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NEW DELHI : Buddhadeb Dasgupta, the Indian parallel cinema icon who conjured up magic realism to portray the realities of life, died on Thursday after a long battle with kidney ailments. He was 77.

Revered for his contribution to offbeat cinema from the 1970s onwards, his films travelled across shores and won international acclaim.

Dasgupta was in the process of planning his next film as recently as last year, but the shoot couldn’t take place due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Part of a generation of Bengali auteurs following Satyajit Ray and others, Dasgupta developed his style of magic realism in a state that was known for its passion for the gritty style of neo-realism.

Critics, actors and movie buffs recall his films being marked by long silences, a technique few filmmakers have dared to employ over the years.

Having started his career as a lecturer of economics in Kolkata, Dasgupta turned to filmmaking in 1976, disenchanted by what he perceived as the gap between the economic theory he taught and reality of life around him.

His first offering was a 10-minute documentary in 1968 titled The Continent of Love, before moving on to his first full-length feature film, Dooratwa in 1978.

Five of his directorial ventures won the national award for best feature film: Bagh Bahadur (1989), Charachar (1993), Lal Darja (1997), Mondo Meyer Upakhyan (2002) and Kaalpurush (2008). Dooratwa (1978) and Tahader Katha (1993) won the national award for best feature film in Bengali. Dasgupta won the national award for best direction twice, for Uttara (2000) and Swapner Din (2005).

His films also won nominations and awards at international festivals such as Venice, Berlin and Locarno. Grihajuddha (1982), set against the backdrop of the Naxalite movement in Bengal, was nominated for a Golden Lion at Venice, while Bagh Bahadur, a take on the hardship of life in rural Bengal, won the special jury prize for direction at the Istanbul Film Festival. Charachar, a fictional account of a bird-catcher’s life, won the special jury award and audience award at Fribourg and was nominated for a Berlin Golden Bear.

He also directed two Hindi films—Andhi Gali starring Deepti Naval, and Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Pankaj Tripathi.

In Bengal Dasgupta is also a much-loved poet, whose books include Gobhir Araley, Coffin Kimba Suitcase, Himjog, Chhaata Kahini, Roboter Gaan and Bhomboler Ascharya Kahini O Ananya Kabita.

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