Shyam Benegal: A Filmmaker Of Substance

Shyam Benegal: The director who defied stereotypes!

Shyam Benegal: The director who defied stereotypes!

(The article was first published in Dash Magazine, New Delhi, October, 2007) 

Shyam Benegal has dared to enrich cinematic landscape by making movies loaded with radical ideas. For example, in his movie Ankur he was successful in giving the impression that it’s not impossible to to turn the tables in society dominated by feudalistic perceptions. The movie successfully portrayed that awakening among the common people would alone bring revolutionary changes. His movies mainly centered around social and political dilemmas. His movie Manthan, which went on to win National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 1977 was based on White Revolution of India (Operation Flood). Interestingly, the story was penned by none other than Dr. Verghese Kurien, hailed as the Father of the White Revolution in India.

One can notice that Shyam Benegal was a sensitive filmmaker moved by the plight of the underprivileged. His movies dealt with the power of common man and his ability to emerge successful in society governed by anti-human tendencies. In movie Manthan we find that poor farmers  in Gujarat, learn to rise above individualistic tendencies to form the Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union. The film highlights the impact of caste-politics found in Indian villages. 

Smita Patil In Bhumika!

Smita Patil In Bhumika!

This maker of New or Alternate Cinema chose to flirt with complex themes in a masterly way. His movie Bhumika dealt with trials and tribulations of a woman in search of suitable place for herself in society dotted with so many prejudices. Smita Patil  once again played her part perfectly to highlight the various shades of Usha, the movie actress in love with various men, even with a married person much older than her age! One of the best things about Shyam Benegal is that he not only explores bold themes but also at the same time keeps experimenting with the style which sometimes makes us remind of Satyajit Ray. Nishant, Mandi and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1993) prove that point quite well. Interestingly, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda is a novel penned by well known Hindi writer Dharmavir Bharati, who hailed from Allahabad. 

As a matter of fact, he tried to force viewers to don the thinking cap by bringing to the fore various shades of problems plaguing the society. He helped many actors, including Smita Patil and Naseruddin Shah, to name a few, to carve a niche for themselves in the world of realistic cinema. However, having said that, let me state that directors of Parallel cinema are responsible for failing to interpret the mood of viewers with the changing times. Though it’s an uphill task to project complex themes in lighter vein, the art to present complex themes in a palatable way has to be learnt by the movie-makers. This has been learnt quite well by directors like Shekhar Kapoor and Kundan Shah but most of them have struggled to give way to flexibility. 

It’s a harsh reality that satellite channels and Doordarshan have been held hostage to a variety of cheap entertainment- all in the name of catering to the taste of new generation. To bring a change, it’s necessary that art filmmakers learn to blend their serious themes with interesting styles. Needles to state that  Shyam Benegal has the capacity to set a good precedent in this regard as well. 

A Movie Based On Novel Of The Same Name Written By A Writer From Allahabad!

A Movie Based On Novel Of The Same Name Written By A Writer From Allahabad!

Suggested Reading:

Shyam Benegal:

Pics Credit:

Pic One

Pic Two

Pic Three


11 responses

  1. Conversation With A Reader…


    I asked A Reader:

    Did you read it completely????.Don’t be upset over my query..I have noticed that on Facebook liking without reading prevails!!!

    Response Of The Reader:

    Yes…Thanks for the observation! What you said is quite correct! It’s happening here almost but on Pancham Stambh every article is meaningful and posted by good people. So I read it always. But due to many other concerns, I miss many of the articles. But I always love to read your posts.

    ( Raveendra Kumar, Bhubneshwar, Orissa)

  2. Many thanks to these readers for not missing to register their presence on my post…

    Adam Folker, California, USA; Anu Choudhary, Canada; Swami Prabhu Chaitanya, Patna, Bihar; Snehal Acharya, Chandigarh, Punjab; Gyasu Shaikh; Bharati Bhattacharyyaji, Kolkata, West Bengal; Jyotsana Pathania; Siddharth Singh, Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh; Harjit Singh Ajmani,Advocate; Sarwan Rai; Rajesh Dubey, Kishanganj, West Bengal; Gautam Jain; Shailesh Kumar; Devender Nischal; Ankur Kumar Karn; Ravi Hooda, Canada; Manjoy Laxmi, Nagpur, Maharashtra; Harish Sheth, Ausa, Maharashtra and Rajshree Sharma.

  3. Harish Sheth, Ausa, Maharashtra, said:

    Shyam benegal sab se alag aur umda vichar ke vyakti the. ek film yaad aa rahi hai..shayad wo benegal sahab ki hi thi.. wo hai SWAMI. Thanks Arvind ji..

    Author’s Response:

    इस बात के लिए धन्यवाद कि आप ने लेख पढने की जहमत उठाई ….भारतीय सिनेमा सौ साल का फ़ासला तय कर चुका है लिहाज़ा कुछ लोगो के बारे में जिक्र करना जरूरी हो जाता है। आपने स्वामी फ़िल्म का जिक्र किया है जो बासु चटर्जी ने निर्देशित की है श्याम बेनेगल ने नहीं।

  4. Sanjeev Joshi:

    Jahan taq mujhe yaad hai 1986-87 me inka ek natak ,,tamas,, hamne dekha tha doordarshan pe,,waaaaah kya baat thi nirdeshan me,,,bahut khoob,,Thanks Arvind ji.

    Author’s Response:

    प्रतिक्रिया के लिए धन्यवाद ….तमस गोविन्द निहलानी साहब के द्वारा निर्देशित था श्याम बेनेगल के द्वारा नहीं 🙂

  5. Harish Sheth said:

    Arvind Pandey ji.. mujhe yakin nahi tha ki swami benegal ji ki thi, isiliye shayad likha hai..magar art filmon ki baat ko lekar aaj aapne benegal ji ko yaad kiya mujhe bahot achcha laga.. samaj ki kuch ku-riti, riwaaj par benegal sahab ka vyapak drishtikon mujhe sahi lagta hai. smruti kamjhor hai magar unka filmon dwara diya gaya kuch sandesh ab bhi hamaare jehan me mahekta hai.. aur aapne dr.Verghes kurien ji ka jikr kiya hai jinki wajah dudh ki kranti hui. Thanks.

  6. Author’s Words For Kusum Upadhyaya, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh:

    I first saw Manthan during school days…A song from this movie remained glued to my mind…The song has been sung so beautifully by Preeti Sagar…..

  7. Gyasu Shaikh said:

    Gyasu Shaikh Arvind ji, ye to aapki zarranavazi hai…Aapki presence bhi sada hi hamari tavajjo ko akrusht(आकृष्ट) kare… asha hai aap kushal honge….

    Author’s Response:

    उम्मीद है आपके तरफ भी माहौल खुशनुमा होगा ….मिलते रहा करिये समय निकालकर 🙂

  8. Gyasu Shaikh said:

    Arvind ji, bas zindagi ghatni chahiye…/khushnuma mahaul ka to ye aalam hai ki 45 degree high taapmaan mein tandoor hue jaa rahe hain…AC hi filhaal to maalik hai…/jee aapse milna sada snehmay aur saarthak hota hai…bas aapke saath hi hain…:)


    Author’s Response:

    Bas Mai Kuch Kahunga Nahi..Meri Taraf Se Ye Mukesh Ka Geet Bolega:

  9. Gautam Jain Shared This Song From Movie Zubeidaa:

  10. Gyasu Shaikhji said about the Aah’s Song:

    Dil khush ho gaya Anvind ji jo smritiyon se ubhar kar satah par ayaa ye madhoortam aur apne hi rang ka ek maulik sukoon bhara gaana …Mukesh-Shailendra-S&J rare triputi…Unbeatable !

  11. Sanjay Verma, Moderator, Shrota Biradari Forum, Facebook, said:

    Thanks to you Arvind K Pandey Ji for such a wonderful post ..

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