Obituary

Master filmmaker who touched hearts

Basu Chatterjee (January 10, 1930-June 4, 2020)

Master filmmaker who touched hearts

Mona

Artists never die, they say; they live in their works long after they are gone...as Hindi film industry loses one gem after another, it’s rather hard to hold heart.

Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Yogesh Gaur, Wajid Khan — life cut rather short for many of them. That Basu Chatterjee died of age-related issues offers little condolence.

Chatterjee, who celebrated his 90th birthday this January, passed away in sleep on Thursday morning at his residence in Mumbai. Known for making content-driven cinema back in 1970s and 80s, this director-producer-screenwriter has left behind cinematic legacy in ‘Rajnigandha’ (1974), ‘Chitchor’ (1976), ‘Khatta Meetha’ (1978), ‘Baton Baton Mein’ (1979), ‘Chameli Ki Shaadi’ (1986), ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’ (1986) and more. A fun take on common man’s problems was the heart of his repertoire replete in humour and satire. Amol Palekar may just be his quintessential hero, he also casted ‘stars’ in his ‘simple’ stories.

Born in Ajmer, Chatterjee worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for close to two decades before turning towards filmy lanes. He assisted the likes of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Bhattacharya, before debuting as a director with Sara Akash in 1969. He also wrote screenplay for his first film that was based on a novel with the same name by Rajendra Yadav.

The Filmfare Best Screenplay Award for his first film was one of the many laurels he achieved — IIFA Lifetime Achievement Award (2007), National Film Award for Best Film on Family Welfare for ‘Durga’ (1992) and Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie for ‘Rajnigandha’ (1975) were among others.

“Master of the gentle middle class urban story,” rightfully ascribed by Joy Bhattacharya, television as much Chatterjee’s canvas as silver screen. Rajani who took government departments’ laxity to task got immense love, catapulting Rajani aka Priya Tendulkar to unprecedented fame. Among others it was ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ series, two seasons of which Chatterjee directed, winning audience as much as critical acclaim.

Survived by two daughters, the filmmaker who made about 50 films was mourned by many. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Chatterjee’s works “brilliant and sensitive that touched people’s hearts and represented the simple and complex emotions as well as struggles of people”. Shabana Azmi who did three films —‘Swami’, ‘Apne Paraye’ and ‘Jeena Yahan’— with Chatterjee called him “a prolific filmmaker, pioneer of what came to be regarded as middle of the road cinema”. Along with Hindi industry, Chatterjee continued his foray into the Bengali cinema till 2011.

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