Jun 5, 2007


(Venue : Kasthuri Srinivasan Auditorium .Please scroll down this post for full details of screening )


1925 – 1976

In an age when film makers masquarade as reformers , it is only apt that one remembers the flag bearers of the REAL New Wave in Indian Cinema that had its inception in the early ’50s through the mid ’70s. A beacon of this New Wave was Ritwik Ghatak. The Anarchist. The Rebel. The quintessential Bengali Intellectual. The man who influenced a generation of film makers.

Ritwik Ghatak was born in Dhaka in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). He belonged to an illustrious family. Ghatak and his family formed part of the massive exodus from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to Kolkata owing to Partition of 1947 - the tragedy that haunted him all his life and kept coming back as a recurring theme in his films. Heavily influenced by Sergei Eisenstein and Berltolt Brecht, he had always intended his cinema to be harbinger of social change.

In 1948, Ghatak 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 entered film industry with Nemai Ghosh's Chinnamul (1950) as actor and assistant director. Chinnamul was followed two years later by Ghatak's first completed film Nagarik (1952), both major break-throughs for the Indian cinema. Ritwik Ghatak directed eight full-length films.

He taught at FTII, Pune , and his legacy lived on through the works of his illustrious students - Mani kaul, Kumar Sahani, Ketan Mehta and John Abraham.


The 3 films chosen for our retrospective are his best-known films, Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) (1960), Komal Gandhar (1961), and Subarnarekha (1962), a trilogy based in Calcutta .

Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960 ) Considered Ghatak’s masterpiece, this powerful and innovative melodrama revolves around a refugee family from East Bengal, victims of the Partition, who struggle for survival on the outskirts of Calcutta. Ghatak captures the complex play of creative and destructive forces at work in the attempt of each family member to survive. At the center of this domestic tragedy is the self-sacrificing Neeta, the family’s eldest daughter and provider for all, who struggles away at her job in the city. Closer to home, an elder brother practices to become a singer, while a younger one turns to factory work. The father realizes the worthlessness of his liberal education in a modern world that has no place for Yeats or Milton and no regard for the ideals of nineteenth-century Bengali liberalism.
Runtime : 120 min / Bengali with English subtitles.

Komal Gandhar (1961) Said to be Ghatak’s favorite film, the quasi-autobiographical Komal Ghandar portrays the People’s Theater Movement of the late 1940s, agonizing over its jealousies and schisms as two rival groups seek to put on a joint production. The title comes from a Tagore poem in which a girl is compared with a particular melody and the melody, in turn, with Bengal. The script has an equally elaborate structure in which the divided mind of the film’s heroine, Anasuya, mirrors the divided leadership of the People’s Theater and, ultimately, a divided Bengal.

Runtime : 110 minBengali with English subtitles

Subarnarekha (1962)

In Subarnarekha, Ritwik Ghatak takes the stuff of melodrama and turns it into a piercing political cry. Set in Calcutta after the partition of Bengal, the film focuses on two Bengali refugees, Ishwar and his younger sister Seeta, who are reduced to living in dire poverty on the banks of the river Subarnarekha. Amidst a floating population of refugees building temporary homes, they are joined by many other uprooted Bengalis, including an abandoned boy they attempt to educate and an idealistic school teacher and his family. Ghatak’s characters are emblematic of the trail of human debris left by colonialism in an increasingly industrialized, post-independence society. Still, as with all Ghatak’s films, Subarnarekha ends on a note of optimism, however frail.

Runtime : 125 min / Bengali with English subtitles.

Venue : Kasturi Srinivasan Auditorium - near Aravind Eye Hospital , Peelamedu, Coimbatore

Time : 17 06 2007 , Sunday 9.45 am to 6.30 pm

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