally to every day gestures yet the chasracters in stress are interesting to say the least yet dont loose their humanity or basic flaws as vulnerable beings which makes them real and sympathetic to the audience which makes this an interesting yet realistic drama .
 
the whole cast  fit their roles like a glove ,mithun is immaculate in his suits and posh ties while his beautiful wife looks like a classy woman bored at home with nothing to do  while mallika sarabai plays the sexy attractive employee with an elan and a bashful coyness which can only be called natural style as the working  woman who is easily able to turn the heads of most men ,but vijayendra is very natural as the lawyer who comes to the help of his beleaguered friends and turns in a fine performance as do the rest of the  excellent cast who enact the smaller roles in the workplace as well as the gossiping elite who are amused at the plight of their rich successful friend now facing a lawsuit from an ordinary woman .
 
the technicalities are pretty good for an early eighties movie and the outdoor photography in the streets of bombay catches the humdrum of a metropolis brilliantly as well as the realistic dwellings of the rich and poor all shot on location as was the hallmark of basu.
 
there are only two songs and virtually no traditional numbers with an effectice background score but this movie suceeds where the slandered bollywood cinema is able to affectively covey a theme both complex and sensitively in a manner i have never even seen in a hollywood movie as disclosure looks like a monstrosity when compared to the genuine charms of this gem from mumbai ,i wonder when the indian critics will learn to celebrate their own classics and stop celebrating sleazy hollywood products 
 
By USMAN khawaja
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