Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ritwik Ghatak's Nagarik (The Citizen)

20th September, 1977 - Ritwik Ghatak's Nagarik (The Citizen) Premiered at the New Empire Theatre, Calcutta.. Nagarik was the first feature-length film directed by Ritwik Ghatak.. Completed in 1952 it was released twenty-four years later, after Ghatak's death (6th February, 1976)..

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ustad Alauddin Khan - A Documentary by Ritwik Ghatak

Never To Return - A Short Story by Arin Paul

Shekhar & Rimi were sitting at this quaint restaurant sipping their drinks. There had been a silence between them which seemed like eternity. Rimi broke the silence at last. “It’s difficult for life to go on this way”, she said. Shekhar replied “It was what it was because they had chosen it to be that way”. Rimi looked at him hard. She recalled their strong friendship during college days. They had done everything together. Right from exchanging notes, getting involved in college politics to watching good theater to sitting in the library reading two copies of the same book and exchanging thoughts through looks as they would be asked to leave if they spoke. And now they were both married to their respective spouses and settled in life.

Shekhar and Rimi were settled. Both had their respective family, their home and most of the basic things they could afford. Yet something had been unsettling them over the last few months. They were not happy in their marriages. Shekhar’s wife Chandra was a housewife. Shekhar’s ordinary government job and meagre salary could not afford the luxuries which are offered nowadays to the so called middle class. Chandra would be envious of their neighbour’s possessions and vent her frustrations out on Shekhar. This had become an everyday affair in Shekhar’s household. Their six year old son Toto was witness to his parents’ everyday squabbles and helplessly accepted this sad reality crying silent tears secretly once in a while. Things were not very happening in Rimi’s life either. Rimi’s husband Arnab had his own business and was a very busy man. Rimi herself was working with an MNC and had a hectic schedule. But she still managed to find time for home and family, expecting Arnab to be able to do the same. Arnab however had never been able to mange that and had never given it a thought either. Rimi was an introvert and never expressed her feelings regarding the matter. As a result, in due course of time, monotony had gradually set in to their marriage. They hardly got to meet each other and whatever little they did, hardly any words got exchanged.

Under these circumstances, both Shekhar and Rimi were wanting to get away from it all forever. But a sense of commitment had always held them back. So one day, although they had almost lost touch with each other, they decided to meet up to share their feelings and experiences about their current existence. After a few drinks, both were a bit high and emotions had started pouring out. They finally decided that they’ll end all this agony and run away somewhere far off. Somewhere – where nobody could reach them, find them or hurt them. They would sit for hours on end and chat like they used to during college days and spend the rest of their lives at peace. It was decided that right at the beginning of the following week they would push off to some quaint unknown place in the hills and settle there. They decided to rent a car so that no one could track them through the ticket reservation programs in railways or airports.

The following week, as planned, they had hit the road. As they drove along, the two talked about their respective marriages and recalled many an incident that had made their marriage so sour. Down the winding road the car flew as the two shared their painful lives which the two were today desperately running away from. As they stopped for tea, a middle-aged gentleman Sankar Ghosh asked for a lift in their car for a short distance. Shekhar was initially hesitant, but Rimi told him what would be the harm in helping this stranger since this poor man would be stranded in the middle of nowhere, where nothing but this shanty serving tea stood. So Shekhar hesitatingly agreed and continued their journey with this stranger in their car.

As they realized soon, this stranger was extremely talkative. In fact, not only was he talkative, he basically talked of meaningless things and had strange stupid opinions about everything around. What was even more irritating, was that whenever Shekhar and Rimi started talking amongst themselves, he would intervene and had some point he wanted to make relating to their conversation. And in most cases what he had to say seemed meaningless and extremely stupid. As this man went on blabbering, he would sometimes get into these philosophical bents of mind which was even worse because his philosophical thoughts, though extremely hilarious and weird at times, could bore one to hell. Shekhar and Rimi were starting to get more and more irritated as time went by and were desperately wishing this man would get off soon.

Thought it was quite a while before Sankar ultimately got down, his getting down came as a big relief to both Shekhar and Rimi. As they continued to travel, they now had the chance to discuss this strange man and have a big laugh over it. As they did so, they started pondering over the stupid things this man had been saying and started looking at his stupid thoughts and statements from a different perspective, thereby looking at their respective marriages from a whole new perspective. As they started doing that they started remembering the good moments of their marriages which they had never given a thought to amidst the hustle and bustle of their chaotic lives. Maybe their respective marriages deserved another chance. Maybe they could try and mend things and start all over again looking at life from a completely different angle. Why not? Why should they leave and run away from something that still had the potential of becoming something so beautiful. They decided to return and try again, this time more dedicatedly and passionately.

They asked the driver to turn around. As the sun set across the horizon spreading a soothing red glow across the heavens, Shekhar and Rimi could feel the last glows of the setting sun lighting up their lives again. Their day was not ending. They were simply returning to a new beginning.

Never To Return - A Short Story by Arin Paul | WBRi Online Magazine

Trip Of Desire - A Short Story by Arin Paul

Rounak Roy, a man in his Forties is a failed Police Officer. He is still a Sub-Inspector of Police at Park Street Police Station. He lives with his wife, Tapati and their son Uttarayan at a rented place in Howrah. Uttarayan is eighteen years of age and has just appeared for Madhyamik Examinations. Tapati is a simple house-wife. Rounak had an arranged marriage and quite early in his life. Within a year of Rounak & Tapati’s marriage, Uttarayan was born. Rounak then was a constable. It was quite a while that his job was not satisfying him and his promotion being delayed. Of late Rounak was very much into alcohol and didn’t have a healthy relation with his family. Also, the economic condition of the family was not good. It was deteriorating day by day with higher expenses and limited income. And with every passing day, Rounak was becoming more & more irritated with his situation. Tapati was having a hard time to run the family and often the couple would end up in big quarrels. Uttarayan would always watch but keep quiet because he knew his Dad would thrash him if he interfered.

Uttarayan was mad about cycling. He would often take his bi-cycle and roam around like a free bird. He loved exploring places. And that too, alone. Though he was in love with a girl Soma but his trips of desire were always alone. Uttarayan dreamt of visiting Cities, States, and Countries on his cycle but he feared his Dad would never let him. His Dad never let him visit Calcutta. Though, Uttarayan had visited many cities, states and countries, not in his cycle but through the glorious cycle of internet. And the places would attract him like hell. He used to dream about cycling in big cities, mountains, etc. He would go mad discussing them with Soma. And maybe, once in a while, Uttarayan would take Soma for a ride. Soma, usually would be thrilled after such rides because Uttarayan would talk crazily all along.

Rounak was really having serious problems at his workplace and would remain tensed and frustrated all day along. It was one such time, when Uttarayan couldn’t stop himself and asked permission from his Dad to visit Calcutta on cycle. Rounak was furious. Rounak never liked his son roaming all around on a cycle. Rounak wanted his Son to complete his studies and join a job, so that the economic condition of the family improved. Even Tapati wanted the same. But Tapati also being a mother supported Uttarayan’s dream though Rounak was not aware of this. Rounak almost thrashed Uttarayan and the poor chap somehow managed to flee the room.

Madhyamik exams being over, Uttarayan was getting restless and frustrated with every passing day. His desire was winning over his fear. And Soma always used to support him. Once again, Uttarayan one evening asked Rounak about the No-Cycling Zones in Calcutta. Rounak was so mad that he went and thrashed Uttarayan’s cycle with a cricket bat creating severe damage to the cycle. Uttarayan was in tears and couldn’t sleep that night. But that night made his desire, destiny.  With Soma’s and a few other friend’s help Uttarayan’s cycle was back on track. And he decided to visit Calcutta on his own, without his Father’s consent. He fixed a date. And on that day, he left with his cycle, early morning. Rounak had not returned home the previous night because their was a big political rally the next day.

Uttarayan seemed to be the happiest person on earth, cycling, as if to Glory. He had waited for months maybe years and here he was on his first trip to a city. After almost cycling for 2 hours he entered Calcutta through the Howrah Bridge. He was thrilled. After roaming around like a vagabond, Uttarayan was resting under a tree in Maidan. His happiness was beyond imagination and expectation. After a while, he started his journey again, it was around noon and he was on Red Road. While cycling he saw a Police Van approaching him and the fear of his father coming to know helped him decide to flee. The police also started chasing him. On the other hand, a huge chaos started in the political rally. The police had to Lathicharge and through tear gas to the crowd. Amongst this, Uttarayan was fleeing. After a while, a policeman came down the jeep and shot the young man from a long distance. The bullet hit Uttarayan in the chest and he fell with his cycle on the road. Other policemen approached and took away the body along with the cycle.

It was quite late and Uttarayan had not returned home. Tapati was very worried. Rounak arrived quite late and seemed very happy. He hugged Tapati and said that the way he handled the chaos today will finally give him a promotion. And the family’s economic condition would improve to a larger extent. Tapati was happy and worried at the same time. Rounak also started worrying about Uttarayan. The night passed as the two helplessly waited for their son to return. They had already been to almost all his friend’s places. In the morning, Soma, almost broken like the dead, arrived at Rounak’s place and handed over the newspaper to Rounak. Rounak fainted after taking a glimpse of the front page.

It read, “Police Atrocity Takes Another Life of An Innocent” and the photo was of Uttarayan lying dead beside his cycle.

Perhaps, Uttarayan was on another “Trip of Desire”.

Trip Of Desire - A Short Story by Arin Paul | WBRi Online Magazine

The Un-Common Connection: Ritwik Ghatak & Guru Dutt

Ritwik Ghatak considered being one of the greatest and most significant filmmakers in Indian & Bengali cinema and Guru Dutt, often credited with ushering in the golden era of Hindi cinema had things very similar often overlooked. Though both the Legends were overlooked in their own lifetimes but had belatedly generated international recognition. Both Ghatak and Dutt started their directorial careers in early fifties. Dutt’s debut film was Baazi in 1951 whereas Ghatak’s debut film was Nagarik in 1952. What’s interesting and overlooked is that both these film-makers have directed eight movies in their lifetime. Ritwik Ghatak’s immortal eight films are Nagarik (The Citizen) (1952/1977), Ajantrik (The Unmechanical or The Pathetic Fallacy) (1958), Bari Theke Paliye (The Runaway) (1958), Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) (1960), Komol Gandhar (E-Flat) (1961), Subarnarekha (1962/1965), Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Called Titash) (1973) and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (Reason, Debate and a Story) (1974). And Guru Dutt’s immortal eight films are Baazi (A Game of Chance)  (1951), Jaal (The Net) (1952), Baaz (The Hawk) (1953), Aar Paar ( This or That) (1954), Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955), Sailaab (1956), Pyaasa (The Thirsty) (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959).

Guru Dutt was born as Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone in Bangalore on 9th July, 1925 and Ritwik Kumar Ghatak was born in Rajshahi (the then East Bengal and presently Bangladesh) on 4th November, 1925. Ritwik Ghatak moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) with his family during the Bengal Famine on 1943 whereas Guru Dutt moved to Calcutta and settled in Bhowanipur as his father got a job in the city. Guru Dutt entered the film industry in 1944 with a job of a choreographer in Prabhat Film Company, Poona (now Pune) whereas Ghatak entered the film industry in 1950 as an assistant director and actor. Ritwik Ghatak was also briefly at Pune as he taught at Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) in 1966. Dutt married well known play back singer Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri famous as Geeta Dutt in 1953 and Ghatak married Surama Ghatak in 1955.

Ritwik Ghatak acted in six movies namely Tathapi (1950), Chinnamool (1951), Kumari Mon (1962), Subarnarekha (1962/1965), Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (1973) and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (1974). Guru Dutt acted in 17 films namely Chand (1944), Lakha Rani (1945), Hum Ek Hain (1946), Baaz (1953), Aar Paar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957), 12 O'Clock (1958), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), Sautela Bhai (1962), Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), Bharosa (1963), Bahurani (1963), Suhagan (1964), Sanjh Aur Savera (1964) and Picnic (1964) (Incomplete).

Again talking on incomplete films, both these film-makers had quite a few. Ghatak’s incomplete films were Bedeni (1951), Kato Ajanare (1959), Bagolar Bangodarshan (1964–65), Ronger Golam (1968) and Ramkinkar (1975). And Guru Dutt’s incomplete films were Gauri (1957) and Picnic (1964).

Guru Dutt had produced eight films: Aar Paar (1955), C.I.D. (1956), Pyaasa (1957), Gauri (1957) , Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) and Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966) too whereas Ghatak had written six films: Musafir (1957), Madhumati (1958), Swaralipi (1960), Kumari Mon (1962), Deeper Nam Tiya Rong (1963) and Rajkanya (1965) apart from his own films.

Even in Death they had a thing in common, Pain. Guru Dutt passed away on 10th October, 1964 as he was found dead in his apartment. His death was caused due to overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. Ritwik Ghatak passed way on 6th February, 1974 at Calcutta’s SSKM hospital as he suffered from cholera. He was also on high alcohol.

“My first film was called a picaresque episodic film along the lines of the eighteenth century Spanish novel Gil Blas De Santillane; the second was called a film of documentary approach; the next was a melodrama, and the fourth, nothing at all, just no film.” ~~~ Ritwik Ghatak (Cinema and I).

“Life mein, yaar, kya hai? Do hi toh cheezen hai – kamyaabi aur failure. There is nothing in between." ("What is there in life, friend? There are only two things - success and failure. There is nothing in between.") ~~~ Guru Dutt.

a collage by me

The Un-Common Connection: Ritwik Ghatak & Guru Dutt (WBRi Feature)