Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction
16 FRAMES is a collection of 16 essays on cinema by film critic Amitava Nag and published by Crossed Arrows, an imprint of Doshor Publications.
The essays in the book are not bound to any particular topic and are of varying lengths written over nearly two decades. The essays raise curiosity of the reader and also fascinate him/her by the originality of the subjects dealt with. Diverse in topics, the essays are a critical insight to cinema.
A brief introduction of some of the 16 essays:
1. From ‘Calcutta’ to ‘Kolkata’: The Journey of Bengali Cinema
This essay deals with the importance of Calcutta as an artefact in the early years of Bengali cinema as well as in the cinema of Ray-Sen-Ghatak and their contemporaries. From the 1980s, Bengali mainstream cinema lost its city focus. After the city changed its name there haven’t been significant examples of holding Kolkata as a backdrop the way several contemporary Hindi films have used Mumbai.
2. The Marwaris in Satyajit Ray’s Films: ‘Outsiders’ in Bengali Psyche
In Satyajit Ray’s Nayak we find matinee idol Arindam making fun of a film producer who has come with a hope of signing a contract for his forthcoming film with the superstar. In other Ray films including Abhijan and Joy Baba Felunath, there are important and significant Marwari negative characters. This fractured representation shows how for three centuries the Marwaris remained as ‘outsiders’ in Bengal amassing huge wealth and power but remaining in the fringes all along.
3. Ahead of Its Time: Rape of the Bengali Middle Class
Three films of Tapan Sinha – Adalat o Ekti Meye, Atanka and Antardhan dealt with the state of rapidly declining safety and security of women in the 1980s and 1990s in West Bengal. The state of lawlessness that loomed large over the state, as portrayed by Sinha in these films, ironically became a reality post 1990 with the infamous Bantala rape case. These films of Sinha were ahead of their times.
4. The Bengali Mother: Through Filmic Lenses
This essay looks at some of the significant mother figures of Bengali cinema – from Sarbajaya of Pather Panchali and Aparajito, the mother in Meghe Dhaka Tara, the mothers in Mrinal Sen’s films and also the mother as a competitor in Rituparno Ghosh’s Unishe April and Titli.
5. An Ode to the Cigarette in Indian Cinema
Smoking had been the on-screen representation of the male potency and chauvinism since the early films of all cultures. Apart from acting as an agency of power cigarette is also a companion in solitude, as a bonding between friends when they share a drag and a symbol of liberation for the radical woman.
6. From Devdas to Dev
One of the most enduring stories of Indian cinema, has been that of Devdas with numerous adaptations over the several decades in several languages. This essay looks at Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version and Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D and tries to understand the elements of adaptation that have been followed over the years and the points of departures.
7. Bistar Badal Jaate Hain… Par Aadmi Nahin Badalte: The ‘Heroine’ from Bhumika to Iti Mrinalini
Not only in the Western world, an interchanging position of the actress and the prostitute is observed in the early Indian culture and entertainment as well. Bhumika and Iti Mrinalini are two films that are separated by three decades, yet they share a similar thread – both look at the heroines’ frailties and insecurities and more so of the men around them.
8. An Indian Film Theory?
The aesthetics of cinema has been primarily developed and sharpened by the Western academician. To use these theories in understanding Indian cinema we have constantly stumbled. The need for an Indian film theory emerges from here.
The other essays in the book are –
· Crossing Borders with Cinema
· Iago versus Langda: Interpretation of the Shakespearean Villain
· The ‘Choice’ of the Filmic Woman
· Chaturanga: The Complex Tapestry
· The Colour of Aesthetics
· Of Father, Brothers and an Unholy Hunger: Looking at Kaaka Muttai and Sahaj Pather Gappo
· I’s Eyes: Exploring Use of Eyes in a Few Films of the Kolkata International Film Festival 2016
· Between Spirit and Bleakness: Village Rockstars and Manto
AMITAVA NAG is an independent film critic residing in Kolkata. He is one of the founder-members of the film magazine SILHOUETTE (www.silhouette-magazine.com) and is its current editor. AMITAVA has written 6 books on cinema including "Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee", "Beyond Apu: 20Favourite Film Roles of Soumitra Chatterjee", "Satyajit Ray’s Heroes andHeroines" and "16 Frames". AMITAVA also writes poetry and short fiction inBengali and English and has published 5 books in both the languages and genres till date. AMITAVA is a post-graduate in Computer Science from JadavpurUniversity, Kolkata and a graduate in Physics from Presidency College, Kolkata.He worked in leading Indian and multinational IT companies for nearly two decades in India, USA, Europe and SouthEast Asia. AMITAVA is currently theDirector (Planning and Systems) of Garden High School,Kolkata.