Sharmila Tagore Recalls the Cinema of Tapan Sinha and the Golden Era of Bengali Films

Shantanu Amitava Sharmila Tagore
(L to R) Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, Amitava Nag and Sharmila Tagore at the Discussion on Tapan Sinha and the golden era of Bengali Cinema at Kunzum, GK-2, New Delhi

Legendary actor Sharmila Tagore recalled her experiences of working with filmmaker Tapan Sinha at a discussion with author and Silhouette editor Amitava Nag and editor Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri

Legendary actor Sharmila Tagore recalled her experiences of working with master filmmaker Tapan Sinha, whom she fondly addressed as ‘Tapan Kaku’ and her costars of Bengali cinema, at a discussion with author and Silhouette editor Amitava Nag and editor Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri today at an evening dedicated to celebrating the cinema of Tapan Sinha and the golden era of Bengali cinema.

The event was organised jointly by Om Books International, Kunzum Books, Blue Pencil and New Delhi Film Foundation at Kunzum, GK-2, New Delhi. A commemorative poster on Tapan Sinha was released on the occasion and Nirjan Saikate, the Tapan Sinha masterpiece starring Sharmila Tagore was screened.

Sharmila Tagore Tapan Sinha poster release
(L to R) Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, Amitava Nag, Sharmila Tagore, Ashish K Singh (New Delhi Film Foundation) and Antara Nanda Mondal (Blue Pencil) releasing a commemorative poster of Tapan Sinha

Tapan Sinha was a very learned person, recalled Sharmila Tagore, “very soft spoken, you had to strain your ears to hear him.” Elaborating that Sinha was highly respected for his work across the film industry, Sharmila Tagore mentioned it is not easy to convince someone like Dilip Kumar to go and work in a Bengali-Hindi bilingual film (Sagina Mahato). “He never got angry or raised his voice,” she said.

Sharmila Tagore recalled how Tapan Sinha’s films celebrated humanism and relationships. Giving the example of Nirjan Saikate, Sharmila Tagore said that in this film Sinha shows how the 4 Bengali widows, who have been deprived from all joys of living, suddenly experience liberation when they meet the sea. Amitava Nag added that although it is said no two films of Tapan Sinha are same, the common thread that runs through all of them is the celebration of the human spirit – the refusal of the protagonist to die defeated such as Banchharam (Manoj Mitra) in Banchharamer Bagan and the teacher (Soumitra Chatterjee) in Aatanka.

tapan sinha poster
The poster, courtesy NDFF, released on the occasion

Sharmila Tagore also recalled her fond memories of working with Soumitra Chatterjee, Shubhendu Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh among others. Films nowadays are not made the way they were made then, money is the benchmark now, she said.

Recalling Soumitra’s portrayal of Mayurbahan in Jhinder Bandi, Shantanu talked about how Soumitra could get under the skin of the character to leave an indelible mark. Sharmila Tagore added that Soumitra would slide into the character when he would start applying the makeup for the shoot. “He always supported me and stood up for me whenever there was any criticism against me,” she said.

Sharmila Tagore and Amitava emphasized that Tapan Sinha, like Ray, was a director who was structured and organized in the way he worked on his projects, keeping within budget and paying his crew in time.

Blue Pencil’s books on cinema and other genres were displayed at the event by Kunzum books.

Watch this space for more reports on the event.

Amitava Shantanu Partho
Amitava Nag with Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri and Partho Mondal posing for the camera with The Cinema of Mrinal Sen: A Quest for the Unresolved, the newly released Blue Pencil publication
Blue Pencil books on display at the event
Blue Pencil books on display at the event


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More Must Read on Silhouette

Tapan Sinha and the Triumvirate of Bengali Cinema

Never Have I Made the Same Kind of Film: An Interview With Tapan Sinha (Part-I)

I’d Never Allow My Mind To Gather The Moss Of Stagnation: An Interview With Tapan Sinha (Part-II)

I Cherish A Thrill For Adventure: An Interview With Tapan Sinha (Part-III)

I Am A Worshipper Of All Things Beautiful: An Interview With Tapan Sinha (Part-IV)

Sharmila Tagore to Speak on Tapan Sinha and Bengali Films

Shamrila Tagore

It is the centenary year of renowned filmmaker Tapan Sinha, “an underrated and often-neglected auteur”, and it is time to revisit his films and their indelible impact. Om Books International, Blue Pencil, Kunzum Books , and New Delhi Film Foundation, have joined hands to host an enlightening evening with legendary actress Sharmila Tagore, who will be discussing the films of Tapan Sinha and the golden era of Bengali cinema with author and film critic Amitava Nag and noted editor Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri. The event will be held in Kunzum, M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-2, New Delhi on 13th March 2024 at 4 pm.

Amitava Nag’s The Cinema of Tapan Sinha, An Introduction book provides a succinct introduction to the cinema of Tapan Sinha and the significant place he holds in Bengali and, indeed, Indian cinema. With characteristic erudition, Nag explores Sinha’s deep roots in the Bengali cultural climate, mainly music and literature, and how they shaped his cinematic storytelling. Read an excerpt from a chapter in the book on Silhouette.

Sharmila Tagore worked with Tapan Sinha in the master’s award-winning film Nirjan Saikate, which will be screened on the occasion.

If one were to wonder what makes cine maestro Tapan Sinha’s films a cut above the rest, it is their sheer simplicity and innocuous manner of storytelling – a straight, uncomplicated narrative structure that slowly grows on you, excellent use of background score that create moods and an unobtrusive technique that stays carefully away from over-dramatisation, relying instead on subtle symbols and immaculate characterisation. His films not only received both critical and popular acclaim, they did well financially and went on to inspire other filmmakers.

Sinha largely drew his story ideas from celebrated literary works or real-life incidents, which is why his characters were so very identifiable. They reacted to situations as any of us would and yet went on to meet challenges in a way that set inspiring examples for others.

Amitava Nag’s books on cinema have chronicled, critiqued and curated various aspects of Bengali cinema. His trilogy on Soumitra Chatterjee comprising Beyond Apu – 20 Favourite Film Roles of Soumitra Chatterjee (HarperCollins India), Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee (Blue Pencil) and Soumitra Chatterjee: His Life in Cinema and Beyond (Speaking Tiger) gives cine lovers rare and deep insights into the life, works and thought processes of the iconic actor. One of his latest books is The Cinema of Mrinal Sen: A Quest for the Unresolved (Blue Pencil).

Amitava Nag has authored several other books on cinema and poetry. Visit his author site here.

Sharmila Tagore on Tapan Sinha & Bengali Cinema Icons | With Amitava Nag & Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri

From the Archives: Sharmila Tagore Remembers Soumitra Chatterjee with Catherine Berge and Amitava Nag – A Blue Pencil Presentation

Read more about Tapan Sinha

Never Have I Made the Same Kind of Film: An Interview With Tapan Sinha (Part-I)

Saluting Indomitable Human Spirit: Tribute to Tapan Sinha

Modes of Storytelling: Tapan Sinha’s Kshudita Pashan (1961)