The ushering of the New Wave Indian Cinema was a pan Indian joint effort in which, Bengal had a major role to play. And, among all the dignitaries who made it possible in India, Ritwik Ghatak is the foremost. This maverick director and also a one-time Principal of FTII, Pune, Ritwik Ghatak’s foray into films was triggered more by his political outlook than his artistic aesthetics, and it is perhaps due to this reason that he wasn’t much appreciated in during his lifetime. It was only after his death that people around the world began watching and conducting researches on his films and gave him the accolades he deserved and craved for in his lifetime.
Let’s have a look at 8 of his full-length complete films as a director—
Released in 1958, Ajantrik or “The Pathetic Fallacy” is India’s first sci-fi films that dealt with things coming into life! It is the story of Bimal, a poor taxi driver, and his old, “lively” car, Jagaddal and their undying love through the odds. The film had received a special screening at the famous Venice Film Festival, and despite failing to have any subtitle, won much accolades and appraisal for the same! It is one of those comedy films that is surely going to tickle many grey cells and make you burst with laughter and mirth.
Translated as “The Citizen”, Nagarik was the first full-length work by Ritwik Ghatak and was completed by 1952, but due to some problems, its release was postponed by as long as 24 years—it was only after Ghatak’s death that the film was screened. Had it not been postponed then it would’ve been the first instance of a Bengali art-house film; and according to Ray, the film would have even surpassed Pather Pachali in terms of cinematic brilliance.
6. Bari Theke Paliye
Also known as “Runaway”, Bari Theke Paliye is the story of a naughty kid who runs away from his village to find solace in Calcutta—his El dorado. Personally, Ritwik Ghatak hated life in Calcutta, Calcutta was to him nothing more than a claustrophobic hell-hole and he never missed an opportunity to showcase this aspect of the land; and, a glimpse of this we see in this film too—and the way, the shattering of the child’s dream is evoked and showed is a work of exceptional brilliance!
5. Titash Ekti Nadir Naam
At a time when no West Bengali producer was showing any confidence in this wayward director, a Bangladeshi producer did, and what came out is yet another magnificent work by Ghatak—Titash Ekti Nadir Naam. The film delves into the lives of the fishermen of Bengal, specifically those near the bank of the river Titash, in Bangladesh, and is one of the earliest manifestations of hyperlink cinema—pre-dating Nashville by Robert Altman.
Last of the Partition Trilogy of Ghatak, Subarnarekha charts the story of a refugee from the erstwhile East Bengal, and his life with his little sister and another refugee low-caste boy whom he had provided shelter to. Subarnarekha featured at number #11 of greatest films ever made by the Asian film journal, Cinemaya.
3. Komal Gandhar
Translated as the musical notation E-flat, Komal Gandhar , through the troubled love-story of the protagonists, sketches out the major rift that had segregated the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) that Ghatak was once an active member of. It’s a partly auto-biographical film and is indeed one of his best! It is the second film in the Partition Trilogy.
2. Meghe Dhaka Tara
The Cloud-Capped Star or Meghe Dhaka Tara is recognized as one of the best films ever made across the globe. It is the first of the Partition Trilogy of Ghatak, and etches out a poignant story of Nita, a member of a refugee but genteel Bengali family, and her virtual suicide for the welfare of her family. It’s a must-watch film if you haven’t got an opportunity yet to watch it!
1. Jukti, Takko aar Gappo
It is an auto-biographical film by Ghatak in which he himself acted. It is said that all the dilemmas that troubled him his entire life, both in personal and professional spheres, get accumulated and problematized in this film. A work of extraordinary brilliance, Jukti Takko ar Gappo is listed in innumerable lists across the globe as one of the major films you must see before your death—and we heartily nod to that!