Mrinal Sen turns 90, says he has not yet retired Nikhil Agarwal
Far from calling it quits, legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen on his 90th birthday today said that he might just come up with another new film.
"Everyday I feel like making a new film. Ideas pop up out of my head. Let's see when I can act on them," Sen, who along with Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak changed the profile of Indian cinema in the eyes of the world, said.
Starring actress Nandita Das, his last film "Aamaar Bhuvan" (This, My Land) was released in 2002. "I haven't so far made any more films. But, to assure you, I do not think that I have retired," he told PTI in an interview here.
With his films full of direct political statement, social analysis and psychological drama, the Left-leaning director is regarded as a pioneer of the alternative cinema movement in India and is often compared with his contemporary Satyajit Ray.
Besides bagging four National Film Awards as the best director for works like "Khandhar" (1984) and "Bhuvan Shome" (1969), he was also awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in filmmaking, in 2005.
Recently he got a call from a leading private bank offering him money to make films. "Money is not a problem for me. The bank said we can fund projects worth upwards of Rs 5 crore.
I told them I can make six films with Rs 5 crore," Sen said. When asked about his birthday party plans, the nonagenarian said he doesn't celebrate birthdays. "Birth or death, it is not my business to celebrate. My friends and relatives and others who think of me are there to celebrate if they will. Not me," Sen said.
One thing which seems to disturb him in his old age is the poor health of his film prints, many of which are regarded as classics today. "Most of them are in a pretty bad condition. All because of an unfriendly climate and, of course, for unhealthy storage," the maestro said.
Under the monitoring of the National Film Archives of India in Pune, private labs in Mumbai are now working on digitalizing and restoring two of his films - "Antareen" (The Confined) and "Ek Din Pratidin" (And Quite Rolls the Dawn).
"There are plenty of films, not only mine but others also, which need restoration. Considering the expenses involved in the restoration, I had suggested them to consider only 15 films of mine for restoration," Sen said. In 2010 when his film "Khandahar" (The Ruins) was invited for the Cannes festival, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had personally intervened to get the film print restored in time for the screening.
"I have now gathered that the central government had since then been going ahead with the restoration work for various other films including mine," the director said. Having started his career as a director with "Raat Bhor" in 1951, he went on to make 28 feature films and four documentaries in languages varying from Bengali to Oriya, Hindi and Telugu.
Made during the seventies, his trilogy on Kolkata, "Interview", "Calcutta 71" and "Padatik", is regarded as one of the most sensitive and realistic portrayal of the social, economic and political unrest of that period. The iconic director now lives with his wife Gita, a fine actress herself and who acted in many of her films including the Golden Bear winning "Akaler Sandhane", at a flat in south Kolkata while his only son Kunal works in Chicago.