The Story of a Master Storyteller
"If there is a better medium than cinema, I'll kick the cinema out to grab it. I am not in love with cinema.I don't love film.”, said Ritwik Ghatak. How do you describe a master film-maker who does not love film? What do you say of a man whose genius seems to be driven by the hordes of inner conflicts and contradictions that haunts both the man and his post-Partition nation. What drives a man who uses the cinema as a medium to reach millions of minds, but then shuns the mainstream, and goes on the curve out a place for himself in the front rows of the Bengali independent theatres? Much can be said about the Ritwik Ghatak enigma - much has been said about it but perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, who the man was is not as important as what the man contributed.
Ritwik Ghatak, the celebrated Bengali filmmaker, was born on 4 November, 1925, at Jindabazar, Dhaka. Ghatak migrated to Calcutta in early youth. He directed eight full-length films, and a host of short films and documentaries. His best-known films, Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) (1960), Komal Gandhar (E-Flat) (1961), and Subarnarekha (1962).
Though he is known mostly for his film-making, throughout his career, Ghatak has been a director, screen-writer, dramatist, educator, writer and an actor. His career began in 1948, when he wrote his first play Kalo Sayar (The Dark Lake), and participated in a revival of the landmark play Nabanna. In 1951, Ghatak joined the Indian People's Theatre Association ( IPTA ). He wrote, directed and acted in plays and translated Bertolt Brecht and Gogol into Bengali. In 1957, he wrote and directed his last play Jwala (The Burning).
Ghatak's first movie was Nemai Ghosh's Chinnamul (1950), in which he was an actor and assistant director. Chinnamul was followed two years later by Ghatak's first completed film Nagarik (1952), both major break-throughs for the Bengali cinema. Ghatak's first commercial release was Ajantrik (1958), a comedy-drama film with science fiction themes. Ghatak's greatest commercial success as a script writer was for Madhumati (1958), a Hindi film directed by another Bengali filmmaker Bimal Roy. The film earned Ghatak his first award nomination, for the Filmfare Best Story Award.
Ghatak moved briefly to Pune in 1966, where he taught at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). During his year at FTII, he was involved in the making of two student films, Fear and Rendezvous.
After Subarnarekha (1962) Ghatak next film was the1973 epic Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Called Titas). In later life, making films became difficult owing to his poor health. His last film, and perhaps his most innovative, was the 'autobiographical' Jukti Takka ar Gappo (Reason, Debate And Story) (1974).
By the beginning of his filmmaking career, East Bengal had become East Pakistan, and his films are heavily influenced by his personal experience of Partition. On a somewhat ironic note, at that time, Pakistan had a general ban on all Indian films, and for the majority of Ghatak's filmmaking career, his films could not screen in his birth city.
From the Insight Desk
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