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Kumar Shahani, an Indian parallel cinema movement pioneer, dies at 83 after prolonged illness Kumar Shahani
Photo Courtesy: Pinarayi Vijayan X page/@pinarayivijayan

Kumar Shahani, an Indian parallel cinema movement pioneer, dies at 83 after prolonged illness

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 26 Feb 2024, 07:43 pm

Filmmaker, screenwriter and academic Kumar Shahani, known for his contribution to India’s parallel cinema movement with his style known as formalism, died in a Kolkata hospital on Sunday due to prolonged old-age-related issues.

He was 83.

Known for his films like Maya Darpan (1972), Tarang (1984) and Khayal Gatha (1989), he stayed away from popular films.

In his illustrious career, the director had won the prestigious National Award for the films Maya Darpan, Tarang and the documentary Bhavantarana.  

His dedication to formalism was defined by the reputation of his first feature Maya Darpan, considered Indian cinema's first formalist film.

Known for his unconventional approach and strong bond to making parallel movies, critics and film enthusiasts often associated him with filmmakers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Andrei Tarkovsky and Jacques Rivette.

Life and movies

Born on December 7, 1940 in  Larkana region of India (now Pakistan), his family moved to Mumbai (then known as Bombay) after the partition of the country.

He received a B. A. (hons) from the University of Bombay in Political Science and History and studied screenplay writing and Advanced Direction at the Film and Television Institute of India.

It was in FTII where he was taught by legendary Indian director Ritwik Ghatak.

As a highlight point in his career, he was awarded a French Government Scholarship for further studies in France, where he studied at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) and assisted Robert Bresson on Une Femme Douce.

After returning to India, he made his first feature film Maya Darpan in 1972.

He had to wait for twelve years before he received funding to make his next full-length feature film Tarang.


National Film Archive of India wrote: "We are deeply saddened by the passing away of filmmaker, scholar and writer #KumarShahani (1940-2024), a pioneer and luminary of the Indian New Wave. Shahani was an integral member of the generation of filmmakers who emerged under the tutelage of #RitwikGhatak at FTII."

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described his death as a  big loss for Indian film industry.

"Sad to know of the demise of the renowned filmmaker Kumar Shahani at Kolkata," she posted on X.

"Shahani was a noted and powerful film director, who had a strong presence in the Indian parallel cinema. It is indeed a big loss for Indian film industry. My condolences to his family, friends and followers," the CM said.

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan wrote on his X handle: "The loss of renowned filmmaker Kumar Shahani, who also maintained warm ties with Kerala, is deeply saddening. His innovative filmmaking left an indelible mark on Indian cinema, while his commitment to progressive ideals inspired many. My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and the film fraternity."



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