How Does Truth And Reality Determine The Style Of Theater Ritwik Ghatak

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Ritwik Ghatak

“You are always a participant, for or against.”

Ritwik Ghatak was once diagnosed as a patient suffering from duel personality. This was the time when, due to constant drinking and bad lifestyle, he was frequently hospitalized. A broken man, he died on 6 February 1976 at the age of 51. His admirers remember that he looked thirty years older than his actual age. They also spoke of his strange behavior to ‘let evil and mean people hurt him’ and ‘hurt the people who loved him the most and tried to help him’. In his swansong film ‘Jukti Takko Aar Gappo’ made in 1974, Ritwik in a direct attempt to portray himself through the protagonist Neelkantha Bagchi, the name of the Hindu god Shiva, who follows as Hindu legend got the name ‘neelkantha’ or ‘blue throat’ after swallowing all the poisons of the world during the churning of the ocean. Similar to Ritwik, Neelkantha is also a member of the left wing intellectual but corrupt, fighting and alienated from the leftist elite and society in general. His personality is different from his family and friends but from the perspective, optimism for life and loyalty to the core, Neelkantha in many ways is like Ritwik.

From an educated Bengali feudal family, Ritwik is a product of the generation of the forties. The period, marked by events like the World War, the 1943 Bengal famine caused the death of nearly five million people, Independence and the partition of India. It was also the age of the advancement of culture. Like many young scholars of his time, Ritwik connected himself with the philosophy of Marxism. He joined the IPTA (Indian People’s Theater Association), the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI). IPTA has made a speech roll in the culture of India by churning out new ideas of art and culture. The entire group of artists and actors who would later dominate the Indian cultural milieu developed their artistic skills through IPTA. Ritwik is no exception.

His involvement with IPTA is not only as an artist, actor and director but also as a cultural expert. In 1954, he wrote his thesis ‘On the Cultural Front’ describing the cultural process of the IPTA and the Communist Party in expanding its ideological, political and organization. Ritwik’s views were negative from the party leadership and he was labeled as a ‘Trotskyite’. His separation from the church and the IPTA in 1955 was a result of this conflict. Ritwik later recorded his observations on IPTA in his film ‘Komal Gandhar’. However, one of his traveling companions, folk singer and lyricist Hemanga Biswas later wrote in his memoirs that,

“Ritwik made a mistake in understanding the human power of acting because – he didn’t get into it through a person’s movement. His negative thoughts were reflected in the drama video Komal Gandhar the problem of the leaders, the meeting of the hand and so on became his main concern, whereas the main topic, the people’s movement, was touched.”

Ritwik in later days would always admit that he never waited for his commitment to the oppressors and was always a ‘partner’ artist. He believes that, ‘showing displeasure against evil and taking care of the good aspects of society is the responsibility of all actors of all ages’. In his later life he tried to unite Marxism with the ideas of psychoanalyst, CG Jung because he thought there was no difference between Marx and Jung. On the contrary, one pays for the other.

After he left IPTA, his passion to reach people led him to film. Cinema, it is considered the most powerful tool of communication with people. In a 1973 interview he also said, “If tomorrow or ten years later, a new medium arrives that is stronger than cinema, I will kick the cinema and embrace it.” It is understood that Ritwik is very concerned about reaching the people, as he believes that “people are the last word in all forms of art”. His first film debut was the unfinished film Bedeni. In 1952 at the age of 27, he directed ‘Nagarik’, a film depicting the stark reality of an average refugee family’s struggle for life and survival sad Most of the IPTA people are involved in the film in cooperation with the shoe fund. The film was never released in his lifetime. After ‘Nagarik’ till his death, Ritwik completed seven more films and ten films. With the exception of the 1960 release ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ all his films were commercial disasters.

Most of Ritwik’s films are narratives, focusing on post-independence, post-partition Bengali life. He felt the pain of the disaster of partition and abandoned ‘Ajantrik’, and ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Nam’, most of his films tried to show the scars no. The partition of India affected tens of millions of people who were forced to leave their ancestral lands and migrate to unknown places. Families were divided; relatives, friends and neighbors left behind. The insecurity, stress and extreme poverty of the migrants have led to religious hatred, mistrust and the destruction of human values. The trauma of partition which he considered to be the most dangerous event of the country’s history had a positive impact on his thinking. He tried to show through his films how the partition had hit the roots of Bengali society and culture. In his words: “Being a Bengali from East Bengal, I have seen the unimaginable suffering inflicted on my people in the name of freedom-which is a fake and a lie. I have fought hard for this and I tried to explain a lot of this.”

All through his creative life, Ritwik is still emotional and reflects on his pre-partition days. But his love for the concept of ‘motherland’ was disappointed when he went to film ‘Titas Ekti Nadir Naam’ in Bangladesh (East Bengal was transferred to East Pakistan after partition and later in the year 1971 liberated as the independent country of Bangladesh). He knew that the Bengal of his dreams, the two Bengals together were “thirty years ago”. He is very happy about rediscovering his lost roots, to embrace his beloved ‘parents’ but is surprised to find that:

“My childhood and my youth were spent in East Bengal. The memories of those days, the thought made me angry and brought me to Titash, to make a film for him… When I made a movie, it happened to me that nothing from the past is alive today, nothing can survive, history is not true, no, it is lost all, nothing remains.”

Ritwik’s niece Mahasweta Devi, in a letter criticized this theory. He is very critical of Ritwik’s lack of historical understanding. According to him, in all his life Ritwik has an infantile stubbornness to disprove the reality around him and has a natural characteristic of no love romanticism. His childhood was spent in a protected area of ​​the feudal landlord family and therefore he never experienced the hardships of hardship and oppression around him. Even when he was younger, the country and its people were not so glittery, as he had seen. Anarchy, starkness and uprooted conditions do not appear immediately after independence or partition. On the contrary, according to Mahasweta, the disaster is the historical improvement evident in the way the country has become. If Ritwik was able to read history well and not in his nostalgic world he would have known the truth long before.

Business failure, lack of recognition and always short of money slowly destroyed the man. Ritwik’s descent into alcoholism started after ‘Komal Gandhar’ was canceled from the show just a week after its release. The film was allegedly influenced by his former friends who could not stomach the renewal of the IPTA movement! His most anticipated film ‘Subarnarekha’ was released in 1962 and ran in packed houses but inexplicably the film was soon withdrawn by the distributor. Desperate and frustrated, Ritwik soon becomes a bad drinker, starting with alcoholic drinks and finally settling with the country’s version of it. In a ‘Jukti Takko Aar Gappo’ scene, the protagonist Neelkantha Bagchi is given a glass of foreign wine by the great writer Satyajit Bose, the name of which sounds similar to one old writer. Neelkantha refused the cup and said, “All my body hair will fall if I drink it”. Ritwik’s serious business needs forced him to join the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune as a Vice President in 1965. He spent eighteen months there and established himself as an excellent teacher but his outspokenness and inconsistency were not conducive to political control. Soon he resigned and returned to Kolkata leaving his main students Kumar Shahani, Mani Kaul, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Sayeed Mirza.

Even in his poor body, mind and business Ritwik continued to dream of being an actor and was surprised with new ideas. The way he finished his last two films, struggling with grave health is incredible. After a seventeen day outdoor shoot for ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Nam’ he finally broke down from near-death from phthisis and was taken out by helicopter straight to the hospital that he should spend many months in treatment. While filming and acting in the lead role of ‘Jukti Takko Aar Gappo’, he vomited blood in a sequence. All these examples are evidence of his commitment and sincerity to his work. It is worth recalling the observation of poet and journalist Samar Sen on Ritwik:

“Few artists have been surrounded by the virtue of success. Ritwik, kept in many of his weaknesses, has no way of improving.”

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