Aparna Sen

Born in Calcutta, the daughter of the renowned film historian, critic, and filmmaker, Chidananda Das Gupta, Aparna Sen made her directorial debut with an English film, 36 Chowringhee Lane, which she also wrote. The film won The Grand Prix at the Manila International Film Festival and the National Award for Best Direction in India. Her other works include memorable films such as Sati, Parama, and Yuganta.

Sen is also one of India's finest actresses and has won several awards for acting. She has also served on many juries at international film festivals including the Moscow International Film Festival and the Hawaii International Film Festival. She was honoured with the Padmashree Award by the President of India and the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award.

Notable films:

36 Chowringhee Lane - 1981 - English

Violet Stoneham is an elderly schoolteacher whose life consists of a series of little routines: her walk in the park, church on Sundays, feeding her beloved cat, Sir Toby, visiting her brother in an old-age home and teaching Shakespeare to generations of uninterested students.

When a new principal takes over, Violet is relegated to drilling younger students in the elements of English grammar.

Her bewilderment and grief leave her especially vulnerable on Christmas Eve as she walks back from the church. A chance meeting with a former student and her boyfriend cheers Violet.

She feels she has found true friends at last. But the young couple is simply looking for a place to be alone. Miss Stoneham's apartment seems ideal.

Direction & Screenplay: Aparna Sen
Cast: Jennifer Kendall, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Debashree Roy, Geoffrey Kendall, Soni Razdan
Cinematography: Ashok Mehta
Music: Vanraj Bhatia

Paroma - 1985 - Bengali / Hindi

Aparna Sen followed up her directorial debt, 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) with this story about a 40-year-old married woman, Paroma who falls in love with Rahul, an expatriate photo-journalist working for glossy magazines who photographs her making her look glamorous. Their affair, and the invasion of the glamour machine into her life, becomes a problem when some of the photographs, earlier admired by the family, are published in a journal. Paroma is rejected by her husband and has a mental breakdown. In the end, a doctor suggests prescribing psychiatric treatment and when Paroma adamantly refuses any sense of guilt, her young daughter comes and gives her mother moral support. The film is notable mainly for its emancipatory thrust, undermined by a class-inflected sense of nostalgia for 'belonging', rather than for its cinematic qualities which are akin to the kitschy style of glossy consumer magazines.

Direction & Screenplay: Aparna Sen
Cast: Rakhee, Sandhya Rani Chatterjee, Aparna Sen, Mukul Sharma, Anil Chatterjee
Cinematography: Ashok Mehta
Music: Bhaskar Chandavarkar

Sati - 1989 - Bengali

This film is set in the early nineteenth century; right before the practice of the Hindu custom called Sati (wife sacrificing herself on her dead husband's funeral pyre) was outlawed.

Uma is a mute orphaned woman considered unfit for marriage by an orthodox Brahmin society. She is compelled to marry a banyan tree because of a faulty astrological chart. The title Sati is symbolic of the fate of a mute orphan married off to a tree.

Direction & Screenplay: Aparna Sen
Cast: Shabana Azmi, Kali Bannerjee, Pradeep Mukherjee
Cinematography: Ashok Mehta
Music: Chidananda Das Gupta

Yuganta - 1995 - Bengali
(What the Sea Said)

Yuganta shows how the disintegration of the marital relationship is part of a greater disintegration of ecology and values all around us.

Revolving around an unhappy couple, the film has the husband, an advertising agency director, and the wife, a classical dancer, return to the fishing village where they spent their honeymoon seventeen years ago. While their past life is shown in a series of flash-backs, the sea polluted by conspicuous consumerism, symbolizes the current state of their relationship.

Direction & Screenplay: Aparna Sen
Cast: Anjan Dutta, Rupa Ganguly, Pallavi Chatterjee, Kunal Mitra
Cinematography: Shashikant
Music: Jyotishka Dasgupta

Paromitar Ek Din - 2000 - Bengali
(House of Memories)

Young Paromita was married into a traditional Bengali family in north Calcutta. After marriage she discovers she does not have much in common with her husband Biresh. In fact, Biresh's drinking habits and his ways are unacceptable to her.

Paromita, however, develops a special bond with her mother-in-law, Sonaka, and becomes attached to Khuku, her retarded sister-in-law.

Paromita's tragedy seems to multiply with the birth of a spastic child, Bablu. Biresh finds this difficult to accept and becomes even more irritable with Paromita, but mom-in-law Sonaka consoles her in her grief.

When Bablu dies, the thin bond between Paromita and her husband snaps. Biresh had already begun visiting another woman and Paromita finds herself taking a liking for Semiran, a filmmaker she had met at the spastics society.

Direction & Screenplay: Aparna Sen
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Aparna Sen, Rituparna Sengupta, Sohini Haldar
Cinematography: Abhik Mukopadhyay

Mr.&Mrs.Iyer - 2003 - English

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer is Aparna Sen's second English-language film, which was written in the months following September 11 and six months before the riots in Gujarat.

Meenakshi, a young Tamil Brahmin with a young child, and Raja, a Muslim & freelance photographer are travelling together in a bus. On their way the bus is stopped by a group of Hindu extremists, who want to take revenge on Muslims, who had burned down one of their villages.

Despite her religious reservations, Meenakshi saves Raja's life from the extremists by addressing him as Mr. Iyer. The violence and horror they witness bring them closer and they soon discover a mutual attraction.

Direction & Screenplay: Aparna Sen
Cast: Rahul Bose, Konkana Sen Sarma
Cinematograpgy: Goutam Ghosh
Music: Zakir Hussain

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