On his birth anniversary, here are 5 Ritwik Ghatak films you must see

Catch Team | First published: 3 November 2016, 18:52 IST
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Think Bengali cinema and Satyajit Ray's name will invariably come to mind. However, there's another name that's also left behind an incredibly rich cinematic legacy - Ritwik Ghatak. While Ray went on to receive critical acclaim in India and, later, abroad, Ghatak's repertoire captured the imagination of audiences with a steady pace over time.

In fact, loyalists argue that Ghatak's body of work offers a lot more bite than even Ray, considering Ghatak directed just eight-odd full-length feature films. As far as international reception goes, Ray once famously said of Ghatak: "For him, Hollywood might not have existed at all."

Born in 1925 in Dhaka, Ghatak came over to 'this side' of Bengal around early 1947, and he was also an active member of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). Besides filmmaking, Ghatak was also a mentor to some of Indian cinema's biggest names. At FTII his student list included the likes of Mani Kaul, John Abraham, Saeed Mirza and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Ghatak received the Padma Shri for the Arts in 1970.

On the eve of his 91st birthday, here's five of his feature films that you should definitely put on your viewing list:

1) Ajantrik

This 1958 film was among the earliest in India that showcased an inanimate object - a car, as a major character. The main story revolves around Bimal and his equation with his old, 1920 Chevrolet jalopy called Jagaddal. For fifteen years Bimal resists peer pressure to upgrade to a new machine, because he doesn't see Jagaddal as a machine to begin with.

2) Meghe Dhaka Tara

One of Ghatak's earliest 'partition films,' Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960) is also one of his more popular films. In 2002, Meghe Dhaka Tara was ranked #231 on the Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll for all-time greatest films.

This visually evocative film is set in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Calcutta, and gives a poignant glimpse into the life of a typical middle class Hindu bhadralok family, against the backdrop of Partition. In the life of lead character Nita (Supriya Choudhury), one notices the narrative of the fractured middle class family.

3) Komal Gandhar

The second in Ghatak's trilogy, Komal Gandhar (1961) also deals with the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 and how refugees dealt with it. The title of the film was taken from a Tagore poem and this is said to be one of Ghatak's personal favourites.

It had hints of an autobiography in the way the story looked at IPTA practitioners - the plot revolved around the rivalry of two theatre groups. One is led by Bhrigu (Abanish Bannerjee), the other by Shanta (Geeta De).