Ritwik Ghatak : Remembering a Maestro
Much like the El Grecos and Franz Kafkas of the world, Ritwik Kumar Ghatak never quite became the popularly known Ritwik Ghatak during his lifetime. It was only in the years after his death that his works drew international acclaim. Ritwik’s posthumous fame can be attributed to the unique brilliance and uncompromising vision he had for each of his creations. Renonwned writer and director Satyajit Ray had said, “Ritwik was one of the few truly original talents in the cinema this country has produced”. Though he has made only eight feature films and eleven documentaries, he is considered to be a master craftsman. His qualities made him one of the most original Bengali filmmakers to have curved a niche outside the mainstream cinema. Driven by his principles, he did not succumb to the pressures of the commercial filmmaking industry and continued to make movies that spoke of his unique political, social and personal views.
Born in Dhaka on November 4, 1925, Ritwik moved to Rajshahi and lived there till 1943. He moved to Kolkata afterwards, driven to the edge by the gloom of the 1943 famine and the 1947 Partition. He returned to his homeland afterindependence and made the film ‘Titas Ekti Nadir Naam’ in 1973. Bangladesh’s Recently, the citizens of Rajshahi received generous servings of Ritwik’s filmmaking brilliance during a three-day long Ritwik Ghatak Film Festival 2009 held in the city. The event featured a retrospective of Ghatak’s eight films, amongst which were Ajantrik (1958), Subornarekha (1965), Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Titas Ekti Nadir Naam (1973), Bari Theke Paliye (1958) and Jukti, Takko Ar Gappo (1974). To commemorate the event, Ritwik’s two beloved nieces Rina Chakwarty and Aroma Dutta visited Rajshahi, adding a personal touch to the festival. Furthermore, Sandra Alvarez and Anais Nasson, two French film researchers studying Ritwik’s work, were present at the festival and participated in discussions. Hasan Azizul Haque, an eminent litterateur of the subcontinent aptly called the festival a ‘fair of stars’.
The festival was organized at the Rajshahi Homeopathic Medical College at Ghora-mara by the Rajshahi Film Society between 17 and 19 December. “Honouring the Bengali cinema titan was long due”, commented Dr. FMA Zahid, the society’s convener. The medical college is currently housed in the same building that Ghatak used to call home.
Rina Chakrawarty, Ritwik’s niece, currently a resident of Canada, revealed many unknown facts about the film maestro. “After completing Titas Ekti Nadir Naam, Ritwik went back to our home in Kolkata. He was in a lot of mental anguish at the time,” says Rina. She further added, “He sometimes talked about his suffering, about his frustrations and and his agony - but he never fully opened up to share those”. According to Rina, Ritwik Ghatak felt that only the youths of Bangladesh can understand his sufferings and pain.
Rina was born in Rajshahi. “I never imagined that I would ever return to Rajshahi, and particularly to the same house where I was born and have not seen for 62 years. I was nine years old when I heard about the partition on the radio on August 14, 1947. I was happy initially, but later realized that it meant that we have to leave the house. I remember that it hurt even more because we had to leave before the five newborn kittens of our pet cat back then were yet to open their eyes for the first time.”
While talking about Ritwik Ghatak, Rina’s eyes became misty. She said that she had seen Ritwik from three different aspects - as a human being, as an artist and as a drunk. “For his alcoholism, he was unreliable to many. But, I do not believe those who say Ritwik destroyed himself. But I do not clearly know why exactly he drank so much.”
Hasan Azizul Haque answered this question by saying that Ritwik is one of the millions who were alienated from his motherland. He says that it was because of how uneducated and heartless that generation was, and maybe still is. They do not understand the pitfalls in the two-nation theory and they lack the knowledge of the true history of the world. People need to study and understand the mistakes of past generation in order to build a better future. Aroma Dutta, the daughter of Ritwik’s twin sister Protiti Devi (Bhobi) spoke about Ritwik more clearly. She said that Ritwik was devastated after having to move away from Rajshahi where he passedthe most beautiful period of his life.
|Chief guests of the Ritwik Ghatak Film Festival 2009
“He was a phoenix, he couldn’t give up”. She says Ritwik hailed her father Sanjeeb Dutta who had the courage to leave the country in protest of the killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 and Martyr Dhirendranath Dutta, her grandfather for he did not believe in the two-nation theory which led to the 1947 Partition.
Aroma recollected a day in 1972 when Ritwik had visited her house at Comilla. Ritwik was crying like a child as he said, “Bangladeshis are in support of this, and there is nothing to do. Millions of Bangladeshis have sacrificed their lives for triggering the two-nation theory. A nation cannot be born out of religion. Religion should not separate the sky, the soil or human beings”, Aroma quotes Ritwik.About which of Ritwik’s works interests her the most, Sandra Alvarez (Ritwik’s French researcher) said, “In spite of the fact that he speaks about Bengal, Bengali culture and history, his work transcends the boundaries of time and geography and somehow goes beyond nationality and touches something overwhelming, something we never saw elsewhere.” She also informed Star Insight that a publishing house in France is going topublish a book in French featuring retrospectives of Ritwik’s works.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009