Debaki Kumar Bose (1898-1971) retrospective at Kolkata Film Festival 2010

Debaki Bose Portrait
Debaki Bose Portrait

Calcutta Nov.13, 2010 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS) Few film buffs today remember the name of Debaki Kumar Bose (1898-1971), the first Indian filmmaker whose film Seeta (1934) was the first Indian film to have been screened at the Venice International Film Festival.

The 16th Kolkata Film Festival is paying a tribute to this great master by screening eight of his films noted for their powerful storyline, wonderful music and memorable subject content. Among the eight films to be screened, the names released till now are Chandidas, Vidyapati, Nartaki and Arghya.

Few of the 50 films he made survive in print. All six of his silent films that were once preserved at the National Film Archives in Pune are lost. He was a scholar in the Hindu scriptures, the Vaishnava philosophy of Sri Krishna Chaitanya, better known as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and religious and social relevance.

Seeta (Hindi) 1934, is the first ever Indian feature film to have been screened at an international film festival.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of its international screening. It was shown at the Venice International Film Festival where it won an Honorary Diploma making Bose the first Indian director to have won an international award. Sadly, no print of this film has survived the ravages of negligence and time.

The film starred Durga Khote and  Prithviraj Kapoor and turned Bose into a household name among cinebuffs.

Vidyapati was about the pacifist court poet of Mithila who was invited to the royal court by the king. But when the poet arrived at the court with his faithful follower Anuradha, queen Laxmi fell in love with Vidyapati causing great sorrow to the king who loved his wife dearly and embarrassment for Vidyapati.

Anuradha tried to convince the king that true love did not depend on reciprocation. By then, a repentant queen troubled by her divided loyalties as queen to the king and her love for the court poet contemplated suicide. The film is enriched by some of the best songs and music in Indian cinema.

Pahari Sanyal played the title role, Kanan Devi played Anuradha, Prithviraj Kapoor portrayed the king of Mithila and Chhaya Devi was queen Lakshmi.

His film Sagar Sangame won the President’s Gold Medal at the National Film Awards. It was also nominated for Golden Bear at the 9th Berlin International Film Festival in 1959. The first film he directed independently was Panchasar (silent) released in 1930.

Many Bengali films made by him were also released in Hindi and even Marathi and Tamil. In 1957, he was bestowed with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for film direction and the Padma Shri came the following year.

He was the first to introduce artificial lighting in Aparadhi, made in two language versions. He introduced background music in Chandidas and introduced playback singing in films. He passed away in Calcutta on 17 November 1971.

By Shoma A Chatterji

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