Indian Cinema, over the years, has seen innumerable actors, directors and other artistes filling the stage. Some of them were good, some bad and some were exceptionally great, isn’t it? However, there has been one person, a brilliant one at that, who has consistently been regarded as an “unruly” child of the Indian Cinema. That “somebody” is none other than the once-Principal of the Film and Television Institute of India, Mr. Ritwik Ghatak. Let’s look at some of the reasons why he’s been regarded so—
6. Director of the First Indian Sci-Fi Film
Eons before E.T.—The Extra Terrestrial was made and our Indian Koi Mil Gaya came to surprise Bollywood with alien stuffs, Ritwik Ghatak had flouted all the traditions of Filmmaking and made a whole Sci-Fi film. However, back then, in the 1950s, his film Ajantrik had to face a lot of criticisms for dealing with a preposterous subject. It was only posthumously that the films by this “unruly” child was seen, critiqued and appreciated worldwide!
5. A Person Who Took Up Film as a Medium to Serve His Mission
Ask any film director the reason behind taking up filmmaking, he or she would express in most clear but ornamental words about his or her attraction towards film since childhood. But with Ghatak, it was different and, well, a bit curt. As known to most, he was an activist with the Marxist Communist Party since his young days, and it was to spread his propaganda among all that he used the weapon of cinema. “…I came into films, not because I wanted to make films. Tomorrow, if I find a better medium, I’ll abandon films…” says the maestro.
4. Made Films with Only One Underlying Theme
Ghatak, being a part of East Bengal of the undivided India, was deeply perturbed at the Partition of India; so much so that all his films had an underlying theme of partition running through! Although this may sound a tad bit boring or clichéd, but interestingly his films dealt with a lot of myriad subjects which were direct or indirect repercussions of the Partition. However, somehow, people back then (except some very well known directors and critiques) were quick to sideline him and term him as a cliché and even a lunatic.
3. Showed the East-Bengali People As Human Beings
At a time when directors of Bengali films were busy featuring the East Bengali “refugees” as comic intrudes in their films with their “alien” accents and mannerisms, Ghatak’s main point of focus in his films would be these neglected masses. Naturally, this atrocity had to receive severe critique from the Bengali intelligentsia who mostly consisted of the “educated” middle-class West Bengalis. So, with this, we get to another conclusion why he was treated as an alien by the Film Fraternity.
2. Bengali Intelligentsia? My Foot!
Well, that’s exactly what Ritwik Ghatak’s ideology was—and this gets a strong voice in his culminating film, Jukti, Takko ar Golpo. It is a film where all the conclusions drawn in his previous films were taken up, problematized and put forth in one of the most complex ways ever portrayed in any film across the world. It is a film where not only the boundaries of the famous Bengali intelligentsia was flouted but also the idea of a nation-state as a whole was problematized as was the whole notion of the women being portrayed as Mother Goddesses in the society! Well, that’s surely enough reason to typify him as an outcast and a lunatic!
1. Songs Sequences in Art Films?!
Yep, you heard me right. This time he was charged of a better crime. According to the norms of realist art filmmaking, you cannot use song sequences except in situations where they just can’t be avoided. However, as always, this maverick went a step ahead and used music and songs as essential tropes in his films. In fact, he had even made his film Komol Gandhar as a musical! When asked about the input of songs in his films, this is what he had to say, “….. and I will continue doing so if they help the story to succeed.” Well, that’s quite gutsy, isn’t it?