Monday, July 27, 2020

In Memory of Basu Chatterjee

The news of Basu Chatterjee’s sudden death on June 4 was a shock. When I was growing up, I didn't know what an auteur was but I could identify a Basu Chatterjee film in few minutes: lovely touching stories about ordinary people packed with astute observations about human behaviour. I wasn't aware then but he was the first auteur I came across.

Basu Chatterjee’s light-hearted films contrasted the angry man films of Amitabh Bachchan and other action-packed Bollywood films while also standing apart from the artistic works of Parallel Cinema. As Namrata Joshi points out:

“Kaul, Kumar Shahani and Basu Bhattacharya (whom Chatterjee assisted in Teesri Kasam in 1966) continued to remain Chatterjee’s creative comrades and friends, though he himself opted to embrace what has since been called the middle-of-the road cinema. He, along with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, became the torchbearer of light-hearted, entertaining, middle class family dramas that offered a parallel narrative to the mainstream Angry Young Man movies on the one hand and the radical, path-breaking, artistic and experimental concerns of the New Wave.”

Chatterjee didn’t just make warm touching movies. He also directed Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986), a powerful hard-hitting Indian adaptation of 12 Angry Men, and also Kamla ki Maut (1989), a film ahead of its time in dealing with issues of pre-marital sex rarely seen on Indian screens in the 1980s.

Note: Kamla ki Maut has a stellar cast with Pankaj Kapur, Supriya Pathak, Rupa Ganguly and was also one of the earlier films that Irrfan Khan acted in.

I have fond memories of seeing almost all of Basu Chatterjee’s movies but here are just a few of my favourite Basu Chatterjee movies (in no particular order):

Chhoti Se Baat (A Small Matter, 1976)
Kirayadar (Renter, 1979)
Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (A Pending Decision, 1986)
Pasand Apni Apni (1983)
Kamla Ki Maut (Kamla’s Death, 1989)
Lakhon Ki Baat (Talk of Millions, 1984)
Khatta Meetha (Sweet and Sour, 1978)
Shaukeen (1982)
Chameli Ki Shaadi (Chameli’s Wedding, 1986)
Do Ladke Dono Kadke (1979)

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