Kolkata in Ritwik Ghatak movies

Kolkata in Ritwik Ghatak movies

Chandi Mukherjee31 Mar 2011

Ritwik Ghatak has made only few movies, but Kolkata is important in most of them. He was particularly obsessed with the partition and the plight of refugees who came from across the border in movies like Nagarik, Bari Teke Paliye, Meghe Dhaka Tara, etc.

Ritwik Kumar Ghatak has made 8 films and out of those eight films Kolkata has immense focus in six films.

Ritwik′s later films were so much loaded with abstract ideas & signs, the background as the locale loses its real meaning.

Though released much later his first film was “Nagarik” which means the city-dweller. The story revolves around Ramu, an unemployed youth living in Kolkata. He is one of the teeming millions of refugees who came there after partition; he struggles to find some way of sustaining his family.

Ritwik throughout his film career was very much obsessed by the partition and the Bengali refugee, the uprooted people. Kolkata never experienced this before independence. Within a very short time, millions of Bengali refugees came to this city and started living a dreadful life in every corner and even on the pavements of the Kolkata streets. Ritwik in his first film tried to capture that naked reality of the city in the post independence period. According to him, the screenplay of “Nagarik” was written in 1950… in those days there were no realistic films at all…this was the first genuinely realistic work in Bengali film on the post independence agonies of middle class Bengalis.

Baari Theke Paliye was made as a children′s film. It′s a story of a teenage village boy Kanchan who reads adventure books and dreams of an El Dorado. Kanchan′s El Dorado was Kolkata, the big city. He runs away from his home one day and reaches Kolkata. Here Ghatak sees his own city Kolkata, through the eyes of a village boy. Kanchan moves all over the city, he finds his El Dorado hugely different from his dreams. There are good men, but there are bad men also and the life in the city is very cruel. Ghatak shatters all the images of Kolkata. So at the end Kanchan returns home and when asked by his mother, “…is it a better place than home?” Kanchan replied, “No…there cannot be a better place than home.”  

In the next film Meghe Dhaka Tara Ghatak returns back to his pet theme - the tragedy of an uprooted family. This film is also set in Kolkata of the 1950′s. In Nagarik it was a study through an unemployed young man Ramu, here Neeta, who has a job in the city. She is the eldest daughter of a refugee family and is the only provider for her family. The entire film revolves around Neeta and her struggle. Not only Neeta, her brother Shankar , her sister Geeta, her lover Sanat- everybody struggle against the odds of being an refugee life in the early 50′s in Kolkata was presented before us in a more cruel and realistic manner than Nagarik. Even after death of Neeta, Ghatak deliberately showed us that the tragedy still continued.

In Komal Gandhar we find the urban theatre movements of Kolkata in the 1950′s. The wounds of partition, the emotional bankruptcy of the leadership upturned western ideals just after the independence created a crisis in the middle class values. The male protagonist Bhrigu represents turmoil in mind of modern urban youth; we see internal contradiction, rivalries between theatre groups which reflect the contradiction in the minds of the literate and creative urban people in the post independence period.

Subarnarekha is the story set Kolkata in the 1948, just after independence and partition. A floating population of refugees started building their temporary homes in the outskirts of Kolkata. They made refugee colonies. This story is a tragic tale of two uprooted person Sita and Ishwar. Ritwik shows us the two faces of Kolkata of that period. One is the struggling life of the refugees and the other is the rich colonial life style. We see the life in Park Street bars, colorful evening life in the Kolkata, the rich people in the race course, and all other things. But ultimately the film becomes a search for one′s own home. Ghatak raises one serious question in this film. The question is whether the uprooted Bengali people from the other side of the river have ever considered Kolkata as their home? The answer is a big NO. one of the refugee characters described Kolkata as the “City Of Terrible Pleasures”. At the end of the film Sita committed suicide without finding her “home” and Ishwar once again begins his search for a new home.

Jukti-Takko Aar Gappo was the last film of Ritwik. The film starts from the city of Kolkata in the 70′s and ends in Purulia jungle. The film is some thing like a compilation of essays. Here we see Nilkantha, the protagonist of the film, starts his journey leaving his own home in a Kolkata bye-lane. With Nilkantha there is also Bangabala, a refugee girl from Bangadesh. They spend one night in the Kolkata footpath and a park and then they leave the city. They start their journey towards an unknown Bengal village. In his last film Ghatak wanted to run away from his beloved city Kolkata.

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Ritwik Ghatak is a genius filmmaker, almost forgotten today.
Posted by Pritam on  Feb 6 2012 11:44AM

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