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Prosenjit on Iti Mrinalini
Prosenjit at the Iti Mrinalini show at Fame South City. Pictures by Amit Datta

It was a weekday, Wednesday to be exact, when we went to watch Iti Mrinalini. The lights dimmed, the movie began, the huge tub of popcorn was passed around. But that was for the first few minutes. Beyond that, the tub remained on my lap as the film took over. The interval saw us sitting in silence. The conversation only started in the car on the way back home.

Sudeshna: Rinadi (Aparna) has put in some autobiographical elements, but it is not an out-and-out autobiography.

Prosenjit: It has elements of a time past. The Seventies remind me of my past.… the studios that my dad (Biswajit) worked in, the atmosphere back then, the way Aparna Sen dressed, the one-to-one interview sessions with journalists and the emergence of the modern actress Aparna Sen.

Abhijit: Yes, the girl from Presidency comes to tinsel town, despite her friends’ disregard for the director she is to work for.

Prosenjit: That is an attitude that still exists. It’s a challenge for Bengali commercial cinema to be accepted by the educated class. Iti Mrinalini, Paromitar Ekdin, Rinadi’s 36 Chowringhee Lane or Parama have all been films that are bold, that hit the audience and have been accepted by a huge number of people. I agree numbers are not the last word, but as Mrinalini says, if the film is not watched by your own people, then....

Sudeshna: That’s true. All of us want our films to be universally accepted, to be popular as well as be the critics’ choice. Iti Mrinalini has a taste of both worlds.

Director duo Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha

Prosenjit: It’s difficult to comment on the merits and demerits of an Aparna Sen film. She is an actress whom I have grown up admiring. And Konkona (Sensharma) is an actress we are all proud of. She is another Bengali who has put Bengal on the national and also the international map.

Abhijit: Konkona was really so very natural…

Sudeshna: It would be unfair just to talk about Konkona. The others were….

Prosenjit: Of course, the acting standard in a film by Rinadi is always high. She won’t let actors get off easily I’m sure, though I have not had the opportunity to work under her direction yet.... In Iti Mrinalini, besides Konkona, the two actors who need special mention are Koushik Sen as Chintan and the lady who played Kamala.

Sudeshna: Yes, her name is Senjuti Mukherjee. The children, that’s the three phases of Mrinalini’s daughter, were also incredibly good.

Aparna Sen in Iti Mrinalini

Abhijit: Why leave out the others! It’s the situation, the mood, the atmosphere, the set that got all of them to fit into their part. Rajat Kapoor’s acting was enhanced by Anjan Dutt’s dubbing, and Rajat looked the part to a T.

Prosenjit: Whatever you say, Aparna Sen on screen still holds the magic that we remember… the bold new actress who took the late Sixties and Seventies by storm. The lady who would smoke and do it so blatantly and yet portray all kinds of characters that the Bengali audience lapped up. The actress who fitted into all genres, and Konkona has played her so well. The Coffee House scene was so real, so natural.

Sudeshna: Yes. And with Mrinalini, an actress equally at ease in Bengali and English, the new generation had arrived. Aparna Sen has always been an idol, an icon.

Prosenjit: Yet, the icon too has her moments of truth, her loneliness, her unfulfilled desires, personal disasters that hurt. Under the successful woman lies the sensitive soul.

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