Saturday, September 26, 2009
"Ritwik was one of the few truly original talents in the Cinema this country has produced" was how the great Satyajit Ray once described him. Though he has made only eight feature films ( and several documentaries) he is considered by many to be a master craftsman.
Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh , on 14th Nov ( Like Nehru) in 1925 his family moved to Calcutta to escape the horrors of the Famine of 1943-44 and the tragedy of partition that followed. But these must have become imprinted on such an impressionable mind that most of his films had these and the plight of the refugee as the theme.
He first wrote Plays and then associated with the IPTA - The Indian People's Theatre Association where he wrote, acted and directed several plays as well as translated works of Bertolt Brect and Gogol.
In 1950 , he made his debut in the Film Industry as an actor and assistant director with Nemai Ghosh's " Chinnamul". Ghataks first completed film was in 1952 - Nagarik. He combined a Theatrical style with Documentary Realism - to bring out his active political stance and served as a visual expression of his radical political thoughts.His best known films were "Meghe Dhaka Tara - 1960 , Komal Ghandhar - 1961 and Subarnalekha - 1962 , a Trilogy on the plight of the refugee in Kolkatta. In the mid 60s he moved to Pune to teach at the Film Institute , for just a year.
He was truly one of the boldest film makers who did not succumb to the pressures of commercialisation and continued to make movies that spoke his political, social and personal views on society and the establishment.Though his film preceeded Ray's by a good three years as one of Bengal's best in terms of realism - Ghatak never attained the level of International Popularity that Ray obtained for his films. Ray constantly promoted the films of Ghatak but still no avail.
Ghatak's most famous foray into commercial cinema that most non bengalis will recall was "Madhumati" - the classic film on re-incarnation for which he wrote the Screenplay.
Ghatak died in february 1976 - as a result of complications from his extreme alcoholism. His life too was as stark and bleak as his film's subjects - indeed an element of being autobiographical in his films is also there......A True master - but like most who are endowed with Genius - he had enough of the self destructive gene in him.........Maybe that is why he titled his Book on himself and his films as - Rows and Rows of fences....