Aparna Sen with Mrinal Sen and (left) Ashok Mitra at the lecture. (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya)
The glorious past of the Calcutta Film Society and the challenges ahead in bringing back those days were in focus at the first Chidananda Dasgupta Memorial Lecture at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Golpark, on Friday.
“Today, a film society is not of much use. Nobody goes to a film society to watch films anymore. Why would they? After all, one can now watch world cinema in the comfort of his home on DVD. Plus, there are film festivals throughout the year. But few know that Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak were born at the Calcutta Film Society,” said Mrinal Sen at the lecture.
The event was part of an initiative to revive the society, which had been started by Dasgupta, Satyajit Ray and others in 1947.
“The Calcutta Film Society held regular discussions and seminars then. The whole idea was to watch films over a cup of tea with fellow film-makers,” said the veteran film-maker and the chairman of the society’s advisory committee. “I am proud to be associated with the society.”
“There are many difficulties of running a film society, funds being the most important. But we have surpassed many hurdles,” said Pradipta Shankar Sen, the working president of the society.
“Chidanandababu had tried to revive the society in 2007. He urged us to hold more seminars, conduct workshops and make small documentaries. October 5 is the birthday of the society and on this occasion I’d like to say that we would carry the legacy forward,” added Pradipta Shankar.
The society has brought out publications, organised seminars on the future of Bengali films and holds films shows every Saturday. The membership fee is Rs 100 a year.
Aparna Sen, Dasgupta’s daughter, said: “We are planning many more lectures. Next year, Shyam (Benegal) will be here for a lecture. We are also planning to bring Adoor (Gopalakrishnan) or maybe Anurag Kashyap.”
Economist Ashok Mitra, who delivered the lecture, spoke about the golden era of Bengali films. “I don’t like the films being made now. The film society back then was a matter of pride,” he said.
“Chidananda Dasgupta was an educated man and worked for the Imperial Tobacco Company. He could have led a different life. But he wanted to bring new thinking into cinema.”
Mitra added: “Had there been no Calcutta Film Society, our films would not have reached the world. Though discussions regarding films every evening at the society great thoughts in cinema emerged. Through these evening discussions, Pather Panchali was born. Chidananda Dasgupta continued his work with the film society. At age 90, he wrote to a lot of people. He urged them to think of a way to revive the society. He never gave up.”