It’s a pack up, forever: National award-winning filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta dies at 77

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Kolkata, June 10 (PTI): Eminent film director and poet Buddhadeb Dasgupta, who had been battling kidney ailments for quite some time, died at his residence here early on Thursday following a cardiac arrest, family members said. He was 77.

The national award-winning director is survived by his wife, and two daughters from a previous marriage.

Dasgupta, hailed for his allegorical tales, often indulged in incisive examination of complex human characters, who brought to the fore poignant questions. His political ideologies were well reflected in his cinema.

He has also published several works of poetry over the years, including ‘Govir Araley’, ‘Chhaata Kahini’, ‘Roboter Gaan’ and ‘Bhomboler Ascharya Kahini O Ananya Kabita’.

Tributes have poured in from across the country for the ace director, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing anguish over his death.

“Anguished by the demise of Shri Buddhadeb Dasgupta. His diverse works struck a chord with all sections of society. He was also an eminent thinker and poet. My thoughts are with his family and several admirers in this time of grief. Om Shanti,” Modi tweeted.

Extending her condolences to Dasgupta’s friends and family, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted, “Saddened at the passing away of eminent filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta. Through his works, he infused lyricism into the language of cinema. His death comes as a great loss for the film fraternity.”

Dasgupta was found motionless by his wife, Sohini, at his residence in Kalikapur area of the city at 6 am, according to the family members.

He suffered cardiac arrest in his sleep, they added.

Mourning his demise, filmmaker Goutam Ghose said, “Buddha da continued to make films, write articles and stay active, despite his failing health. He had directed ‘Tope’ and ‘Urojahaj’ even when he was unwell.”

Ghosh, who played the role of an investigative reporter in Dasgupta’s ‘Grihajuddha’, recalled that he had a “wonderful time” working with the auteur.

Actor-director Aparna Sen said Dasgupta’s films were “soaked in surrealism”.

With his poetry, he had created a new idiom in film-making, she said.

“I am sad that I won’t be able to bid a final farewell to Buddhadeb da at the crematorium, like I did in case of Mrinal da. It is upsetting that we cannot give due recognition to a director of his calibre due to this Covid pandemic and the lockdown,” Sen said.

Born in 1944 in Purulia district, Dasgupta began his career as a lecturer in a college before taking a plunge into filmmaking in the 70s, after having enrolled his name as a member of the Calcutta Film Society.

He made his first feature film ‘Dooratwa’ in 1978, leaving his mark as a poet-lyricist-director.

Prior to that, he had made a short ‘Samayer Kache’.

Some of the notable films he has helmed include ‘Neem Annapurna’, ‘Grihajuddha’, ‘Bagh Bahadur’, ‘Tahader Katha’, ‘Charachar’, ‘Lal Darja’, ‘Uttara’, ‘Swapner Din’, ‘Kaalpurush’ and ‘Janala’.

He also directed Hindi films – ‘Andhi Gali’ and ‘Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa’.

In ‘Uttara, which won the Special Director’s Award at the Venice Film Festival, he carefully examined human vices, some of the characters dwarfed by the hardships they endure, as he drew evocative images of an alternate world.

The auteur’s films usually thrived on ambiguities, leaving it to the audience to piece together the puzzle.

In ‘Tahader Katha’, another soul-stirring art-house film starring Mithun Chakraborty, the director shows the struggles of a freedom fighter, who finds it difficult to cope with his everyday life post Independence, as fractured memories continue to haunt him.

Actor and theatre personality Kaushik Sen said Dasgupta was in the league of filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen, “who took Bengali cinema to global platforms”.

“He had often been accused of making cinema in a style that was not easily understood by the masses. But he stuck to that style, never deviated from what he believed in,” Sen pointed out.

Actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, who had worked with the filmmaker in ‘Swapner Din’ and ‘Ami Yasmin Aar Amar Madhubala, underlined that “Buddhadeb Dasgupta was a beckoning light in Indian cinema and international film circles.”

In critically acclaimed ‘Urojahaj’, featuring actor Chandan Roy Sanyal, he comfortable merged dreams with reality, with the protagonist serving as a metaphor for a common man who clings on to hopes despite the drudgeries of life.

Sanyal said as someone who grew up watching Dasgupta’s films, he never thought that he would get a chance to work with the filmmaker.

“When I did his film ‘Urojahaj’, I was with him for a month and a half. He directed the film in a wheelchair. His kidneys were failing and he had to undergo dialysis. Yet, he made it to the shoot every day and completed the film.”

Dasgupta – who bagged 12 national awards in his lifetime was liberal in his views, having criticised several political activities in the recent times.

He stood by younger filmmaker Anik Dutta, when anti-establishment ‘Bhobisyoter Bhoot’ was withdrawn from theatres in the city one week after release.

A recipient of Venice film festival silver lion, Locarno critics’ award and Locarno Special Jury award, the auteur, after one of his ventures did not get a commercial release a few years ago, had told PTI, “It hurts me when my film gets recognised internationally but doesn’t hit the theatres in Kolkata and the rest of Bengal. But there is a strong distribution lobby at work.”

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