Ritwik Ghatak

Ritwik Ghatak, a refugee from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), shattered by the traumas of partition reflected his sorrow borne out of witnessing the biggest man-made tragedy in human history, the Indian partition. Influenced by the films of the master film-maker, Eisenstein, Ritwik Ghatak made politically radical films. Even though he intended to use his films as a weapon for social change, the society he represented couldn't understand his films. Even the film critics in India neglected his talent during his short lifetime. He was a permanent absentee from film festival circuits and film awards. It was after his untimely death as a chronic alcoholic in 1975 that the critics of India started noticing his films.

Ritwik Ghatak's films influenced a whole new generation of film makers like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, John Abraham, Mani Kaul, Kumar Sahani and Ketan Mehta - the names synonymous with the Indian New Wave cinema.



Filmography:

Nagarik- 1952 - Bengali
(The Citizen)

Ghatak's directorial debut was part of a co-operative effort. The film is an ensemble piece featuring a family of migrants to Calcutta, victims of the Partition of Bengal. Ramu, the eldest son, hopes to get a job to support the family but spends his time gazing wistfully at a flowering tree and dreams of settling with his girlfriend Uma in a house resembling one he saw in a calendar painting. His aged father is disillusioned, while his mother passionately regrets the loss of their old mansion. His sister Seeta internalizes the family's sufferings and tries to escape the situation via the lodger, Sagar, whom they have taken in. Sagar becomes the figure through whom the family articulates its future. Eventually they move into a proletarian slum and abandon their individual aspirations.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Satindra Bhattacharya, Prabhadevi, Sova Sen, Ketaki Devi, Geeta Shome, Kali Bannerjee
Cinematography: Ramananda Sengupta
Music: Hariprasanna Das



Ajantrik - 1958 - Bengali
(Pathetic Fallacy)

The plot revolves around Bimal and his battered taxi, an old Chevrolet, he calls Jagaddal. Because he treats his car as a living being, many consider Bimal to be mad. In a long sequence, Bimal plies his trade with his world intersecting at various points with that of an Oraon tribal. Industrialisation proceeds relentlessly, sowing discord among them, and Jagaddal breaks down irretrievably. It has to be dismantled and sold for scrap. In the end, a child finds the car horn on the street and plays with it, making it emit the call of 'Oraon' horn.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Kali Bannerjee, Kajal Gupta, Tulsi Chakraborthy, Anil Chatterjee
Cinematography: Dinen Gupta
Music: Ali Akbar Khan



Bari Theke Paliye - 1959 - Bengali
(Runaway)

Kanchan, all of eight years old is always up to pranks and mischief in his village home. He finds his father a cruel demon who keeps his mother oppressed and imprisoned. In his dreams, the big city is El Dorado, till he reaches there. But the glimpses of reality are harsher and the victims he meets give him a different view of the city. He himself has to struggle for survival and experiences life as it is, only to go back to his village home. This time as a mature person and with the realization that his father is no demon after all, but yet another victim struggling with poverty and still a loving father.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cinematography: Dinen Gupta
Music: Salil Chowdhury



Megh Dhaka Tara- 1960 - Bengali
(The Cloud Capped Star)

A family of refugees from the time of the Partition of Bengal live in a shanty town near Calcutta, surviving on the earnings of the eldest daughter Neeta. Her elder brother Shankar hopes to become a classical singer while Neeta postpones her marriage to the scientist Sanat to support the family and to pay for Shankar's studies. Eventually, with the tacit encouragement of Neeta's mother, Sanat marries her younger sister Geeta. The family is beset by misfortunes as the father and the younger brother Montu both suffer accidents, forcing Neeta to remain as the sole breadwinner in spite of her worsening Tuberculosis. Finally Shankar, having achieved his ambition, takes her to a mountain resort for treatment. Terminally ill and having sacrificed her best years, she finally pours with anguish into the silence of the mountains, her will to live.


Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Supriya Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Bijon Bhattacharya, Geeta De, Niranjan Ray, Geeta Ghatak
Cinematography: Dinen Gupta
Music: Jyotirindra Moitra



Komal Gandhar - 1961 - Bengali
(E-Flat)

Set in the contentious 1950s, the film's plot is structured around the rivalry of two radical theatre groups. One is lead by Bhrigu, the other by Shanta. Shanta's niece Anusuya participates in Bhrigu's work to the disapproval of her own group. When the two groups join together for a production, Shanta deliberately sabotages it. Bhrigu and Anusuya both discover they are both refugees separated from their country (Bangladesh) and they fall in love. Eventually Anusuya, scheduled to marry Samar and move to France, decides to stay with Bhrigu.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Supriya Choudhury, Abanish Bannerjee, Anil Chatterjee, Geeta De
Cinematography: Dilip Ranjan Mukhopadhyay
Music: Jyotirindra Moitra



Subarnarekha- 1962 - Bengali
(The Golden Line)

One of Ghatak's most impressive and complex films, it tells of Ishwar Chakraborty and his young sister Seeta who start out in a refugee camp after the Partition. After a brief scene ironically evoking the vagaries of Nationalism, the two rescue a boy, Abhiram whose mother Kaushalya is abducted. A businessman appoints Ishwar to run a foundry and he takes the two children to the new adobe. Abhiram is sent to school and returns years later intent on becoming a writer and marrying Seeta. Since Abhiram is an Untouchable, Ishwar finds his job prospects threatened and he asks the boy to leave while arranging for Seeta to marry someone else. But, Seeta elopes with Abhiram. Together with their baby son, they live in a shack in Calcutta until Abhiram dies in an accident and Seeta is forced to turn to prostitution. The lonely old Ishwar contemplates suicide and with his old friend Harprasad goes on a drinking binge in Calcutta that culminates with a visit to a brothel. He is ushered into his own sister's room. Ishwar is devastated and Seeta kills herself, watched by her son.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Abhi Bhattacharya, Bijon Bhattacharya, Madhabi Mukherjee, Geeta De
Cinematography: Dilip Ranjan Mukhopadhyay
Music: Bahadur Khan



Titas Ekti Nadir Naam - 1973 - Bengali
(A River Named Titas)

This film is a Bangladesh production, made shortly after its Independence. The tale is set amongst Malo fishermen living by the Titash River. Kishore's bride is abducted by river bandits. She escapes and is rescued by the fisherfolk, with whom she lives and raises her child. Kishore becomes a madman and is offered shelter by his wife but ironically, they recognise each other only before they die. The child is raised by Basanti. The river starts silting up and the urban traders drive out the fisherfolk.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Rosy Samad, Kaberi Choudhury, Roshan Jamil, Rani Sircar, Sufia Rustam
Cinematography: Baby Islam
Music: Bahadur Khan



Jukti Takko Aar Gappo - 1974 - Bengali
(Arguments and a Story)

Ghatak's last film featured himself as the drunken and spent intellectual, Neelkantha who goes on a picaresque journey through Bengal to reconcile himself with his wife. He is accompanied by Nachiketa and Bangabala, young refugees from Bangladesh. On the way they are joined by a Sanskrit teacher, Jagannath. The film ends with Neelkantha meeting a group of Naxalite students wanted by the police. He argues politics with them and is later shot in a police ambush the next morning. Neelkantha dies with the quote from a Manik Bandopadhyay story about a weaver who wove an empty loom because 'one must do something'.

Direction & Screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Ritwik Ghatak, Tripti Mitra, Shaonli Mitra, Bijon Bhattacharya, Saugata Burman, Utpal Dutt
Cinematography: Baby Islam
Music: Ritwik Ghatak



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