It pains me to see how Tapan Sinha is almost forgotten, says author Amitava Nag 

The author of 'The Cinema of Tapan Sinha: An Introduction' speaks about his research and findings on the work of the director. 

Published: 07th November 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th November 2021 04:07 PM   |  A+A-

Amitava Nag

Express News Service

Amitava Nag’s book on Tapan Sinha aims to remind viewers who have watched and enjoyed his work about the multi-talented director who straddled commercial and artistic fields simultaneously in most of his films. Written in an easy, lucid manner, the book starts with the director’s childhood days and tracks influences that would colour his work throughout his career. Sinha was versatile as his films never sacrificed the artistic for the commercial; he seldom played to the gallery but managed to engross every strata of viewer with his themes and the way he handled the stories and the filming. An added jewel in many of his films was the music he composed for them.

Tagore, literature and life were his main inspirations, and the range of his creations includes all these and goes beyond to seek out children as his audience. He can be counted as one of the few filmmakers who was never bound by a genre, made films in Bangla and  Hindi, and also for children. Nag’s motif through the book is the regret he feels over the fact that Sinha is largely ignored and forgotten by the very audiences he entertained over decades. The author of 'The Cinema of Tapan Sinha: An Introduction' speaks about his research and findings on the work of the director. 

The Cinema of Tapan Sinha: 
An Introduction
By: Amitava Nag
Publisher: Om Books International
Pages:  208
Price: Rs 395

Edited excerpts:

What made you write the title as ‘An introduction’. Do you think it was necessary to introduce the work of the director to readers?

Absolutely. Tapan Sinha is a very underrated director of Indian cinema. His positioning is unique not only in the context of Bengali cinema but also Indian cinema as such. Interestingly, his films even now have been revered and liked by the common, educated, middle class. Somehow since the late ’60s his films have fallen out of favour with the intellectual film critics. What they failed to realise was that Tapan’s aim was to entertain the audience intelligently and yet return money to the investors. When he got the chance he could make films like Ek Doctor ki Maut and Aadmi aur Aurat as well. 
It pains me to see how he is almost forgotten, never discussed in any sort of serious discussion on Indian cinema. Maybe, this book is an attempt to address that.

Any plan for an in-depth follow-up on his work?

I would love to do so. An in-depth analysis of film-making definitely is required—not only on his films but also many others as well. However, I doubt we will have many takers in a culture that thrives on hagiographies.

The book is a fast read. But would a little more detail on his most notable films have not been desirable?

I think I was keen to show the multi-faceted genius that he was. He was not obsessed with one style or form or theme. That is why he could make children’s films along with socially relevant ones and the ones on classical literature. I wanted to show the sweep, not individual peaks. Maybe, as you asked, a subsequent title can address those in the minutest details.

Was it difficult to find material for reference on Tapan Sinha. Is this the first book in English on his work? 

This is the first book on him in English. There are a couple or so memoirs of him which I relied upon and another one by Mr Abesh Das which is a very sincere attempt at understanding his films. I also looked up a few special film society magazine issues—all commemorative ones after he passed away. If they would have done something similar while he was alive, that would have been worthwhile.

You seem to have a sorry opinion on what you call the ‘film society crowd’. Why?

The Film Society movement was a great initiative at a time when film appreciation as a vocation was naive. Come what may we need to give that credit always to the film societies and their members. Unlike today, when one gets a chance to watch any film worldwide, at that time, non-Hollywood foreign films were rare. The Film Societies did quench that thirst of the enthusiast.  

However, slowly since the late ’60s and ’70s I think there was a slide in the philosophy of many, though not all, film societies. In the process the local filmmaker more often than not got sidelined repeatedly. For Tapan Sinha it is a bit strange because his films did travel outside of India a number of times—a yardstick which is, till today, used to measure how important a filmmaker is. Yet, he was bracketed with others whose films rarely had that opportunity to travel to festivals. 

To top it all, Tapan Sinha was not in favour of Marxism as a political belief. In a number of films, including Galpo Holeo Sotyi, Sagina Mahato and his Calcutta Trilogy, he made his political stance very clear. Leftist ideology was the preferred one amongst the educated Bengali middle class at that time. I think the animosity towards Tapan Sinha was less due to his cinema but more due his political beliefs as depicted in his films.

Tapan Sinha remains unsung, despite awards and inspiring filmmakers like Gulzar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, and even Bimal Roy. How do you explain this in your book?

I think he remained essentially a Bengali filmmaker, making films for the Bengali audience and living in Bengal. He was in New Theatres when Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and others left Calcutta for Bombay. He was not one of them. His idea was very clear—he wanted to make films in a language he was comfortable with. Later on he did make a few films in Hindi, mostly remakes of his own apart from the ones for children.  

I think he had to pay the price for not moving to the centre but preferring to remain in the fringes. But why regret… that was his own conscious decision. However, what is actually unfortunate is the fact that he has been mostly forgotten by the same community for whom he dedicated his whole life in a creative pursuit.


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