Guerilla Fighter, The (1973)

Sen channels the unorthodoxy of Godard in this fiercely political docufiction about a Marxist-leaning radical tasked to hide in a middle-class woman’s luxury apartment.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,275

Dir. Mrinal Sen
1973 | India | Drama | 89 mins | 1.37:1 | Bengali & Hindi
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some mature themes

Cast: Dhritiman Chatterjee, Simi Garewal, Pravas Sarkar
Plot: After escaping from police custody, the political activist, Sumit, is on the run. He receives shelter in a luxurious apartment owned by a sensitive young upper-class woman.
Awards: Directors’ Fortnight (Cannes); Won Best Screenplay (National Film Awards India)
Source: National Film Development Council

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Political Activism; Society’s Poor
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Better late than never, this is my first introduction to the work of Mrinal Sen, one of India’s greatest filmmakers.  The Guerilla Fighter is a fiercely political piece of docufiction—its opening sequence, featuring a noisy printing press highlighting all kinds of appalling things that are happening in Calcutta, is already an indicator that Sen wasn’t going to wade lightly in the sociopolitics of the time. 

Widespread poverty, the inefficiency and corruption of the government, and rampant killings were only but a few circumstances that had contributed to the despairing plight of the people. 

The Guerilla Fighter, reminiscent of early Godard films (particularly 1963’s Le petit soldat) can claim direct influence from the French New Wave. 

“Who is our enemy? Who is our friend? This is the most important question.”

Its unorthodox style such as the rough-hewn editing and potent insertions of documentary footage (some of political revolution around the world; others of interviews conducted by the director of the poorest of the poor about what they think of their present society) amid a fictive story reveals Sen to be a true progenitor (as far as Indian Parallel Cinema is concerned) of an active engagement with cinema as a tool for social and political change. 

It may not be the most outwardly engaging film to begin with, but The Guerilla Fighter takes the straightforward premise of a Marxist-leaning radical who is tasked to hide in a middle-class woman’s luxury apartment for several days, and transforms it into an exploration of the fault lines that lie not just ideologically in political factions but also within the family.

Grade: B+



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