Ritwik Ghatak stands tall among Ray and Mrinal Sen – one of the all time best directors in global cinema. The world renowned Riwik Ghatak has directed only eight films in his life, but his impact in filmmaking is huge. Each and every one of these films is a class in itself.
One might argue that Ghatak mainly made films of the tragedies of the Partition. Actually Ghatak faced the woes first hand. Such a traumatic experience of losing a home leaves deep wounds in the heart. Perhaps Ghatak wanted to convey that Partition should have never happened. Who knows?
Let us reminisce his eight great works of cinema art.
Nagarik, The Citizen. This was the first full length film directed by Ghatak. Strangely, this film was released in 1977, 25 years later. Ritwik Ghatak had also passed away by then. No one surely knows why. But the film is so good that if it hadn’t been released later, we would have missed a masterpiece. Critics have also called it the first art film of Bengali cinema. By this movie alone, Ghatak proves his class with Ray, Mrinal Sen and many such international directors.
Many Indian films are made inspired by the characters from Western ones. Here we see the opposite.
Ajantrik was made in 1958. It was based on a story by Subodh Ghosh and it was later titled as The Mechanical Man as well as the The Unmechanical. It was a science fiction, comedy drama film which had an inaminate object as the central role – perhaps the first of its kind in cinema history.
Kali Banerjee is Bimal. He is a taxi driver who he lives alone and whose whole world is Jagaddal. Jagaddal is an old 1920 Chevrolet jalopy which he uses as the taxi.
This film impressed critics and viewers all too well.
“What does ‘Ajantrik’ mean? I don’t know and I believe no one in Venice Film Festival knew…I can’t tell the whole story of the film…there was no subtitle for the film. But I saw the film spellbound till the very end”. Film critic Georges Sadoul, Wikipedia
Bari Theke Paliye
A beautiful story of a boy’s growing up. Kanchan is barely eight years old but he is all against his father. Kanchan does not like his father punishing him for his mischief. In his eyes, his father is a monster. Since his immature brain assumes it the ultimate truth, he runs away to Kolkata, the big city. He gullibly believes that all is perfect in the city. But within a short time, the simple village boy faces the harsh reality of life. As he realizes that his father meant only the best for him, he yearns to return to his village home.
Meghe Dhaka Tara
This 1960 film was based on a novel by Skatipada Rajguru. It was the first of the three part film series. One of the themes Riwik Ghatak explored in his films was the unfortunate Partition of Bengal and the sorrows the migrants faced. Supriya Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Gita Dey, Bijan Bhattacharya, Niranjan Roy and Gyanesh Mukherjee acted in this film.
While this is the sequence to Meghe Dhaka Tara, it further explores the partition of Bengal and the condition of the refugees. The title of the film is a line of a poem written by Tagore. Komal Gandhar implies to E-flat of the Hindustani music.
Ritwik Ghatak sort of single handedly made this film – he wrote, directed, produced and gave screenplay to Komal Gandhar.
Furthermore, this was the last film of the tri-series after Meghe Dhaka Tara and Komal Gandhar. It was released in 1965. This film is also considered as one of the all times great in a Critics Poll. The tragic film further circulates around the trials and dangers the refugees faced after the Partition of Bengal.
Titash Ekti Nadir Naam
The film was released in 1971 and was critically acclaimed. Especially relevant, Ghatak has himself acted in this film as a boatman.
Jukti Takko Aar Gappo
This was the last film made by Ritwik Ghatak. This film won the National Film award. The camera work of this film is considered a landmark of that period of time. Most of all, many consider this as Ghatak’s autobiographical film.