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Aparna Sen-Shashi Kapoor's 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE (English/1981) - The story behind its making, unique features and the OSCARS. (Movies To See Before You Die - Drama / Articles on Cinema by Bobby Sing)

11 Dec, 2017 | Indian Regional language Gems (Other Than Hindi) / Articles on Cinema / Movies To See Before You Die / Drama

One of finest Indian films, 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE is an unusually unique masterpiece that has some interesting features associated with its making and release worth sharing with the young enthusiastic lovers of meaningful Indian cinema.
Released in 1981, its subject itself was a path breaking one, focusing on the lonely life of an old woman with sequences of premarital sensual intimacy among a young couple using the lady and her house for their own convenience. It boldly depicted the way society doesn’t care about such isolated characters living around in the cities and thus can also be rated as an ahead of its time, out of the box attempt made by a courageous team.
The film is the directorial debut of Aparna Sen, who was a leading actress of Bengali cinema at that time and had a self-written short story in mind for the same. Sen showed her script to Satyajit Ray and Ray only suggested the name of Shashi Kapoor as a new-age producer into making such meaningful ventures. As revealed by Sen, Shashi called her to Mumbai (then Bombay) on his own expense and decided to produce it right away listening to the thoughtful script.
36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE features Jennifer Kendal (Shashi’s wife) playing the lead role of an old, lonely school teacher. And her performance is included in the list of most memorable roles ever played by an elderly female actor in an Indian film. Interestingly it was Utpal Dutt who suggested the name of Jennifer to Aparna Sen for her key character. Dhritiman Chatterjee, Debashree Roy (voice dubbed by Aparna), Geoffrey Kendal and Soni Razdan play the other important roles in the film along with short appearances by Sanjana and Karan Kapoor (supporting their father’s film).
Critically acclaimed for its theme and performances, the project unfortunately resulted in losses for its producer Shashi Kapoor and as revealed in an interview, Kapoor even had to hire the theaters himself at some places in order to exhibit the film. However, despite the continuous losses, Kapoor always remained proud of his films produced and strongly believed in such cinema capable of enlightening the viewers.

As its biggest contribution to Indian Cinema, the film made in English (with Bengali dialogues in a few scenes) gave rise to a brave, new genre of English films made in the country in the early 80s. And post 38 CHOWRINGHEE LANE, there were many more made in the later years and decades (as Indian English Films) targeting a specific set of audience.
Coming to The OSCARS, the film faced a tough or absurd situation both within the country and abroad sent for the Academy Awards. In the country, though it was awarded the National Award for Best Direction and Cinematography, it still created a contradicting situation for the Committee being an Indian film entirely made in English language.
On the other hand, though it reportedly received great appreciation at the Academy, the jury there too couldn’t accept it as a foreign language film as it was an Indian Film made in English, which was not supposed to be any of the country’s original language.
As a result, it lost the good chance to win a reputed recognition and actually suffered for being an English film made in India in both the cases. Taking it sportingly Shashi Kapoor himself explained the situation in a video interview as “Na Ghar Ke Rahey Na Ghat Ke” with a smiling face.
Anyway, in the present 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE is widely considered as one of the best films of Indian Cinema, remembered both for its theme and the lead performance by Jennifer Kendal. So do watch it as a must if you haven’t seen it yet and cherish the quality cinema wholeheartedly supported by the spirited Shashi Kapoor.
(Note: The article was also published on UC-News Mobile App in December 2017)
In addition to the information shared in the article available at the link given above
Director Aparna Sen was willing to shoot 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE with Govind Nihalani as its DOP. But since Govind was working for Attenborough’s GANDHI at that time as second-unit cinematographer, Sen decided to go with Ashok Mehta as suggested by Shashi Kapoor.
Sharing it honestly in an interview Sen admitted that since she was completely new at that time directing her first film, so she was not really familiar with the technical aspect of filmmaking relying on the DOP a lot. And she got full support from Mehta who said, “You just tell me the pictures you see in your visualization and I will put them on screen”.
Aparna herself dubbed for Debashree Roy as she wished the voice to be a bit mature or heavy conversing with Dhritiman Chatterjee as the couple in love.
Apart from all realistic characters in the script, the cat too is an important character or part of the film sharing the old lady’s loneliness.
Though Sanjna Kapoor and Karan Kapoor were later officially introduced in their films HERO HIRALAL (1988) and SULTANAT (1986) respectively, they both made brief appearances in this film much before their official debuts.
The film opens with a dedication caption for Bansi (Bansi Chandragupta), who was the art director of the film and had passed away during the final post production work. 
Lastly, though its rarely mentioned in the media or may be not known to many, but the credit of beginning the trend of making English Films in India does go to the brave and thoughtful producer Shashi Kapoor and his director Aparna Sen for their film 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE that deserves to be seen as a must by every true lover of cinema strongly recommended by BTC as a Movie To See Before You Die.
Bobby Sing



Tags : 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE (1981) Review in Movies To See Before You Die List by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Must Watch Movies List by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com
11 Dec 2017 / Comment ( 2 )
Debraj Moulick

I'm glad that you have included this classic in your list. The movie was a modern day adaptation of King Lear and the last few scenes invokes so much empathy that you would hate the shallowness in the modern day relationships.. Sad but that is the truth..waiting for more..

Bobby Sing

The pleasure is really mine Debraj and would love to add many more.
Keep Visiting and Writing in.

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