Mrinal Sen

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Mrinal Sen
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
In office
27 August 1997 26 August 2003
Personal details
Born(1923-05-14)14 May 1923
Faridpur, Bengal Presidency, British India
(now in Bangladesh)
Died30 December 2018(2018-12-30) (aged 95) [1]
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Nationality Indian
Gita Sen
(m. 1952;her death 2017)
Education Scottish Church College (B.Sc.)
Rajabazar Science College (M.Sc.)
Awards Padma Bhushan (1983)
Order of Friendship (2000)
Dadasaheb Phalke Award (2003)

Mrinal Sen (also spelled Mrinal Shen; 14 May 1923 – 30 December 2018) was an Indian filmmaker and a nominated Member of the Indian parliament. Sen directed films primarily in Bengali and Hindi. Along with his contemporaries Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, he pioneered the New Wave cinema in India. Sen was an ardent Marxist. His earlier films are characterized by their left-leaning, often Marxist approaches to Indian society. Sen won the National Film Awards 18 times, next only to Ray. He was made the Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1985. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2008 and the Order of Friendship in 2005. The same year, he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award his contribution to Indian cinema. He is considered to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He is the only Indian filmmaker along with Satyajit Ray whose films have been awarded at the big three film festivals namely the Cannes film festival, Venice Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival. [2] [3]


Early life and education

Sen was born on 14 May 1923, in the town of Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. After finishing high school there, he left home to come to Calcutta as a student. He studied physics at Scottish Church College, and subsequently earned a postgraduate degree at the well-known Rajabazar Science College of University of Calcutta. As a student, he got involved with the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. Although he never became a member of the party, his association with the socialist Indian People's Theatre Association brought him close to a number of like-minded culturally associated people.

Sen's interest in film making began after he stumbled upon a book on film aesthetics. However, his interest remained mostly intellectual, and he was forced to take up the job of a medical representative, which took him away from Calcutta. This did not last very long, and he came back to the city and eventually took a job as an audio technician in a Calcutta film studio, which launched his film career.

Early films

Mrinal Sen first feature film, Raat Bhore (1955) featured Uttam Kumar who was not yet the major star of Bengali cinema that he became. The movie was a critical failure. His next film, Neel Akasher Neechey (Under the Blue Sky, 1958), earned him local recognition, while his third film, Baishey Shravan ("The Wedding Day", 1960), was the first film that gave him international exposure. Both these films were produced by Hemanta Mukherjee, the legendary singer and composer.

Sen and new cinema in India

After making five more films, he made a film with a shoestring budget provided by the Government of India. This film, Bhuvan Shome (Mr. Shome, 1969), finally launched him as a major filmmaker, both nationally and internationally. Bhuvan Shome also initiated the "New Cinema" film movement in India. [4]

Social context and its political influence

The films that he made next were essentially political, and earned him the reputation as a Marxist artist. [5] This was also the time of large-scale political unrest throughout India. Particularly in and around Calcutta, this period underwent what is now known as the Naxalite movement. This phase was immediately followed by a series of films where he shifted his focus, and instead of looking for enemies outside, he looked for the enemy within his own middle class society. This was arguably his most creative phase.

Depiction of Kolkata

In many Mrinal Sen movies from Punascha (1961) to Mahaprithivi (1992), Kolkata features prominently. He has shown Kolkata as a character, and as an inspiration. He has beautifully woven the people, value system, class difference and the roads of the city into his movies and coming of age for Kolkata, his El-Dorado. [6]

Experimentation, recognition and acclaim

During this period, he won a large number of international awards. It could be argued that although his films show the development of ideas from existentialism, surrealism, Marxism, German expressionism, Postmodernism, Nouvelle Vague and Italian neorealism. Sen's cinema for the most part does not provide a happy ending or a definitive conclusion (unlike many of the films of Sen's better known contemporary Satyajit Ray). In many of Sen's later films, the audience becomes a participant in the process of the development of the plot. The director invites and provokes the audience into a shared process of forming multiple conclusions, that are at the same time unique and different. The director does not play the role of god, his audience does. It is not really surprising that unlike Allen who has a steady niche audience in the Western literati and aficionados, Sen's experimentation with parallel cinema had significantly cost him much of a devoted audience composing of largely the Calcutta-based westernized intelligentsia.

In 1982 he was a member of the jury at the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival. [7] In 1983 he was a member of the jury at the 13th Moscow International Film Festival. [8] In 1997 Sen became the member of the jury at the 20th Moscow International Film Festival. [9]

Mrinal Sen never stopped experimenting with his medium. In his later films, he tried to move away from the narrative structure and worked with very thin storylines. After a long gap of eight years, at the age of eighty, he made his last film, Aamaar Bhuvan ("My Land", 2002).

During his career, Mrinal Sen's films have received awards from almost all major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago, and Cairo. Retrospectives of his films have been shown in almost all major cities of the world. He was also elected as the president of the International Federation of the Film Societies. He received the Taj Enlighten Tareef Award which is given for a lifetime contribution to the world of cinema in 2008. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 10th edition of the Osian's Cinefest Film Festival 2008.

Renowned Norwegian Actress & Director Liv Ullmann Once Said "Mrinal Sen's Films Convey a Cinematic Protest Against Tyranny So Effectively".

Oscar winner director Martin Scorsese took leading steps towards restoration of Mrinal Sen's films . He identified those films as forgotten classics .

Legendary director Satyajit Ray said 'I am feeling jealous , he probably overtakes us' ( Referring himself & Ritwik Ghatak ) when praising after watching Mrinal Sen's 'Oka Oori Katha' .

On 24 July 2012, Sen was not invited to the function organized by West Bengal government to felicitate film personalities from the State. As per reports, his political views are believed to be the reason for his omission from the function. [10]


Sen had been suffering from age related ailments for many years. He died on 30 December 2018 at the age of 95 at his home in Bhawanipore, Kolkata. [11] [12] The cause was a heart attack. [13]


National awards

National Film Award for Best Feature Film

National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film

National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali

National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu

National Film Award – Special Mention (feature film)

National Film Award for Best Direction

National Film Award for Best Screenplay

Filmfare Awards
Critics Award for Best Film
1976 Mrigayaa
Best Screenplay
1984 Khandhar
Best Director - Bengali
1982 Akaler Shandhaney
Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award
2017 Bengali Cinema

International awards

Moscow International Film Festival - Silver Prize
1975 Chorus [14]
1979 Parashuram [15]
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival - Special Jury Prize
1977 Oka Oori Katha
Berlin International Film Festival
Interfilm Award
1979 Parashuram
1981 Akaler Sandhane
Grand Jury Prize [16]
1981 Akaler Sandhane
Cannes Film Festival - Jury Prize
1983 Kharij
Valladolid International Film Festival - Golden Spike
1983 Kharij
Chicago International Film Festival - Gold Hugo
1984 Khandhar
Montreal World Film Festival - Special Prize of the Jury
1984 Khandhar
Venice Film Festival - OCIC Award - Honorable Mention
1989 Ek Din Achanak
Cairo International Film Festival - Silver Pyramid for Best Director
2002 Aamar Bhuban

State and institutional honors


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