TRIBUTE With Basu Chatterjee’s passing, Mumbai has lost one of its most affectionate chroniclers
News of Basu Chatterjee’s death broke on a day when the city that he chronicled with unmatched love resembled scenes from his movies in the 1970s and ’80s.
The fans were switched off, the lights were on during the daytime, and ginger tea was being drunk with lunch. In the streets outside, Mumbai residents clutched umbrellas as they splashed in muddy puddles left in the wake of Cyclone Nisarga. Only the masks covering their noses and mouths served as a reminder of the present.
Chatterjee died in Mumbai on Thursday at the age of 90. He made films on a staggering range of subjects, from rural comedies to social issues. Mumbai, the city to which he migrated from Ajmer as a young adult, served as a lasting muse.
One of the best cinematic depictions of the Mumbai monsoon is in Chatterjee’s 1979 film Manzil, starring Amitabh Bachchan as a social climber and Moushumi Chatterjee as his wealthy mark. As the song Rimjhim Gire Sawan unfolds, Bachchan and Chatterjee wander in the downpour, along Marine Drive, the Oval Maidan in Churchgate and in front of the architectural wonders of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus station. Shot by Chatterjee’s long-time collaborator, the gifted cinematographer KK Mahajan, the city never seemed more romantic or beautiful.