‘Buddhadeb Dasgupta's poetry had an unusual blend of passion and protest’
Times of India, 11 June 2021
Kolkata: Some were happy to get addicted to his visual aesthetics that transported them to a whole new world. Others loved how the silence in his cinema spoke volumes. Still others fell in love with the lyrical qualities of his movies. And for all of them, Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s demise will leave a void which will never be filled.
Poet Srijato saw his “poetry as very cinematic and his cinema as very poetic”. “His poetry had an unusual blend of passion with protest, romance with revolution. By using brevity and distinct imagery, he created a private world of words and images,” he said. Author Subodh Sarkar described him as the first “post-modern Bengali poet”. “Nobody before him in Bengal could think of writing a poem imagining the computer as his ladylove. His excellence in poetry was overshadowed by his fame as a filmmaker,” Sarkar said.
Often his poetic sensibility spilled over to his film’s dialogues. In ‘Swapner Din’, he wrote a line to define love as an emotion akin to “Mon kemon kora (when the heart pines)”. Dasgupta’s eye would twinkle every time this dialogue was referred to one of finest and shortest definitions of love in the history of Indian cinema. Chatterjee, who was part of the scene along with Rimi Sen where this dialogue was used, has fond memories too. Describing him as a “shining star in the world of world cinema”, Chatterjee said, “It was a blessing for me to have worked with him in two films – ‘Swapner Din’ and ‘Ami, Yasin Ar Amar Madhubala’.”
Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury described him as an “uncompromising artist, poet, philosopher and well-wisher. During my lows, he would always inspire me by saying the screen will talk on my behalf”. According to director Atanu Ghosh, “innocence, simplicity and artistic beauty” have been synonymous with his “creative expression” along with “distinguished originality in form and style”. "He was a poet of great calibre which had an indelible influence on his cinematic vision. His relentless concern for the growing isolation and alienation of humans contributed to numerous unforgettable moments which would remain etched in the history of world cinema," Ghosh said.
Giving a voice to the marginalized in a world that oscillated between being real, unreal and sometimes surreal was his hallmark. His cinema stood out because of his signature style of using visual poetry, his penchant for magic realism and an indomitable urge to explore socially relevant themes to create a world populated with marginalized characters and their audacious dreams. While society wasn’t too kind to them, Dasgupta’s cinematic vision was always empathetic towards the motley crowd that included the likes of a confused gumshoe (Nawazuddin Siddique in ‘Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa’), a man who dressed like a tiger to earn a living (Pavan Malhotra in ‘Bagh Bahadur’) or a car mechanic (Chandan Roy Sanyal in ‘Urojahaj’) who dreamt of flying an abandoned aircraft. Rituparna Sengupta, who played a sex worker in ‘Mondo Meyer Upakhyan’, described him as a “task master who was very picky and fussy as a director”. “His ways were very strict and rules were permanent. But at the end he got the best out of me,” Sengupta said.
Jaya Seal Ghosh insists that his ‘Uttara’ gave her the identity as an actor. “Prior to that, I had done one film with Joy Sengupta that was titled ‘Amrita’. The film was shown on Doordarshan. There was no theatrical release. I always say ‘Uttara’ is my first film.” Incidentally, she had accompanied Dasgupta to the Venice International Film Festival where he had received the Best Director’s award. “I have personally seen the respect he received abroad. At Pusan, ‘Uttara’ was the opening film. Everyone considered him to be a guru. I was awe-struck to see the way he analyzed his work and answered questions about the film in front of the international media,” she remembered.
A file photograph of Buddhadeb Dasgupta with Tapas Paul and Jaya Seal Ghosh before the screening of 'Uttara' at Venice International Film Festival
After ‘Uttara’, Jaya went on to work in two of his adaptations of Tagore’s stories. “One was ‘Banshiwala’ and the other was ‘Hothat Dyakha’,” she added. Recently, she made a special appearance in ‘Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa’. According to Jaya, Dasgupta’s choice of stories was unique. “The subjects he chose had an international appeal. His penchant for being so lyrical with his imagery on screen was breathtaking,” she said, underlining that she felt he had a capacity to help all his artists to bring out the essence of their on-screen characters. “I was a girl from Guwahati who was staying in Mumbai when this character was offered to me. Even today I wonder how he had transformed me to play Uttara so convincingly. I will forever grateful to him for believing in me. He is the last of the great filmmakers of India. Personally, I will always miss him. His masterpieces will stay on with us as a treasure.”