REASON, DEBATE AND A STORY (Ritwik Ghatak, 1974)

Two years before his death at fifty, Ritwak Ghatak’s final fictional film, the autobiographical and poetically black-and-white Jukti, Takko Aar Gappo, has Ghatak appearing as Neelkantha, a version of himself, on a symbolical foot-journey through past and present. (His film thus reminds us of Jean Cocteau’s last one, Le testament d’Orphée, 1960.) Its springboard in Calcutta is Neel’s abandonment by wife Durga and young son Satya (played by a Ghatak—I presume the writer-director’s son or grandson) because the man drinks too much. Once Durga is gone, the sale of the roof over her husband’s head among her parting accomplishments, two young persons, a woman and a man, wander in. Routed refugees from newly independent Bangladesh, these two also are among the dispossessed; the new trio takes to the road. The film will culminate in Neel’s end; emerging from a forest, he is shot to death by the police—like the refugees, only more absurdly in his case, a political victim.
     On his journey Neel’s mind enters a private past—that of youth, full of hope and faith; the memory of young love now is “fragrance blowing in the wind.” But as he travels through Bengal, Neel also enters the memory of a people’s past. This includes, in 1943, India’s devastating man-made famine to keep its wartime soldiers fed, outfitted and armed (see Satyajit Ray’s amazing 1973 Distant Thunder), and the postwar 1947 partition of Bengal between India and Pakistan that routed and devastated countless lives, and which is symbolized here, poignantly, by the fate of a child.
     Along the way, Ghatak brands as a sell-out the one Indian filmmaker, also Bengal, greater than himself, Satyajit Ray, who “appears” as the character Shatrujit.
     Ghatak, who also edited, composed the film’s aching score.

One thought on “REASON, DEBATE AND A STORY (Ritwik Ghatak, 1974)

  1. We love Ghatak, and he was one of the greatest Indian filmmamker. Sadly, his movies hardly are not well known.

    Though we have dedicated a full issue on him.

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