Rituparno Ghosh – the most courageous director of our time.
written by Souranath Banerjee.
12 National awards and many international ones tagged to his name; Rituparno Ghosh is one of India’s most proclaimed director of all times.
He was also a writer, actor, lyricist and a brilliant television talk-show host!
His second film Unishe April won the National Award in the year 1995 and announced the arrival of a Bengali director who has bestowed himself with the responsibility of continuing the tradition of making classy Bengali films which are both intellectual and entertaining at the same time.
Not an easy task since his predecessors were globally influential stalwarts; the likes of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak.
Now, if one cares to analyze the time when Rituparno Ghosh started his career (in the early 90s), evidently it was the time when Bengali Cinema was going through a tough phase.
Throughout the 80s there was this trend of commercializing Bengali films which apparently meant a desperate attempt to ape the popular Bollywood culture of elaborate songs and action sequences. And thus happened this major shift in the trend of Bengali Cinema – from the earlier artistic films to the so-called ‘commercially entertaining’ ones.
In the year 1991 Satyajit Ray won the National award for his last feature film Agantuk. By that time, apart from a handful of film-makers like Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Buddhadev Dasgupta, the Bengali film industry was flooded with mediocre directors and their mass-pleasing movies.
Bengali industry was in need for someone to create a balance between the traditional arty films and the commercial ones and Rituparno Ghosh was THE director who had the courage and the capability to fill-up this vacuum!
The success of Unishe April was followed by superb films like Dahan, Bariwali, Utsab, Chokher Bali, Raincoat, Dosar, Abohomaan, Shob Charitro Kalponik, Noukadubi, Chitrangada and many more.
More than two decades of Rituparno’s magical cinemas.
In the early phase of Rituparno’s film-making career his films mostly portrayed the middle-class Bengali families, their desires and despairs. This was probably his most successful phase as he skillfully intersected the typical average Bengali household and delicately revealed it’s secrets to us.
He worked with many talented Tollywood actors like Prasenjit Chatterjee, Debashree Roy, Raima Sen, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aparna Sen, Indrani Haldar, Dipankar Dey, Mithun Chakraborty, Chiranjit, Rupa Ganguly, Mamata Shankar, Jishu Sengupta and others.
Then came the phase when he would make films not only in Bengali but also in English and Hindi and his star-cast would be mostly actors and actress from Bollywood. He has worked with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Nandita Das, Jackie Shroff, Abhishek Bachchan, Soha Ali Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Annu Kapoor, Kiron Kher, Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal, Divya Dutta, Manisha Koirala, Bipasha Basu and others.
And in the last phase of his career he mostly made films on stories that dealt with sexuality. These bold films were probably more personal to him since Rituparno himself was openly homosexual and in the last years of his life he also explored a transgender lifestyle.
He once said “It is for me to decide whether I will stand in the queue for men or for women or neither of the two.”
Towards the end of his career Rituparno Ghosh also acted in a few films like Aarekti Premer Golpo, Memories in March and Chitrangada.
A great admirer of Rabindranath Tagore, a researcher of the epic book Mahabharata and an ardent fan of Satyajit Ray – Rituparno Ghosh, a person who loved cinema and was loved by all.
One of those rare directors whose films received the peak of both critical and commercial acclaim.
As film-maker Goutam Ghose remembered him after Rituparno’s death on 30 May 2013 –
“His films, with their sensitive portrayal of human relationships, anguish, trauma and love in a fast-changing, post-liberalization India charmed audiences. His brilliant story-telling reflected contemporary society like never before. While his death creates a tremendous void that can never be filled, Rituparno’s work blazed a trail that has paved the way for an entire generation of filmmakers who have dared to be different. It was Rituparno who gave them the courage.”
A salute to the most courageous film-maker of our time.