Kumar Shahani, Pioneer of India’s Parallel Cinema Movement, Died aged 83.

Kumar Shahani, Pioneer of India's Parallel Cinema Movement, Died aged 83.

Kumar Shahani, a pivotal figure in the realm of India’s art-house cinema, breathed his last in Kolkata on February 24, succumbing to an illness at the age of 83. Having meticulously honed his skills in screenwriting and direction at the esteemed Film and Television Institute of India, Shahani found himself under the tutelage of the venerable Ritwik Ghatak. Furthering his education, he ventured to France with a scholarship bestowed by the French government. There, he delved into the depths of cinema at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques and had the privilege of aiding Robert Bresson in the creation of “Une Femme Douce” (1969).

Upon his return to India, Shahani embarked on his directorial odyssey, marking its inception with his maiden venture “Maya Darpan” in 1972. Renowned for his distinctive formalist approach to filmmaking, his repertoire includes noteworthy creations such as “Tarang” (1984), “Khayal Gatha” (1989), and “Kasba” (1990).

Shahani’s artistic prowess reverberated on the international stage, with notable recognition garnered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. This esteemed platform showcased a plethora of his works, spanning from “Maya Darpan” to “Var Var Vari,” “Tarang,” “Kasba,” the documentary “Bhavantarana,” and “Char Adhyay.” The pinnacle of his acclaim came with “Khayal Gatha,” which clinched the prestigious FIPRESCI prize at Rotterdam in 1990. Notably, in 2019, the Pingyao International Film Festival paid homage to his early oeuvre, featuring a masterclass delivered by the maestro himself.

Beyond the confines of filmmaking, Shahani made significant strides in the preservation of India’s cinematic heritage through his involvement with the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF). The FHF expressed profound sorrow at Shahani’s demise, acknowledging him as a trailblazing avant-garde filmmaker and unwavering advocate of their cause. They cherished his unwavering support, reminiscing about his active participation in their initiatives and the invaluable insights he imparted during an extensive interview for their oral history project. With unwavering dedication, the FHF remains steadfast in its mission to safeguard and restore Shahani’s unparalleled cinematic legacy for posterity to cherish.

The National Film Development Corporation of India also paid tribute, expressing the nation’s grief over the passing of Kumar Shahani. They hailed him as a significant filmmaker whose timeless classics have left an everlasting impression. His profound influence on Indian cinema remains palpable, with his artistic legacy continuing to echo through the heart of the industry.

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