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Upperstall Profile



Memorable films

Biplab Roy Choudhury

 

Upperstall profile by: Shoma A Chatterji

Biplab Roy Choudhury is perhaps one of the few filmmakers in Bengal who ventured out to make more films in Oriya than in his mother tongue Bengali. He also made several very good Hindi films. The awards he won for his films are relatively high considering his entire oeuvre in cinema as filmmaker. However, by nature and personality, he was ill-equipped to function within the glamorous networking a filmmaker's profile demands. He was low-profile to a fault and remained almost 'invisible' in a filmy crowd unless someone recognized him and approached him.

Born on October 6, 1942, he dropped out of medical education to step into his passion - films. He began as assistant director under the guidance of the then-famous editor and director Ardhendu Chatterjee. After having worked as assistant editor in around 20 feature films, he became an independent editor, scriptwriter and director of films in three different Indian languages in 1968. Over his directorial career, he has left behind some prized films that should remain archived in the history of Indian cinema. His first directorial film, Barna Bibarna (1975), in Bengali, is sadly lost to time and memory.

Over his three-decade career that was slowly panning away towards the end, he made around 14-15 short films and documentaries and approximately ten feature films in Bengali, Oriya (now spelt Odia) and Hindi. Sadly, most of his documentaries seem to have been lost to time. He was also Head of the Department of Direction at the Satyajit Ray Films Films and Television Institute almost from its inception and later headed the Editing department, a position that he held till 2003. He was appointed member of the Biju Patnaik Film and Television Institute, Cuttack, Government of Orissa (Odisha). In 1989, he was invited by the Government of the Unites States for his overall work in the world of cinema to visit important film studios, laboratories, universities, video production centers, film schools and film personalities. He was also on the Board of Directors of Kalinga Studios Limited, Government of Orissa for more than a decade.

These official designations apart, Roy Choudhury will be remembered for the distinguishing elements of his feature films that made him stand apart from the riff-raff. He chose, and often wrote stories with great care and with challenging issues and subjects that had never been explored before in Indian cinema. He chose a very challenging piece of literature for his film Shodh (Hindi) adapted from Sunil Gangopadhyay's Garam Bhat O Nichhok Bhooter Golpo. The film bagged two National Awards in 1980 - for the Best Feature Film and for the Best Cinematography by Rajan Kinagi. In Aranye Rodana (1992), a journalist arrives in a remote rural place in Orissa to investigate the rape and subsequent murder of a tribal woman by a policeman. She adopts the child of the dead woman and starts getting involved with the tribals' lives leading to problems in her personal life with her husband. It won the National Award for the Best Oriya Feature Film.

Ashok Palit in Odisha: New wave in Odia cinema (August 18, 2012) writes,"In the 70s, it was Biplab Roy Choudhury who freed himself from the traditional boundary and made a film called Chilika Teerey on the lifestyle of the fisher folk community of Chilika. This film raised incisive questions about corruption and exploitation in Odia society but despite the significance of its subject and its superb camera work, it was clearly made with the box office in mind, an interest that dilutes the serious intent of the work. Biplab Roy Choudhury next two films Aranya Rodana and Nirbachana contribute significantly to the world of parallel cinema. Nirbachana is stunningly controlled and uniquely cinematic metaphor of rural India an impending environmental catastrophe shows with compassion and satire." Nirbachana (1994) won the National Award for the Best Feature Film on Environment.

Yeh Kahani Nahin (1984) narrated yet another story of how an exploitative businessman filled with caste prejudice is shocked when he discovers whose heart he has received and is keeping him alive when he needs a heart transplant. In a melodramatic rendering of live, death, and the Indian caste system, an arrogant high-caste businessman is a confirmed bigot who vents his hatred as a member of an immoral secret society founded on caste prejudices. One day the businessman finds himself in need of a heart transplant or he will not live long. After a heart becomes available and the surgery is completed, he has the shock of his life when he learns whose heart is now keeping him alive. Spandan narrated the shocking story of a poverty-stricken family, one of the countless fringe dwellers in India's slums. A man tries to earn some money by selling aborted fetuses to medical institutes. Vijay Tendulkar wrote the script of this film. Amol Palekar played the protagonist with Anita Kanwar and Aparna Sen co-starring.

Roy Choudhury's oeuvre of feature films spans Chilika Teerey (1977), Shodh (1979), Maha Prithibi (1981), Spandan (1982), Ashray, (1983), Yeh Kahani Nahin, Aranye Rodana and Nirbachana. In 1995, he made an eight-part documentary on Maa Anandamoyee. His first short film, Latent (1970), won the President's Gold Medal for the Best Social Documentation Film while another documentary The Whispering Wind (1985) won the National Award for the Best Anthropological and Ethnographic film.

Biplab Roy Choudhury passed away due to severe medical complications in Kolkata on August 14, 2012.


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