Lifetime Achievement Award
Soumitra Chatterjee was born in Sealdah, West Bengal on January 19, 1935. His claim to fame lies in his long and fruitful association with Satyajit Ray. The duo worked in some 14 films together. He had the honour of making his debut in the third part of Ray’s most famous work — The Apu Trilogy. In Apur Sansar (1959), he played a young writer dealing with the travails of a newly-wedded life.
His sensitive performance won him accolades and admirers worldwide. Soumitra also brought to life that masterful creation of Ray, the detective Feluda. Ray’s stories revolving around the adventures of this Indian Sherlock Holmes were a rage and Soumitra captured the nuances brilliantly in films like Sonar Kella (1974) and Joi Baba Felunath (1979). His other notable films with Ray include Devi (1960), Teen Kanya (1961) and Charulata (1964). He didn’t just restrict himself to his mentor but also worked with other notable directors of Bengali cinema. One remembers him for the natural ease he displayed in Mrinal Sen’s Akash Kusum (1965) or in Tapan Sinha’s Jhinder Bandi (1961), an adaptation of The Prisoner Of Zenda, where he incidentally played a villain opposite Uttam Kumar. Entering the 1980s and the 1990s, he started working with contemporary directors, like Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Anjan Das and Rituparno Ghosh and even acted in television. In 1986, he played the role of a swimming coach in the film Kony (1986) directed by Saroj Dey, a role that came to be much admired by all.
Soumitra didn’t lose his command over acting to age. His famous films during his latter years include Rituparno Ghosh’s Asukh (1999), Florian Gallenberger’s Shadows Of Time (2004), Pratim D. Gupta’s Paanch Adhyay (2012) Srijit Mukherji’s Hemlock Society (2012), Atanu Ghosh’s Rupkatha Noy (2013), Goutam Ghose’s Shunyo Awnko (2013) and Bela Seshe (2015), and Posto (2017), both directed by Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee, and Mayurakshi (2017) directed by Atanu Ghosh. The thespian passed away on November 15, 2020. He was bestowed the honour posthumously.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Hindi viewers may know him through Balika Badhu (1976), starring Sachin Pilgaonkar and Rajni Sharma. It was a reworking of his own 1967 Bengali film of the same name, starring Moushumi Chatterjee. His early films were credited to Yatrik, which was the screen name of the trio directors Tarun Majumdar, Sachin Mukherji, and Dilip Mukherji until 1963, after which each began to be credited separately. As Yatrik, their first venture was Chaowa Paowa (1959) starring Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen.
In 1965, he made two films: Ektuku Basha with Soumitra Chatterjee and Alor Pipasha with Basanta Choudhury. The films featured Sandhya Roy, a popular actress whom he married later. After that he never looked back and was known for his plethora of commercially successful films. He has worked with everyone from Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sandhya Roy to Tapas Paul, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Debashree Roy and Rituparna Sengupta.
The 90-year-old filmmaker, who’s helped shape the career of so many stalwarts of Bengali cinema, was the recipient of our second Lifetime Achievement Award this year. Despite his advanced age, he was still sharp as a pin in both mind and body. The entire gathering rose as one when he came on stage and the moment became a golden memory.
Best Actor In A Leading Role (Male)
Gumnaami looks into the supposed death of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. It’s based on the premise that Netaji survived the crash and lived incognito as a holy man. It’s a historical thriller with several layers attached to it.The actor plays both Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and Bose’s supposed alter ego, Gumnaami Baba. The film tries to showcase the various strands which existed between the stalwart leader and the saint. It’s another riveting performance from the actor, who hasn’t done anything of the sort before.
Best Actor In A Leading Role (Female)
It’s often said that rituals don’t matter if you accept someone as your companion in your heart. Subashree Ganguly plays a young girl who falls in love with a much older man from her neighbourhood and later plots revenge when he’s found dead under mysterious circumstances. It’s a layered performance, much liked by the critics and the audience alike.
Best Actor In A Leading Role (Female)
Shah Jahan Regency
Swastika Mukherjee plays a woman who likes physical intimacy a lot but she’d like to go beyond that and have a complete relationship. It’s a hurdle that most people face in their lives. The actor wins over the sympathy of the audience through her performance, which is peppered with some rather risque scenes, though done aesthetically.
Best Actor (Critics’)
Riddhi Sen was just 17 when he decided to play a transgender woman. He reportedly visited the localities where such people live to acquaint himself better with their lives, their mannerisms. And like a chameleon, he transformed himself completely. It’s an all-heart performance from the actor. The number of accolades that he’s got for the role prove that his instincts were bang on. So life-like is his portrayal that one can’t believe that one’s watching an actor and not an actual eunuch.
Best Actress (Critics’)
Bijoya & Robibaar
Bijoya: Jaya Ahsan plays a woman caught in a love triangle of sorts and finds herself unable to cope with the situation. She plods on bravely despite knowing that there is no clinical end to her situation. It’s another bravura performance by the actress.
Robibaar: Do we ever move on after breaking up with someone we’ve loved. The actress plays a woman who is forced to confront her past, in the film. Has she learnt from her mistakes and moved on or is she destined to repeat them?
In India, among Hindus in particular, the elder son performs the last rites of his parents. It’s an honour to be so chosen and the position is looked upon with envy by the younger siblings, as setting fire to the pyre is considered the most auspicious thing one can do. But what If the elder son has neglected his parents all along while they were living and yet comes forth to perform his father’s last rites? The film asks pertinent questions indeed, which don’t have answers.
Best Film (Critics’)
Love is said to be forever, but is it really so? Couples may swear they’ll be one till death does them apart but ego often plays spoilsport. You separate and try to move on. Sometimes you’re successful, sometimes not. What happens when your past catches up with you after 15 years? Will you reconcile your differences, let bygones be bygones and move on or will you still fight the same battles as before? The film asks all these questions and tries to find the answers. It’s not just a romance and carries shades of a thriller as well.
Vinci Da is a convoluted revenge drama with plenty of twists and turns to satisfy most fans. The narrative keeps changing by the minute and you never know what’s going to happen next. It’s a film that keeps the viewer on tenterhooks till the last second. It’s not as if the viewers don’t know who the killer is. Rather, it’s this knowledge that adds spice to the mix and makes for compelling viewing. It’s a cat-and-a-mouse game and while we root for the mouse, we have sympathy for the cat as well.
Best Debut (Director)
The film is an absurd tragicomedy revolving around a ventriloquist who, neglected by those around him, choses to live in the past. His mind teeters on the brink of sanity but his voice is intact and he’s able to mimic voices of several people from the past. Well-known music director Indraadip Dasgupta changes tracks with this one and turns director. It’s brave of him to work on such an unusual subject for his debut, which has been received quite well critically.
Best Debut (Female)
Kia And Cosmos
Ritwika Pal plays a 15 year old Kia, who suffers from ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder, in the film. People suffering from it have difficulties with eye contact, communication, controlling emotions and often showcase repetitive behaviour. On the other hand, they are also highly intelligent and kind. They see the world through different eyes. When Kia’s pregnant cat Cosmos is murdered, she goes about investigating the crime in her own way. Ritwika wins over the audience with her true-to-life portrayal in this compelling whodunit.
Best Actor In A Supporting Role (Male)
Ritwick Chakraborty plays the younger son who is jealous of his elder brother’s success. He’s resentful that his elder brother has come to perform the last rites of his father, despite not taking care of him when he was alive. Ritwick’s claim to fame in the film is the drunk scene where he spews out all the suppressed anger he has felt over the years. That alone is worth the price of the ticket.
Best Actor In A Supporting Role (Female)
Often, it’s the elderly who are the most neglected. After leading a life full of purpose, giving their all to their loved ones, they aren’t looked after well when they most need it. It’s a grim reality that we are all aware of but we chose to ignore it. The veteran actress plays a lonely old woman who wants some sort of companionship in her old age and is grateful beyond words when she finds it. The grace and poignancy of her character will indeed move you to tears.
Best Music Album
RanAjoy Bhattacharjee And Anindya Chatterjee
Sweater’s soundtrack has an impromptu quality about it. The film has a simple story at its heart. It revolves around a shy girl who slowly blossoms into a more confident avatar of herself and takes control of her life. The music is a reflection of the film’s theme. It’s peppy in most parts and has some sombre elements as well. It makes you root for the naive protagonist and helps you celebrate her journey.
Song- Preme Pora Baron
Love is a much-celebrated phenomenon. But what we see in films and novels is miles apart from the reality. In real life, girls especially face a lot of music if they are found to be in love. It’s expected that they should happily marry the groom chosen by their parents and not go in for a love marriage. The song brings home the fact that sometimes, one finds it impossible to get engaged in romantic love because of societal norms. It’s a poignant ditty indeed.
Best Playback Singer (Male)
Song- Kicchu Chaini Aami
Movie- Shah Jahan Regency
When two people are in love, they’d like nothing better than to spend their lives with each other and are willing to do anything for it. The song speaks of one such bond, where the lovers ask for their moment of bliss to stretch to eternity. It’s an impossible yearning and yet one feels it can be achieved. Anirban Bhattacharya evokes the feeling contained in the lyrics through his deft rendition and makes you believe in the power of love.
Best Playback Singer (Female)
Song- Preme Pora Baron
It’s okay for a girl to hold a finger but it’s not okay to hold the entire palm. It’s okay to feel love but it’s forbidden to express it. The song brings to light the plight of middle-class girls in India when it comes to matters of the heart. The lyrics bring to light how love is often considered taboo and one is powerless to oppose this world view. Lagnajita Chakraborty does full justice to the song in her heart-touching rendition.
Rudranil Ghosh And Srijit Mukherji
Vinci Da is a cat-and-a-mouse game between a deranged killer and a make-up artist who is fated to help him. The killer justifies his killings saying that he’s acting as judge, jury and executioner for those who have gotten away with their crimes. Things take a turn when the make-up person finds courage within himself and uses the killer’s own tactics to turn the tables on him. The film’s story is a gritty drama on the one hand and a morality tale on the other.
Love is a many-splendored thing, as they say. No where it’s written that it needs to always flourish between a man and a woman. Sometimes it can blossom between a man and a eunuch as well. The film showcases such a love in all its glory. The screenplay takes us through this hidden, taboo world without pulling any punches, without being judgemental, letting the viewers form their own interpretations as to what’s normal, and what’s not.
We say the cruelest things to those who are related to us. Brothers, in particular, are almost always frenemies. There is a streak of rivalry that exists between them just because of their gender. The best moments of the film occur when the protagonists, played by Prosenjit Chatterjee and Ritwick Chakraborty, confront each other. They tear each other apart through their words. One can relate to them as the dialogue feel like something one might say in real life.
Best Background Score
Nagarkirtan is an unusual love story between a flute player and a transgender woman. They dream of starting their life together someday but destiny has other plans, and their idyll is torn apart by circumstances. The background score reflects the ebbs and flows of their tumultuous journey together. It makes you aware of the drama without being intrusive. Kudos to Prabuddha Banerjee for his sensitive handling of the atmospheric score.
Love stories are brightly lit picture postcard affairs in our cinema. But what if a taboo subject is being shot? Then the treatment changes. It then tends to be more gritty, more realistic and that’s what happens in Nagarkirtan’s case as well. Shirsha Ray has shot the film mostly in actual light, choosing to provide a stark, documentary-like feel to the proceedings. And given the context of the story, this technique works brilliantly in its favour.
Best Production Design
Gumnaami is a fictional period piece which tries to recreate the circumstances regarding Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s mysterious death. Netaji’s life is well-chronicled and his death is a sensitive subject even now. Shibaji Pal doesn’t let the enormity of the occasion deter him and has meticulously done his research to get a better grip on the period detail. One appreciates the fact that not a single thing looks out of place in this speculative film.
Best Sound Design
Robibaar is part love story, part thriller. It takes us through one lazy Sunday in the lives of the protagonists. But it’s not just one day. They also look back at the last 15 years of their lives and live through the good, the bad, and the ugly moments. The sound design helps in the navigation. It cues the viewers towards the drama and acts as a sensory guide. Sougata Banerjeee makes sure that we are in sync with the story through his deft creation.
Sujay Datta Ray
Kedara is a film that defies description. It mostly exists in the mind of its protagonist, who is a brilliant ventriloquist. He can see ghosts of the people from the past in his mind’s eye and converses with them by expertly mimicking their voices. Such a storyline needed expert editing to come through and Sujay Dutta Ray proves equal to the occasion. He makes sure we see the story in all its hues and also that it flows evenly through its different arcs.