Mrinal Sen (মৃনাল েসন, also spelled Mrinal Shen) is a famous Bengali Indian filmmaker. He was born on (May 14, 1923) , in the town of Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. After finishing his high school there, he left home to come to Calcutta as a student and studied physics at the Scottish Church College and at the University of Calcutta. As a student, he got involved with the cultural wing of the Communist party . Although he never became a member of the party, his association with the socialist Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA ) brought him close to a number of like-minded culturally associated people.
His interest in films started after he stumbled upon a book on film aesthetics. However his interest remained mostly intellectual, and he was forced to take up the job of a medical representative, which took him away from Calcutta. This did not last very long, and he came back to the city and eventually took a job of an audio technician in a Calcutta film studio, which eventually launched his film carrier.
Mrinal Sen made his first feature film, Raatbhor, in 1955. His next film, Neel Akasher Neechey (Under the Blue Sky), earned him local recognition, while his third film, Baishey Shravan (Wedding Day) was his first film that gave him international exposure.
After making five more films, he made a film with a shoe-string budget provided by the Government of India. This film, Bhuvan Shome (Mr. Shome), finally launched him as a major filmmaker, both nationally and internationally. Bhuvan Shome also initiated the “New Cinema” film movement in India.
The films that he made next were overtly political, and earned him the reputation as a Marxist artist. This was also the time of large-scale political unrest throughout India. Particularly in and around Calcutta, this period underwent what is now known as the Naxalite movement. This phase was immediately followed by a series of films where he shifted his focus, and instead of looking for enemies outside, he looked for the enemy within his own middle class society. This was arguably his most creative phase.
During this period, he won a large number of international awards. It could be argued that although his films show the development of ideas from Marxism, existentialism, surrealism, German expressionism , French Nouvelle Vague and Italian neorealism, in their stylistic nuances, these films often parallel the cinema of Woody Allen. Like Allen's cinema, Sen's cinema for the most, do not provide a happy ending or a definitive conclusion (unlike many of the films of Sen's better known contemporary Satyajit Ray). In many of Sen's later films, the audience becomes a participant in the process of the development of the plot. The director invites and provokes the audience into a shared process of forming multiple conclusions, that are at the same time unique and different. The director does not play the role of god, his audience does. It is not really surprising that unlike Allen who has a steady niche audience in the Western literati and aficionados, Sen's experimentation with parallel cinema had significantly cost him much of a devoted audience composing of largely the Calcutta based westernized intelligentsia.
Mrinal Sen never stopped experimenting with his medium. In his later films he tried to move away from the narrative structure and worked with very thin story lines. After a long gap of eight years, at the age of eighty, he made his latest film, Aamar Bhuban, in 2002.
During his career, Mrinal Sen’s film have received awards from almost all major film festivals, including (Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago, and Cairo). Retrospectives of his films have been shown in almost all major cities of the world. He has also received a number of honorary doctorate degrees (D.Litt Honoris Causa) from various universities, both in India and abroad. Mrinal Sen was also elected as the president of the International Federation of the Film Societies. He received the Taj Enlighten Tareef Award which is given for a lifetime contribution to the world of cinema in 2008.
He is also the recipient of many state-awarded honors.