Shyam Benegal’s signaled the advent of the “middle cinema” with Ankur (1973), which sparked off a new genre of low-budget, middle of the road movies.
Shyam Benegal’s signaled the advent of the “middle cinema” with Ankur (1973), which sparked off a new genre of low-budget, middle of the road movies that did not boast of a star cast but created a lasting impact with realistic storylines, impressive screenplay, intelligent use of technique and true to life acting.
Following the success of Ankur, which also introduced and established Shabana Azmi as an actress of reckoning, Benegal came up with a number of thought provoking films that explored different sections of society.
Ankur brought to fore the economic and sexual exploitation of the rural poor in Andhra Pradesh, Nishant (1975) probed into the feudalistic oppression of simple villagers, and Manthan (1976) turned the nation’s attention towards the quiet but highly successful White Revolution taking place in rural Gujarat.
Moving away from the rural landscape, Shyam Benegal next came up with Bhumika (1977) which took a close look at the turbulent and unconventional life of the flamboyant Marathi stage and screen actress Hansa Wadkar.
Benegal is credited with discovering some of the most talented and expressive actors of Indian cinema – Smita Patil (Manthan, Bhumika, Mandi) Shabana Azmi (Ankur, Nishant, Mandi), Naseeruddin Shah (Trikal, Mandi), Om Puri (Bhumika) who etched the characters on celluloid with such intensity that they became landmarks in screen performances.
He turned to literature with Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, based on Dharamvir Bharti’s novel by the same name and made the popular TV series Bharat Ek Khoj, based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India.
Benegal has also set benchmarks in making films that are inspired from biographical material such as Sardari Begum (1996), Zubeidaa (2001) and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2005).
Shyam Benegal was awarded the highest honor in Indian cinema the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005. He has also received the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan.
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