Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Aparna Sen|
|Produced by||Shrikant Mohta
|Written by||Aparna Sen
|Starring||Konkona Sen Sharma
|Music by||Debojyoti Mishra|
|Edited by||Rabiranjan Moitra|
|Distributed by||Shree Venkatesh Films|
|Running time||128 minutes|
Iti Mrinalini (Bengali: ইতি মৃণালিনী English: Yours Mrinalini; English: An Unfinished Letter) is a critically acclaimed 2011 Indian drama film directed by acclaimed Bengali filmmaker Aparna Sen. The director collaborates with debutant screenwriter Ranjan Ghosh to pen the story and the screenplay, a major first for her. The film has been produced by Shrikant Mohta and Mahendra Soni of Shree Venkatesh Films Pvt Ltd. It is also the first film by Sen to be nationally released in Hindi simultaneously with the Bengali version for her Bengal audience. Many critics consider it among her best work along with Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and 36 Chowringhee Lane.
Aparna Sen returns to make a Bengali film after more than a decade. Her last was Paromitar Ek Din, in 2000. Iti Mrinalini is supposedly the director's first mainstream venture in which she experiments with the popular genre. The much-touted film is on the life and times of a Bengali star-actress of mainstream cinema of yesteryear, who looks back at her life. Aparna Sen plays the older Mrinalini while her daughter Konkona Sen Sharma portrays the younger version.
Sen directs her daughter Konkona Sen Sharma and also acts with her in the same film, another first for the mother-daughter duo that plays the same character. Featuring Sen and her daughter in the lead role, the film also stars Rajat Kapoor, Priyanshu Chatterjee, Kaushik Sen, Locket Chatterjee and German actor Suzanne Bernert in supporting roles. The entire cast, except Konkona, work in an Aparna Sen film for the first time.
The film examines the randomness of life. Nothing is under our control and at times, we should just let go - just let it be what it will. The film explores different forms of love - one that happens in early youth, one that's more domestic, one that falls somewhere between friendship and love, and one resulting out of loneliness and seclusion.
Mrinalini, an ageing actress, writes a suicide note. As a performer, the first lesson she had learnt was timing – the perfect moment for making an entrance or an exit on stage. On the stage of life, her entrance had been outside her control; but she wants to choose the moment of her exit at least.
However, before taking the pills that will put her to sleep forever, she decides to destroy all her memorabilia – letters, photographs, newspaper cuttings, knick-knacks pertaining to the past – lest they fall into the hands of the press. She has been a victim of media attention all her life and wishes to be spared that at her death.
As she looks through the old box that contains relics from her past, memories flood the night... Incidents that she had forgotten or had relinquished to the furthest corners of her mind now return to haunt her and, through these memories, an entire life is revealed – a life of loves lost and gained, friendships and betrayals, successes and failures, accidents and awards, agonies and ecstasies.
Mrinalini relives her past, as night gradually turns to dawn. An azaan (Islamic call to prayer) starts up somewhere. Slowly early morning light fills the room. The moment has passed and the death she had wished for so intensely no longer seems a priority. Her German Shepherd comes and rubs its head on its mistress’s feet and squeaks to be let out. Mrinalini smiles, tears up the suicide note and takes her dog out for a walk. On the street, she meets morning walkers, old and young, joggers, a group of school children.
A young man runs past her. He seems to be escaping from something. Mrinalini gets a glimpse, and a doubt crosses her mind - she seems to recognize him. He resembles her first boyfriend, from her college days. Maybe he's a thief, or some gangster. She doesn't know. Neither do we. And then, a gunshot rips through the air. Everyone on the street gets startled. Mrinalini stands still, shocked. The young man checks himself. He is safe. Only this time, she has taken the bullet on her back, and not the man who had resembled her first love. He runs off, as she - the one who had wanted to control her exit from the stage of the world, collapses on the ground...
- Konkona Sen Sharma as Younger Mrinalini Mitra
- Aparna Sen as Older Mrinalini Mitra
- Priyanshu Chatterjee as Imtiaz Chowdhury
- Rajat Kapoor as Siddhartha Sarkar
- Kaushik Sen as Chintan Nair
- Shaheb Bhattacharjee as Abhijeet Mukherjee
- Locket Chatterjee as Maithili Sarkar
- Srijit Mukherji as Ranajoy Mitra
- Suzanne Bernert as Julia Campbell
- Gargi Roychowdhury as Sumitra Debi
- Ananya Chatterjee as Hiya Majumdar
- Dulal Lahiri as Prasad Sen
- Rita Koiral as Moti
For the first time, Sen teamed up with Shree Venkatesh Films Pvt Ltd, the makers of Chokher Bali and Raincoat. The pre-production of the film started in the second week of April 2009 with ideation. Scripting started by end April.
In a major first, Sen got attached to the curriculum of any film institute. The screenplay of Iti Mrinalini was an assignment in the Screenwriting syllabus at the Mumbai-based film school Whistling Woods International. It was the first instance in Indian Screenwriting that any screenplay emerging from any Indian film institute had actually been filmed.
In Aparna Sen's own admission at a Master Class on Cinema held on Fox History and Entertainment Channel, in the three decades of her film-making career that was the very first time that she collaborated with any film writer. Based on an original story idea given to him by Sen, debutant screenwriter Ranjan Ghosh, a screenwriting alumnus of Whistling Woods International, had written the story and the screenplay along with his director.
The first draft of the screenplay of Iti Mrinalini was ready by end-July. The second and the third drafts were written successively by August and September. Cinematographer Shirsha Roy was supposed to shoot the film initially. However, date hassles kept him away. DOP Somak Mukherjee stepped in his shoes. Location scouting was carried out in Calcutta and Konark in the month of August.
Like in her earlier films, Sen went in for a grueling acting workshop for the cast. The Calcutta chapter was for three weeks when daughter Konkona Sen Sharma had flown down from Mumbai to attend the workshop. The Mumbai chapter was for another ten days thereafter with Rajat Kapoor and Priyanshu Chatterjee. The acting workshop was conducted by Sohag Sen.
Extensive and exhaustive pre-production meets were held regularly at Sen's place throughout the months of August and September. The production design of this film has been handled by Sen along with her directorial assistants. Sen entrusted her scriptwriter Ranjan Ghosh - who also doubled up as Assistant Director - with the unique task of creating Mrinalini's memory items. The entire memorabilia of the actress were thereby designed and created by Ghosh with some help from the art department. Her longtime junior colleague at the Bengali-language Women's magazine Sananda (magazine), Sabarni Das, designed the costumes for Sen's film. Das helped in the art direction and handled the costumes for the period film.
The production of the film started on 6 October 2009.
Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay is linked with Iti Mrinalini. One of his cult poems, Smritir Shohor has been turned into a song for the film. Incidentally, this is the first time any of Gangopadhyay's poems have been used as a song for any film. Music director Debojyoti Mishra has scored for Sen once again.
Iti Mrinalini is also the first film to be shot by Aparna Sen in record time. The film's unit faced an uphill task of completing the shoot covering 38 locations in just 33 days. The shoot covered areas around Calcutta like the Vidyasagar Setu, the Howrah Bridge, Baghbazar Ghat, College Street, Favourite Cabin, Calcutta Greens, Science City, Alipore Zoo, New Market, Priya Cinema, Ganga Kutir, Silver Spring apartment among a host of others.
For the outdoor schedule, the unit went to Konark for a week in the latter half of October.
It was a return to history for the film unit. The sound of "lights, camera, action" returned to Calcutta Movieton studio at Tollygunge’s 28A Chandi Ghosh Road, which reopened after 25 years with Iti Mrinalini. The studio was once owned by yesteryear star Kanan Devi, who sold it to businessman Jagdish Bagri in 1985. "I had no intention to run a studio back then but now Tollywood is big," said Bagri. Iti Mrinalini producer Shree Venkatesh Films had taken two floors on hire for the film shoot.
The first two cuts of the film were completed by end November 2009 and by mid December 2009 respectively. While the first cut went up to 140 minutes, the second cut's duration was 135 minutes. The final duration is 128 minutes, and was completed in January 2010.
Dubbing was held in Calcutta over two phases. In the first phase, lasting a week, in early December, all major and secondary characters completed their dubbing. The second phase lasted for three days whence Aparna Sen did her portion. The dubbing session in Mumbai began in the third week of January 2010 and continued till March 2010. Iti Mrinalini has been dubbed in Hindi as well.
Sound design and the final mix-down was completed in the 'Maximum City' in September.
The film was screened on 12 January 2011 at the 9th Pune International Film Festival, in the Indian Cinema section.
The prestigious Slamdance Film Festival presented Iti Mrinalini at the 9th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, on 14 April 2011. It also marked the USA premiere of the film. The film won considerable critical acclaim at the fest.
Iti Mrinalini was selected as the Centerpiece Film at the 11th Annual edition of the IAAC's popular film festival NYIFF which ran from 4 May to 8 May 2011, in Manhattan. The critics had favourable reviews for the film here as well.
Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival, held from 6–15 May 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, screened Iti Mrinalini.
The film was further selected at the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival held from 11–19 June 2011.
The film was slated for a commercial release in hometown Calcutta, along with a simultaneous national release in Hindi on 15 April 2011. It eventually had its national release on 29 July, followed by a worldwide release on 31 July 2011.
The Hollywood Reporter gave a glorious tribute to Iti Mrinalini, calling it "An addicting shot of melodrama" - "The frame of reference for western cineastes to the sensibilities of the Bengali film An Unfinished Letter (Iti Mrinalini) would be a deep dive into the lush melodrama of Douglas Sirk along with a dramatic examination of the transitory nature of romantic passions found in Max Ophüls, all set in the world of Bengali intellectuals and the region’s film industry. In other words, it’s not a movie for the Bollywood crowd, despite its movie world setting. It’s heavy-duty melodrama with a fatalistic impulse that ties every tragedy into larger events within the subcontinent while exploiting the presence of two lovely icons of India’s film world..... The joy of the film lies not with the mechanical plot, some of it predictable once one catches on to how her catastrophes are linked to larger ones in Indian society. Rather its pleasures are found in its anxious beautiful women, the lushness of the music, art direction and costumes and a sense that society, an entirely alien force outside those nighttime windows, is conspiring to ruin lives and despoil love."
The Telegraph (Calcutta) reviews, "The film transcends its regional mould and presents Bengalis as part of a bigger global existence. It breathes of a veteran who has the freshness of a debutante who gets immensely personal and goes all out to make that one good movie. This is a new-generation film which doesn’t need a hip youngster to make it contemporary.... The generation of filmmakers that came up in the Seventies (to name a few: Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Goutam Ghose, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Utpalendu Chakrabarty, M.S. Sathyu, Aparna Sen) — they really pushed the boundaries and made movies for the sake of making movies and nothing else. That thought process has slowed down and Iti Mrinalini is like a wake-up call for the film fraternity that if these kinds of films and filmmakers are not embraced and supported, the world of serious cinema is going to become an endangered species."
The Indian Express mentions "It is a bit tough to write a review of a film that has already been written about extensively much before its Indian release. But that is routine for any film directed by Aparna Sen. Iti Mrinalini is no different. The difference lies in the storyline created by Sen jointly with Ranjan Ghosh. For the first time, she deals with the glamorous world of a top film star of Bengali cinema in the 1970s. This is rather fragile territory for a director who has herself reigned supreme in Bengali mainstream cinema for two decades or more because autobiographical references could get out of control. But Sen being Sen, instead of turning the film into a self-reflexive film-within-a-film, which would have been predictable, she makes it an introspective journey into the past by a fictional actress who decides to end her life..... The few loopholes this critic feels like questioning are – unlike Aparna Sen’s optimistic approach, this one ends on a very pessimistic note. Mrinalini is fleshed out more as a victim and a martyr than as a strong woman who knows her mind. Nothing wrong in that but Sen does it differently every time."
Anandabazar Patrika gave a positive review of the film, rating it 8.5 / 10 - "Aparna Sen has directed a total of nine films in her career, and one must admit that Iti Mrinalini has left all of them behind by a measurable distance.... It reminds us the various roles we play in our lives - at times we are an Abhijit, at times a Siddhartha. Yet at other moments we don the role of an Imtiaz. But we all have a Chintan in us... Iti is definitely Aparna's most mature outing till date, and a marked departure from her usual style of film-making. Her content is heavy yet new-age, her narrative intriguing, her pace fast, her visuals lending themselves to the moments. It is an assured piece. Debojyoti Mishra's music excels, especially the title track.... However, one note of dissonance is the verbosity of the script, laden with literature. But I guess the Bengali talk, like the French! Iti Mrinalini remains Aparna Sen's best letter till date."
New York Indian Film Festival felt Iti Mrinalini is "Definitely out of the mainstream in terms of execution of story and performance, the casting is appropriate. Perhaps connoisseurs and purists of Bengali cinema may not agree. While love is universal societal conflicts abound in any culture and time, more so now, and it is not surprising to hear Chintan Nair inquire of a despondent heroine, "Why do you think all love should end in marriage?".... Debutant screenwriter Ranjan Ghosh has worked the subject with passion, and after a particularly depressing break-up for the younger Mrinalini, Chintan Nair (played by Kaushik Sen, known in Bengali screen and stage) declares, "A love that frees you is a love that has no expectations." Flashbacks tend to confuse a bit at times since Mrinalini is all over (old and young), and with the grand parade of exquisite saris on display one is overwhelmed by the array of characters who walk into frames effortlessly. And, concentrated effort is needed by the viewer to understand some of the sequences. Mrinalini continues to relive her past, as night gradually turns to dawn. Her German shepherd wants to get out for a break and while one is wondering about the suicide note, it happens. Wait for the last scene."
Passion For Cinema says, "I must thank Sen for not falling into the trap of commenting on Indian cinema of the yesteryears, or doing yet another review of the machinations of the film industry. They had been taken care of by Guru Dutt in Kaagaz ke Phool, and by Shyam Benegal in Bhumika. Refreshingly then, Aparna Sen’s Iti Mrinalini revisits all her past relationships – four of them – on the night she contemplates suicide. This fresh peek into the actress’s personal ‘life and love’ is something that has thrilled me..... The otherwise taut narrative starts loosening up towards the latter half of the film. But it picks up right at the end with a shocker! Sen has always been a master story-teller and Iti Mrinalini matches up to that reputation. A big hug to her co-writer as well. I simply loved the way the flashbacks were coming on randomly, in tandem with her memories... After the breezy TJW, Iti Mrinalini is like a whirlwind tour of a suicidal woman’s mind. Aparna Sen’s mastery over her craft is all too visible here! Do watch this small little epic film from the diva herself. But don’t go expecting another TJW, because you WILL be disappointed. This one’s WAY better! There is a chance that maybe, just maybe, Iti Mrinalini ends up being Aparna Sen’s most successful film till date!"
Film Portal Unboxed Writers talks of the film - "Iti Mrinalini (An Unfinished Letter) is a movie that takes you on a turbulent journey and lets you distinguish the myriad colors of relationships through the lens of an actress, a lover, a friend and a longing mother. What I loved about Iti Mrinalini besides the remarkable performances of the legendary Aparna Sen and the gifted Konkona Sen Sharma, possibly the only actress in the industry who can naturally slip into an emotion, is the engaging flow of the story. Mrinalini is the protagonist whose life and emotions move you in different ways and carry you away in a world where you cry, empathise and become one with the protagonist.... This movie is also a visual treat and also an uplifting experience because it travels through a night and a lifetime of pain and heartbreak and then unveils a morning of hope. The vanity of the make-believe world of cinema, the loss of self and the love and the ensuing hurt all teach you enduring life lessons and touch you deeply.... I recommend this brilliant portrayal of life and literature at least once to all the lovers of good cinema."
|Soundtrack album by Debojyoti Mishra|
|Released||28 March 2011|
|Label||Shree Venkatesh Films|
|1.||"Smritir Sahor" (Part 1)||Sunil Gangopadhyay||Srikanto Acharya, Priyam Mukherjee & Sourish Bhattacharya|
|2.||"Ajana Kono Galpo Bole"||Srijit Mukherjee||Shreya Ghoshal|
|3.||"Mone Holo Jeno Antabihin"||Rabindranath Tagore||Sudeshna Chatterjee|
|4.||"Bishe Bishe Nil" (Female)||Srijit Mukherjee||Shreya Ghoshal|
|5.||"Smritir Sahor" (Part 2)||Sunil Gangopadhyay||Aparna Sen, Srikanto Acharya, Priyam Mukherjee & Sourish Bhattacharya|
|6.||"Amar Mukti Aloye Aloye"||Rabindranath Tagore||Sudeshna Chatterjee|
|7.||"Bishe Bishe Nil" ((Male))||Srijit Mukherjee||Bonnie Chakraborty|
- Won- New York Indian Film Festival (Best Director) - Aparna Sen
- Won- New York Indian Film Festival (Best Actress) - Konkona Sen Sharma
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