ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ritwik Ghatak’s Soul-searching Cinema

Ritwik Ghatak’s storytelling was full of the kind of merciless truth and honesty that society expects from artists, but is never quite willing or ready to receive.

Two months ago, film archivist S M M Ausaja discovered a tattered suitcase belonging to Pandit Ravi Shankar while looking for vintage posters at a scrap shop in Mumbai. It contained a treasure trove of the musician’s notes, rare photographs, handwritten musical notation, and, curiously, a handwritten poem by film-maker Ritwik Ghatak. Nobody knows if Ghatak had written it for a film, wanting the sitarist to set it to tune, or if it was more personal. Either way, it is a priceless discovery. Perhaps, this gives us an inkling of the treasure trove of the works of this erratic genius, which lie incomplete, scattered, and not understood by the vast majority. Passionate, wildly talented, and an alcoholic, the enfant terrible of Indian cinema remains an enigma for many. Ghatak’s films were ignored by the public in his lifetime, and he became visible and celebrated only posthumously.

Ghatak’s career was one of constant struggle against a public that (in Satyajit Ray’s words) “largely ignored” his films, a struggle against a society that had lost its way, and against a national cinema whose conventions he broke time and again. He spent his career in the shadow of Satyajit Ray, struggling to finance and complete the few films that he made, continuously wrestling various personal and political demons. He never managed to produce a box office hit. He alienated friends, political comrades, and business connections. He left major projects unfinished and bartered film rights for alcohol. His life was in a shambles.

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Updated On : 1st Dec, 2019
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