Just the other day A was telling me that we in
For many of us who had been exposed to and in fact got to study the New Wave cinema movement, Benegal is said to be the most likely successor to Satyajit Ray and also a pioneer of the ‘middle cinema’. I do not agree with either assessment. Benegal’s early films were primarily rural and wholly political. Who can forget Ankur, Nishant and Manthan?
My favourite Benegal films, though, are Bhumika and Mammo, the former based on the life of a Marathi film actress. How deliciously he recreated the era and all the characters that dotted the turbulent life of Hansa Wadkar.
Mammo dealt with the Indo-Pak conflict through the emotional prism of its protagonist when she makes the journey from
That has been Benegal. A strong political undercurrent running through most of his work but conveyed with sensitivity. Many have not liked
The films he directed for Shashi Kapoor were again a departure from what one might expect, but only just. Junoon had the backdrop the 1857 revolt; Kalyug transposed the Mahabharata to the contemporary environment.
Suraj Ka Saatwaan Ghoda, Mandi, Trikaal all had their moments. Personally I feel he was out of his depth with Sardari Begum and most certainly Zubeida.
Shabana Azmi wasn’t the best thing Benegal discovered. It was Smita Patil, starting with a small part in Nishant and going on to reveal her wonderful combination of smouldering sensuality and vulnerability in Manthan, Bhumika and Mandi.
His biopics include those on Satyajit Ray, Nehru and Bose, but I particularly liked The Making of the Mahatma.
What I would love to see from Benegal now is a story on the absurd political and social climate of Uttar Pradesh and the hype that comes with the baggage of the Amar Singh-Bachchan clique.