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IFFI 2016 Chitrokar review: A beautiful collage on the philosophy of art

Saibal Mitra's film, showcased under the Indian Panorama section of the IFFI, is a masterful narrative on an artist's search for immortality. 

Shriram Iyengar

Film: Chitrokar
Rating: 3/5

In her Nobel Prize lecture, poet Wislawa Szymborska described the impossibility of making a film on the workings of a poet. Saibal Mitra's Chitrokar is an attempt to transform a similar field, painting, to the cinematic screen. The film questions the motive and purpose of art: for idealistic endeavours or commercial profits. 

Based on the life of Binod Bihari Mukherjee and American modernist, Mark Rothko, Mitra's film has some wonderful textures of emotion, artistic history, and brilliant art direction. As Bijan Bose (Dhritiman Chatterjee) struggles with his recent blindness, and the desire to leave one last immortal work of art, Tithi Chatterjee (Arpita Chatterjee) struggles with having to make do as an artist with no means of survival. Yet, both artists are innately torn at working on a mural which would be showcased at a restaurant. The final solution leads them to an end that is idealistically satisfying for the artist. 

Mitra's film is unique in its telling form. The director has used several visual forms, superimposing some of his scenes within paintings to add a touch of surrealism and metaphor. The aesthetic sense of the film is definitely one of its most pleasing points. That, and Dhritiman Chatterjee's performance as the dour, bitter, blind painter who is struggling with his idealism in an increasingly commercial world. Director of Photography Asoke Dasgupta deserves credit for effectively transporting the world of art to the screen. The confrontational scene between Bijan Bose and Tithi about the validity of art, and its purpose, is one to watch out for. Mitra also opens the film to the world of art with discussions on method, as well as techniques like the Braille, used by painters in Shanti Niketan, for the audience. 

At the IFFI 2016, Mitra confessed that the film was in a way reflective of his own struggles in the film industry. A filmmaker since 1977, Mitra has won the Bengali Film Journalist's Award for Dhakudar Katha (2000), while also making critically appreciated films like Sajarur Kanta (The Porcupine Man, 2015), Hononkal (Deadly Times, 2010). 

In one of the most-watched sections of the International Film Festival of India 2016, Mitra has managed to produce a film of wonderful philosophy and visualism. Like his protagonist, it seeks to eschew the commercial needs of the world to satisfy an artistic curiosity. 

Director: Saibal Mitra
Cast: Dhritiman Chatterjee, Arpita Chatterjee
DOP: Asoke Dasgupta
Runtime: 147 minutes