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Chitrakar – An Aesthetic Masterpiece

When you have almost given up expectancy from Bengali movies and left it to rest in peace at the 21st Century Bengali cultural crematorium, an aesthetic masterpiece like Chitrakar by Saibal Mitra wakes you up. I had the fortune of seeing this movie at a British net platform last week. The first question that comes to mind is why didn’t this unique work (2016) get a normal theatrical release? With the appalling present cultural milieu of Bengal, the answer is obvious. Only those close to the ruling party or licking their boots hold the helm of culture. An independent filmmaker stands nowhere even with his quality work. Excellence is the greatest enemy of those sub-mediocrities that control the Bengali cultural scenario.
The story is about a blind artist Bijon Bose excellently portrayed by Dhritiman Chatterji. His vivid portrayal of the artist’s conflict between art and commerce brings out the conflict of all creative people of this era. Which is prime? Quality of creation or its marketability? Personally, being an author, I had been in this dilemma. Finally, I opted for creativity foregoing the temporary lure of money and fame.
Bijon Bose had been hooked in by an art gallery owner (Debdut Ghosh) to draw a mural for an exclusive restaurant in Kolkata frequented by non-connoisseurs of art for which he was paid handsomely. A budding artist Tithi (Arpita Chatterjee) was sent to assist him with his work holding her works at ransom. Bijon Bose had spent substantial portion of his life inspiring students by bringing stories to life through his paintings and idealism. When he is confronted with this strong-minded young painter Tithi, he is thrown into a maelstrom to look inwards. His creative eye delves deeper than the performance of his eyesight. The relationship between Tithi and him unfolds during the creation of the mural. Tithi’s realism plagues him as the duo progress with the creation. His inner eye struggles with his obligation towards artistic integrity and the revenue he is paid for this work.
Handling of this blind painter’s role by Dhritiman Chatterji was par excellent. In addition to portraying the inner conflicts of the character, his detailing of the blind artist deserves accolade. Arpita Chatterjee has acted equally well beside the legendary actor.  Arun Mukherjee, Debdut Ghosh and Subhrojit Dutta played their roles with equal conviction in the slot allotted to them. The music by Tejendra Narayan Mazumdar is commendable. The use of background score subtly enhances the aesthetics of the movie. Cinematography by Ashok Dasgupta and editing by Sumit Ghosh lives up to the standard.
The main credit goes to the director of the film Saibal Mitra. As he confessed before the premiere, his childhood at Santiniketan had been the essence of his philosophy of making this film. Art or commerce? Populism isn’t always quality. As bestseller isn’t the best book written, the quality of a creation can never be judged by its market value. I recall a conversation with the eminent film director Mrinal Sen. I asked him “Why do people invest on you despite your movies failing miserably at the box office?” He replied, “For the fame of international awards” Mrinal Sen, Rittwick Ghatak, Satyajit Ray might be gone but we have the next gen with equally quality works. Mrinal Sen might have been lucky to get producers, but directors like Saibal Mitra along with a few others are not always that lucky to procure a producer who understands the value of quality and ready to give priority to it over commerce.
Isn’t it high time for some government initiative to help these directors to deliver their quality work? They mightn’t always be a ‘yes man’. Creativity is beyond the realm of appeasing. If that mindset ensues, can the Bengali culture flourish or else it would be dead, chanting the mantra of the past whilst the culture burns in the pyre.