Buddhadeb Dasgupta passed away on the morning of 10th June 2021, leaving the film world in India and across the globe bereft. Dada, as we fondly called him, was a gentle presence… much like his films and his poetry.
Strongly rooted in Bengali culture, politics and literature, he began life as a poet and went on to direct close to 20 films and numerous documentaries. Each of his films reflected a lyrical style and an idealist’s imagination, often with protagonists standing at odds with a practical world.
Any filmmaker from Bengal, works under the huge shadows of Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, but Dada stepped out to create a body of work that was marked by his imagination and technical finesse. Everybody who worked with him talks of his engagement with the development of visuals as the basic unit of a film. He was noted for an economy of expression, almost minimalistic. His work had immense beauty, difficult people in unsettling situations, and kept one balancing between the real, unreal and surreal. He often spoke against films that were manipulative but was himself the master manipulator of space and time.
He was a close friend of NETPAC. Two of his films had received NETPAC Awards: The Wrestlers, 2001, Brisbane International Film Festival and Tale of a Naughty Girl, 2003, Bangkok International Film Festival. The Festival of Asian Films at Vesoul had a Retrospective of his work in 2001. This was apart from innumerable awards from across the world, including the Silver Lion at Venice for The Wrestlers (2000) and a bagful of Indian National Awards.
He made his last film The Flight in 2018 under very trying circumstances, battling ill health. The film carries the signature of the poet and the protestor. The story of an ordinary man, dreaming of flying, but crushed by a system that pays no heed to dreams.
He came to the International Film Festival of Kerala with the film. He received a standing ovation after the screening. It was a fitting tribute to the master! But we didn’t know then, that it was farewell.
-- Bina Paul