RANJAN DAS GUPTA
Tapan Sinha gets his due, at last.
Director Tapan Sinha has been conferred the coveted Dadasaheb Phalke Award at last. Though his name was recommended a number of times earlier, the recognition has come only now. The octogenarian, now in frail health, says he is happy but not overwhelmed by this belated recognition.
Says Tapan Sinha, “I left film making after ‘Ajab Gayer Ajab Katha’ about a decade ago. My health was deteriorating and I was unable to compromise with the dipping standards of Bengali cinema. Even the present-day films create no impact on the audience. They are either slick or cheap potboilers. The present directors have no respect for their viewers. Not a single director today has the ability of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Rajen Tarafdar or Ajay Kar.”
The director whose versatility is well visible in films like ‘Kabuliwala,’ ‘Atithi,’ ‘Hate Bazare’ and ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’ is nationally renowned for respecting his audience. Says Rituparno Ghosh, “Take any film of Tapan Sinha of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or 80’s. Each film is deep rooted in social concerns, narrated simply yet effectively by brilliant scripts, music and performances.”
Tapan Sinha elaborates, “I have been greatly influenced by Rabindranath Tagore. So I made three films on his masterpieces, ‘Kabuliwala,’ ‘Atithi’ and ‘Khudito Pashan’. For the last one Satyajit Ray personally sketched the Fatehpur Sikri fort to give a rich dimension to my script. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan composed fabulous tunes which matched the Tagore gharana so well.
“For the shooting of ‘Hate Bazare’, Ashok Kumar and Vyjayantimala literally got into the skins of their characters. Similarly Tanuja was so inspired that she gave one of her most subtle performances in ‘Adalat O Ekti Meye.’ I thoroughly enjoyed working with truly gifted actors like Pankaj Kapoor, Shabana Azmi and Jaya Bachchan in ‘Ek Doctor Ki Maut’ and ‘Daughters of the Century’. I equally enjoyed working with Uttam Kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhavi Mukherjee and Chabi Biswas.”
Perhaps the greatest challenge for Tapan Sinha was to direct Dilip Kumar in ‘Sagina Mahato’ in 1972. Dilip Kumar always says, “Tapan virtually brought out an unknown aspect of me as an actor in this film.”
Music played a very important role in each of his films.
Actors like Shubendhu Chatterjee, Ajitesh Banerjee, Sharmila Tagore and Dipankar Dey some of their best performances under the direction of Tapan Sinha. Says Sharmila Tagore, “Tapanda is very specific about what he wants from his actors. He moves in the line of his script and does not improvise on the sets.” Shabana Azmi says, “’In Ek Doctor Ki Maut’, Tapanda’s observation was accurate. He never allowed me to go over board.”
Tapan Sinha’s main inspiration was his wife Arundhuti Sinha. He sighs, “I am like a ship without an anchor in the absence of Arundhuti. She was a true human being and a powerful actress.”
Mrinal Sen says, “It is a tragedy that a film maker of Tapan’s calibre has been recognised so late. I cried while watching his ‘Khaniker Atithi’ which I consider his best film.” Actor Soumitra Chatterjee also thinks along the same lines.