To captivate the genius of Rituparno Ghosh within the realms of a few words would be a feat I can never excel in. It has been two years since he passed on. But his works, which will be alive forever, will continue to inspire generation of filmmakers. His demise was a personal loss for all his fans, because his films had a personal appeal. He ushered in a new wave in Bengali cinema and was an extremely gifted writer.
Ritu da’s talent lay in his scene-building and the eye for detail that was evident in every frame of his film. His characters were believable, people we could relate to. The issues highlighted in his films were also mundane, not out of the ordinary. There was an element of straightforwardness in him which reflected in the characters he wrote. There was no veil of pretension.
He had only embarked on a new journey in the filmmaking process – with his quasi-autobiographical Chitrangada – when he left us! The void he has left lies unfilled even now; his shoes are too big for anyone to fill.
Here are five movies by the maverick director which will always be close to my heart:
An adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side”, this film is so Bengali at heart that Christie might herself might wonder in her grave if she actually set the original story in England. Rangapishima (Ritu Da’s Miss Murple, played by a brilliant Rakhee Gulzar) is a simple middle-aged widow with extra-ordinary observational skills. Her niece Mallika (Nandita Das) is a journalist who gets embroiled in the murder of an actor. The film which won Sharmila Tagore a National Award deals with intricacies of relationships and complexities of the human mind. Ritu Da’s first “thriller” which can give a lot of mindless, B-grade pot-boilers a run for their money even today.
A film about a joint family that meets for Durga Pujo and skeletons from the past come to haunt them. Starring a galaxy of stars, the film is essentially a bedroom-drama. Despite being dialogue heavy, not once would feel bored. A quintessential Rituparno film, the story deals with sibling-love, ups and downs of conjugal life, dynamics of relationships and the dark secrets of the human mind – all against the backdrop of Durga Puja festivities. The juxtaposition of festivities and sorrows of life only add to the brilliance of the film. Rituparno once again proves that key to making a good film is not extravagance but simplicity.
This is a film which is very close to my heart. A film about a director and his muse, Rituparno tries to deal with the question, given a choice what would we choose? Sophistication or Unsophisticated spontaneity? With a memorable performance by Ananya Chatterjee (which won her the National Award), Ritu Da fulfills his wish of making a film on Noti Binodini. The last scene of the film describes film-making as “capturing fleeting moments in a frame”. Rituparno Ghosh breathed a soul into the frames with Abohoman.
When I watched this movie, I had a major crush on Konkona Sen Sharma. That did not stop me from admiring Prosenjit’s spellbinding performance. For major part of the film, he is bed-ridden, in a hospital or at home. He communicates with his silence. Three stories woven into each other give us an insight into adultery, without being moralistic or preachy even once. The breach of trust, mending bridges and the rejuvenation of ties – all communicated without being judgmental. Black and white filming and almost complete lack of background score is the USP of Dosar.
“Poetry in motion” is the best phrase to use for this beautiful film. Set in the idyllic locales of Darjeeling, Titli is about a teenage girl who has a crush on a popular actor. Fate brings her face to face with the man of her dreams, only to acquaint her with some unpleasant truths from the past. It is a treat to watch Aparna Sen and Konkona play mother and daughter in reel life too. Mithun Chakraborty’s measured acting will make you his fan.
I could go on and on and write a line or two about all 20 films Ritu da made. But now is not the time. Hope you love watching these films. After all, what better way to remember a filmmaker than watching his works?
A mob of CPM harmads attack a female police officer
On 13 May, 2011 when the entire State of West Bengal heaved a sigh of relief after ousting the Left from power, one had hoped that the dinosaurs that inhabit Alimuddin Street would learn a lesson, introspection and opt for course-correction. That they have chosen not to is evident in the manner in which they chose to blame the electorate for their defeat. And if the last four years are any indication, the Left are still happily residing in the dark ages, relishing their archaic policies rejected by the people.
The manner in which Rani Rashmoni Avenue was taken over by armed harmads pelting stones and bricks at police, anyone could have mistaken Kolkata for Srinagar. Months before Assembly elections, the dinosaurs of Alimuddin suddenly woke up from slumber and wanted to “display their strength”. Police was attacked, a hundred laws broken, even women officers not spared by the murderous mob! The ugly scenes on TV yesterday reminded me once again why I had voted against the Communists in 2011 and will proudly do so again in 2016.
Old habits die hard
In 2001, when Jyoti Basu abdicated his throne for his successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, a section of media had hailed it as reform. Constant efforts by a popular Bengali media house portrayed Buddhadeb as a moderate who was interested in “industrialisation”. We all are witness to the manner in which he led his party in the ruthless game of land grabbing for his “Bourgeoisie” friends. Hollow slogans and muscle power of the harmads was all people got in return of the promises of moon before 2006 elections.
CPM harmads beating up police with bamboo sticks
“Dheki Sworge giyeo dhan bhange” is a popular proverb in Bengal. CPI(M) too finds it hard to shed its politics of violence. In the past one year alone, the CITU has called over a dozen taxi strikes (foiled every time by people who chose luxury app-based cabs over yellow cabs which specialize in refusal). Like an annual vacation ritual, calling a general strike is also their favourite pastime! No lessons learnt from the past, these dinosaurs keep taking public sentiment for granted.
No To Bandh
People of Bengal are tired of bandhs. We have had enough of forced holidays, stalled productivity and brain drain. We want to work. No one is stopping those who want to exercise their democratic right to protest. But the protesters have no right to stop us from going to our workplaces. Forget the middle class; the hapless daily wagers are the worst affected in a bandh. These old men who shout their lungs out do not feel an iota of shame in depriving those poor people from earning a day’s wage!
Mamata Banerjee, when she was in Opposition, has also called bandhs. We have not forgotten that in December, 2006 we only got one week worth classes, thanks to her andolan! However, I admire her for she realised the futility of this archaic mode of protests and decided to give up the bandh culture in 2008. After assuming office in 2011, she made it amply clear that bandhs will not be tolerated.
From running extra government buses to making attendance mandatory (at the cost of losing a day’s salary), she has crushed the forces anarchy with a strong hand. The results are for everyone to see. A large number of people who would otherwise stay indoors on bandh day because of the fear of violence now fearlessly travel to their offices. The failed bandh on 18 August is an example for all. People were determined to work. The administration kept public life normal. The “bandh” was thus restricted to a pocket or two where the goons of Congress had a stronghold.
The lesson in this episode is that people of Bengal are tired of the culture of violence and fear-mongering that prevails in our public discourse. People want peace and progress. We want jobs, not forced holidays because few old men with graying hair want to flex their muscles!
It is high time these out-of-work septuagenarians woke up and smelled the coffee!