Rediscovering Jukti Takko Aar Gappo: 45th death anniversary of Ritwik Ghatak

Evoking a forgotten filmmaker…

For those who have been fortunate enough to come across even a few of the films made by Ritwik Ghatak, there is no need to expound his filmmaking style that set Ghatak truly apart from his contemporaries. I say, “fortunate” because, for the larger part, Ghatak has only reigned in obscurity. Conjure up a discussion on Bangla cinema or “parallel cinema”, and one is most likely to have their ears overfilled by the name of Satyajit Ray. Although there is no doubt about Ray’s own brilliance, Ghatak largely remains only suppressed and subordinated; despite being a pioneer. (Jukti Takko Aar Gappo)

Ghatak, no matter however much his films are a subject of serious study in recent times, never got to live a life of glamour and prosperity as one may expect of a filmmaker from popular examples.

You could say that I strayed into films down a zigzag path. If my father had had his way I should have been an income-tax officer. I got the job but left it to join the C.P.I. if I had stuck to it I might have become a Commissioner or Accountant General by now. But now I am only a street dog!

Ritwik Ghatak, Interview of Ritwik Ghatak, Cinema and I

Ritwik Ghatak in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo
Ritwik Ghatak

…from the ashes of his work

Given such a case and Cinema Monogatari’s curiosity to immerse itself into lesser discussed areas of Cinema, it becomes all the more important to get a clearer image of Ritwik Ghatak. To do so, the article’s point of reference would be Jukti Takko Aar Gappo. Even if not completely autobiographical, it aims in every way at personal expression. Moreover, concerning that this was Ghatak’s last work, one gets to witness Ghatak at the zenith of his intended aesthetics.

…I don’t think I saw anyone in Calcutta who could express the thoughts and words I was trying to communicate through that character…Similarly except Monidi (Tripti Mitra), no one could do the role of the wife. There are lots of actresses, but it’s the truth. Those two are the only serious roles – Monidi’s and mine – and if you are not an old communist, and if you have not come out of that struggle, it’s not possible for you to do those roles. You can force other actors to act, but that will be fake. It’s because we joined the communist party together and both of us left it around the same time, too. And both of us knew the unfortunate paths we had taken to reach this sad state in Bengal. So, no, I don’t think anyone else could have done it.

Ritwik Ghatak, Interview conducted in 1975

An offering of pleasant nectar

In an interview, in respect to his then-banned film, Amar Lenin, Ghatak said,

…managed to give me about thirty thousand rupees and also a bad name. But at least I would be able to buy some drinks now which will piss my wife off.

Ritwik Ghatak, interview with Ritwik Ghatak

A drunk Neelkantha asking Durga to leave in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo
A drunk Neelkantha asking Durga to leave

This exclamation of Ghatak not only gives one a glimpse of his struggles, but also of the love that he held for alcohol; as mundane a love as shared by many, but reaching excessive heights. For, he proudly held on to it in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo. In it, Ghatak himself plays the character of a drunkard intellectual, Neelkantha Bagchi. Neelkantha‘s family abandons him due to his alcoholism; his wife takes away his books and records so that their son may benefit from them.

Neelkantha, the drunkard
Neelkantha, the drunkard

This overwhelming love for alcohol is perhaps also what asserts the film’s autobiographical aspect. Aside from that, it is also important as a testament to Ghatak’s own identity, against his contemporaries.

Intertwining identities in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

If not even concerning the abundance of harsh reality in his films that may come off as unsettling, what set Ghatak, as a person, apart, for better or for worse, and made him unsettling for many, was his own drunkenness. He is seen as a black sheep compared to his contemporaries. The unsettling nature, the state of drunkenness, is brought out immensely in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, through Neelkantha. Before ranging to an elaborate exhibition, this state follows Durga‘s (Neelkantha’s wife) introductory prelude.

আমাকে তুমি দোষ দিতে পারো না। একজন স্ত্রীর পক্ষে যা কিছু করা সম্ভব ছিল, আমি করেছিলাম। কিন্তু তোমার এই মাতলামো, এই ভাবে। আমি বারবার তোমাকে বাশতবের দিকে ফিরিয়ে আনবার চেষ্টা করেছিলাম। এমন কি তোমাকে পাগলাঘর প্রজন্ত পাথিয়েছিলাম। লোকে এখন তোমাকে দেখলে পালায়। কেও তোমাকে কনো কাজ দেবেনা। কি রকমের বুদ্ধিজীবী তুমি নীর?

(Me, you cannot blame. For whatever has been possible for a wife, I’ve done it. But, here, your state of drunkenness like this; how many times I’ve attempted to make you return to reality. Even sent you to a madhouse as well.

Now, people run away seeing you. Nobody will provide you with a job. What kind of an intellectual are you, Neer?)

Durga, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Durga confronts Neelkantha over the "Scherzo: Allegro" from Beethoven's Fifth (Jukti Takko Aar Gappo)
Durga confronts Neelkantha over the “Scherzo: Allegro” from Beethoven’s Fifth

Even Ray has commented that if it was not for his drunkenness, Ghatak may have done a lot more. However, that is debatable. One may see, for instance, in Ghatak‘s films states of dilemma, madness, and grandeur that often inhabits a drunkard. Ironically, Ray has also exclaimed how Ghatak had his own innovative approach towards cinema, despite having encountered various Hollywood movies. None of these traces of Hollywood, Ray said, were to be found in Ghatak’s works -something in which Ray himself had failed!

Jukti Takko Aar Gappo and the aesthetic of excess

However still, Neelkantha, looks at himself as someone who has not done enough. In his drunken stupor, he swings to and fro from regret to joy. Ghatak as Neelkantha celebrates his regret by looking back at his own unfortunate life. A part of Ghatak’s suffering as a filmmaker was constituted by the fact that he never strayed towards commercial cinema.

I just want to convey whatever I feel about the reality around me and I want to shout…That is why I produce films – not for their own sake but for the sake of my people.

Ritwik Ghatak, interview from Cinema and I

For Ghatak, cinema was a medium to educate the masses. It would bring them reality in manners that his audience cannot help but find relatable. Ghatak went to lengths to establish that. Ghatak was always outright in his interviews. He also seldom holds back as the protagonist dominating the screentime of Jukti Takko Aar Gappo. In it, Ghatak’s own release through Neelkantha often comes off as uncanny; when, for instance, Neelkantha mocks the word “prospect” by repeating it and harshly giggling quite a number of times in a scene.

Heights of dramatic intensity in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

He is quite expressionistic in his manners, exaggerated to the point of melodrama. In fact, on Ghatak’s part, especially in his “Partition trilogy“, melodrama as a style is no unfamiliar approach. The melodrama, highly expressionist styles, and the notable domination of music and sound experimentation populate Jukti Takko Aar Gappo in its entirety. Percussive instrumental music accompanying dance by figures clad in black opens the film. The arrival of Durga to a heavily drunk Neelkantha is elevated to epic proportions through a motif from Beethoven’s Fifth. It acts as a prelude preceding Neelkantha’s display of a carefree attitude towards his current state. Alongside it plays a gentle sitar, which occurs as soon as Durga comes into focus. When the camera turns to Neelkantha, the sitar gives way to a fading in continuation of Beethoven’s symphony.

Dance of figures clad in black opens the film and recurs again following the first of two deaths (Jukti Takko Aar Gappo)
Dance of figures clad in black opens the film and recurs again following the first of two deaths

Individualistic expressions

The aspect of melodramatic achieves successful transition from mundane to epic proportions. It also lends Neelkantha a voice, albeit at the expense of reduced abstraction.

When looking back, his disdain is strong. Although regretting that he couldn’t progress like many of his contemporary artist friends, Neelkantha holds an intense thirst; that is only quenched by Ghatak’s own cinematic rebellions. As Neelkantha, he critiques his old acquaintances and friends, who now run away at his sight and mock him.

আমার এক পুরাতণ বন্ধু , বিরাট লেখক , সতজিৎ বসু। পরনৌগ্রাফি বেচে খায়। একদিন আরম্ভ করেছিল একজন সংগ্রামী , সমাজ-সচেতন শিল্পী হিসেবে। আর এখন ওই পাতাল, সুড়ঙ্গ, পোকা-মাকড় এসব নাম দিয়ে বই লেখে, লিখে খায়।

(One of my old friends, a renowned author, Satyajit Basu, writes pornography to earn his bread. He started off once as a revolutionary, socially-conscious artist. Nowadays, by basing his book titles off on vicious things like tunnels, darkness, pests, etc, he writes of such things to earn a living.)

Neelkantha, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Subtle criticisms
Neelkantha and Bongobala in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo
Neelkantha and Bongobala in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Many wonder if this criticism is aimed at none other than Satyajit Ray; but it appears that it has more likely to have as its target the Bengali novelist, Samaresh Basu. He is renowned for his obscenely erotic writing style in the novel, Bibar, and primarily his 1967 publication, Prajapati. “Prajapati” is the Bengali word for butterfly -a pest.

Basu and Ghatak happen to have shared a bond of friendship once. Earlier, Basu wrote depicting the struggles of the working class, himself a revolutionary having worked an exhaustive job at a factory and even authoring his debut work in prison. It was only later that he turned to a style so disdained by Ghatak; the latter passionately bent on human conditions than bodily pleasures as subjects in his art. Erotica, and the infamy of Basu, made the style disdained by Ghatak the driving forces in those days. Neelkantha, with his intellectualism, was only like Zarathustra upon his first descent from his solitude to mankind; a subject of mockery.

As for Ray, Ghatak held enough respect if not always a favorable standing for his later works; for him, Ray’s second feature, Aparajito, always remained the best.

A familiar echo of impossibility…

Neelkantha with his companions during his insanely ambitious task of going about in Bengal on foot
Neelkantha with his companions during his insanely ambitious task of going about in Bengal on foot

Yet, what Ghatak truly wanted, was possible for him only artistically. Throughout his works, Ghatak has raged against partition and its consequences. Himself a victim of the Bengal Partition, his characters were almost never free from it. They carried the stigma of this event in a reflective attempt of Ghatak’s own emotions concerning it, his movies unable to reconcile with this incident. Elaborating in an interview the unifying connections between his films Meghe Dhaka Tara, Komol Gandhar, and Subarnarekha, he said,

There is only one connection between these three. And that is the unification of two Bengals. I wanted to unite two Bengals. I love them both miyan… that’s what I am saying and that’s all I am going to say unto the last, until I die. I do not care (about anything)…and I do not care about money. “I can fight that out. Ritwik Ghatak can do that out here and in Dhaka”. Whoever wants to kick my butt, let them do it. I could not care less.

Ritwik Ghatak, interview conducted in 1975

…as it rings out in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

The desperation that characterizes Ghatak‘s works comes from the acknowledgment of the impossibility to unite the “two Bengals” together. Only in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, this state of acknowledgment rings sonorously at its epitome throughout. Neelkantha is tired of politics and remarks harshly about it whenever he gets the chance. However, he never diverts from his purpose. His sentiments are reflective in his action of sheltering and showering the stranger girl, Bongobala, with love, in no time. Referring to her as the spirit of Bangladesh is again an instance of a melodramatic elevation of the mundane.

Neelkantha, upon hearing how no one helped her when she was driven away from Bangladesh due to religious conflicts, exclaims,

কেও সাহায্য করবেনা। মা গো আমার, এটা এমন একটা জিনিস জার নাম রাজনীতি।

(Nobody will help. Oh dear maa, this is what is called politics.)

Neelkantha’, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

"...We'll learn that sleeping is not death..."
“…We’ll learn that sleeping is not death…”

He then recites the following lines by William Butler Yeats,

…somewhere at some new moon,

We’ll learn that sleeping is not death,

Hearing the whole earth change its tune

Neelkantha reciting from At Galway Races by William Butler Yeats, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

The thin line between art and politics

Neelkantha is currently in a state where he finds politics nothing but a farce, despite having been an upfront revolutionary and theater playwright once. Again, its criticism by Neelkantha is not situated far from the embodiment of Ghatak himself as the protagonist.

I am not part of any discussions about political unification. Because I don’t understand it and I don’t need any of it. But cultural unification (I am passionate about) – I have worked in both Bengals. And no one has done it more than me. No one here knows more about Bangladesh than me. The way I have stayed and worked there and what I have seen among those bangali boys and girls – especially girls – in Bangladesh, no one else here can match that or has seen that… The point is – and I have said it in my films – what provoked the strife between two Bengals is a great betrayal. There is only one Bengal.

Ritwik Ghatak, interview conducted in 1975

In Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, Ghatak is outright in his use of images. He also permits such images full focus as they occur as events during Neelkantha’s journey. Likewise, in one particular instance, a politician voices slogans. With the zooming out of the camera, one encounters his presence in a village. He rouses the villagers in an imitation of a manner quite reminiscent of that of an immensely impacting dictator in history. However, his arousal for war is responded only by the barking of a dog.

"...this is what is called politics."
“…this is what is called politics.”

Ghatak had been a driving force behind the Communist Party of India’s cultural wing, called IPTA (Indian People’s Theater Association). However, he realized that for the party to function in India, it would not do to dismiss religion merely as the “opium of the masses”; for India is a land where the upbringing of the proletariat classes is innately intertwined with religion. Due to ideological differences, Ghatak and the party parted ways in 1955, and perhaps for the better; for it made him realize the urgent necessity to portray genuine human suffering, without resorting to a stylistic approach only for the sake of adherence to a singular political ideology.

You can not become an artist with cheap slogans; an artist must work deep inside your senses and sensibilities. Politicians operate at a superficial level — slogans, shouting, loud protests etc. — but I do not think art survives when artists start doing the same.

Ritwik Ghatak, Interview conducted in 1975

Takko (argument)

His own films carry mythological and religious motifs that cannot be isolated without making the works shatter and fall into pieces. Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, for instance, thrives largely on the various cultural practices residing throughout Bengal, as Neelkantha encounters them. The usage of film as a medium to educate is also tied with the essentiality of myths in this communication; myths and stories that even the most illiterate of people can recognize. Neelkantha, for example, is one of the names of Shiva, the mad ascetic revered as the God of Intoxication in Hindu mythology, whose consort is the goddess Durga (also Neelkantha’s wife’s name).

The Baul-fakir against the backdrop of advancing modernity
The Baul-fakir against the backdrop of advancing modernity

Neelkantha‘s own drunkenness is like the madness of the Baul who sings Durbin Shah’s Namaz Amar Hoilo Na Adaye. This song laments the inability of the singer to perform his prayers to Allah; thus denying himself the shelter of divinity. It is not unlike Neelkantha’s own search for a shelter in “Bangladesh” (the land of Bangla, geographically divided). Motifs from traditions, religions, and mythologies find their way through symbols, underlying Jukti Takko Aar Gappo in its entirety. The most significant of these is perhaps the Chhau dance. The usage of a Chhau sequence in the film, although abstract, does not exist without purpose.

Chhau masks
Chhau masks

Chhau is significant because it expresses the depth and richness of Purulia’s life. If you visit Purulia, the poorest district of West Bengal, and go inside its villages, you would see how deeply the villagers there love their art. When I mixed with them, I totally fell in love. On observing how passionately they love the dance form and how attentively they create the dance masks, I was completely stunned. My love for them made me crazy. I have worked there three times. The first documentary I made was for West Bengal government. After that, when Philip Pierrot came from Paris, I made another documentary in color for him and finally, I had to work really hard on this film.

Ritwik Ghatak, Interview conducted in 1975

Piling up Ghatak’s mythological insertions are instances undertaken throughout the land of Bengal, encompassing its various traditions. One also gets to acknowledge even the differences that may arise in the perception of even a common God(dess); as sighted from the exchange between Jagannath Bhattacharjee, a teacher learned in Vedic Sanskrit, and Panchanan Ustad, a rural Bengal mask-maker associated with the tradition of Chhau. While the former evokes the grandeur of the goddess Durga with his slokas, the latter, irritated, asserts her as the mother residing in his house.

The slow death of an old tradition and its exoticization is mourned by Panchanan Ustad, exclaiming to Bongobala about his masks,

এখন শহরের বাবু রা এই সব কিনা লিয়া গিয়া দেবালে টাঙায় রাখে। সব কিছু নিয়া গিয়ে আলমারির মধ্যে নিয়াকে ঢুকায় রাখে। তেমন দিনে এলে ঠাকুরন কি নাচ টাই না দিখাতাম বটে।

{(In rural dialect) These days, the rich Babus from the cities buy these masks and adorn their walls with them; buy everything and shove their closets with them. Ah, back in those days, Thakuran, only if you could come, what dance I would have shown you.}

Panchanan Ustad, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Instances from the Chhau performance in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo
Instances from the Chhau performance in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

The humongous proportions possible for an idea

The visuals of the singing Baul or Chhau dances are what the protagonist only passively views. There is no direct action from these art forms towards the story. However, that depends on one’s understanding of what sort of a story Jukti Takko Aar Gappo is. One may say that it’s nothing more than that of a homeless drunkard, a subject of everyone’s hatred, wandering incapably in a now-changing land with idealistic views. Quite rightly so; but Jukti Takko Aar Gappo is more than just this mundane story itself. It, more than anything else, is an idea!

Neelkantha, the homeless, drunkard intellectual
Neelkantha, the homeless, drunkard intellectual

It is an idea of frightening proportions, holding within itself an unreconciled longing. Raging at its epitome, it witnesses Ghatak performing his play of “musical cinema”. Rarely is there any instance unaccompanied by music. Moreover, music doesn’t only accompany it, it even becomes the scenes. In the film, the music reflects more a decisive act of encompassment than mere instances of Brechtian alienation. Provided the sort of abstraction that Jukti Takko Aar Gappo is, they serve to fit in as pieces of the plot, albeit quite differently. Take for instance the martial dance of Chhau. Apart from being a momentary spectacle, it also becomes a ritualistic invocation of death. The pastoral enactment of familiar epics, in a metaphysical sense, announces the death of the elite Sanskrit pundit that follows soon after. In this way, the performance also holds the plot together.

Of a similar kind is also the performance that follows soon after the Chhau, while Neelkantha drinks with a companion. The sound of the music goes down to give way to his drunken dialogue; after which it rises up again, at pace with his intoxicated maddening.

A ritualistic invocation of death
A ritualistic invocation of death

Of his many inspirations, Ghatak was ardently influenced by the idea of archetypes as propounded by Carl Gustav Jung. These archetypes are expressions of the collective unconsciousness; the latter constituted of cultural and ancestral elements right from an individual’s birth and not as a resultant of life experiences. Although critical of religious and ethnic cleansing, Ghatak did not view religion as something to be done away with. As much as the Baul and the Chhau performances strengthen this view; the works of Ghatak, throughout, have seen adoptions and inversions of mythologies. This, again, is tied to the idea of myths being in proximity to the common people.

One sees him referring indirectly to this common collective unconsciousness in his encounter with the Naxalites; who, more often than not, are only viewed as blots on the surface of a “refined culture”. To the armed Naxalites’ warnings of a forthcoming police attack on their hideout, Neelkantha urges,

তবুও আমি থাকতে চাই…আমি তোমার…আমার এই বাংলাদেশে, আর তো কিছু নেই। তোমরাই আমার সব।

(Despite that, I want to stay…I, in yours…this, in my Bangladesh, what else do I have? You all are everything I have got.)

Neelkantha, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Neelkantha and his companions at the lair of the Naxalites (Jukti Takko Aar Gappo)
Neelkantha and his companions at the lair of the Naxalites

True, Ghatak had never anything to do with politics anymore; but in his aim to reflect the misery of his countrymen, it would not do for him to exclude the largely neglected stratum of society; one, that finds itself largely left out from the discussions of people of a “refined culture”. One is bound to ask if Ghatak, as an ex-communist, still holds any sympathy for the Naxalite extremists.

Well, I am bound to be a little sympathetic…I totally disagree with their politics, opinions and ideology, but their honesty? I can’t help but respect that…These young boys and girls — I agree that they are completely misguided which I have shown in my film, and their integrity have no parallel. They do not want anything for themselves. Shouldn’t I respect that? I must.

Ritwik Ghatak, Interview conducted in 1975

He, as Neelkantha confronts the oft-feared and despised Naxalites. The Naxalites recognize him, and following Neelkantha’s pleas to stay, they begin debating on Marxism. Even in this sequence of active confrontation with politics, Ghatak as Neelkantha holds his ground with his unusual stance. In their debate, Neelkantha exclaims to the youth that he does not doubt their high spirits. However, they are blind. He calls the Naxalite youths a misguided lot. Only that they have been armed with weapons of deception.

আমাদের ঘিরে এই ভারতবর্ষ, ভারতবর্ষের ইতিহাস কত হাজার বছরের। এবং জতোই গাল দিই, এই দেশে সবজায়িতিক উজ্জ্বল দার্শনিক চিন্তা কিছু জন্মগ্রহণ করেছে। আর এই সবছেয়ে বড়ো ফিচেল বদমাইশ দের হাতে এই দেশ প্রচুর হাতিয়ার তুলে দিয়েছে। এই গুলো বদমাইশির অসস্ট্র।

(Surrounding us this Indian landmass, its history dates back to several thousand years. And no matter however much we curse this country, in it has birthed some of the most universal, brightest philosophical thoughts. Also, in the hands of the worst rascals and rogues, this country has raised who knows how many weapons. These weapons are of roguery.)

Neelkantha, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Takko or argument (
Takko or argument

Herein lies Ghatak’s attempt to bring to attention the ignorance of one’s collective unconsciousness. Echoing Jung’s ideas, the collective unconsciousness constitutes the storehouse of deeply-seated beliefs, which can very well be traced back to from one’s behaviors, spiritual and ideological views, irrespective of their differences. The “bright” and the “rogue”, respectively, mold the archetypes that have existed for generations in the collective unconsciousness that one shares with people of the same or a similar culture. In this case, the collective unconsciousness, as Neelkantha points out, is by the virtue of one’s birth in the Indian landmass.

As an idea, the only remains of the dead, fades away

However, such does not confine Ghatak as a traditionalist. For, his own uses of Brechtian alienation or Beethoven serves a universal purpose. True, although unfamiliar except through regional connotations and understanding, and abstract, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo, however, is no less communicative in a universal sense.

The aesthetic of excess (Jukti Takko Aar Gappo)
The aesthetic of excess

Tired of politics, Ghatak long realized that art can serve as a reliable medium; and that too, visual arts, due to its immediacy, can be the perfect communicative medium. Moreover, it is perhaps the ability of the cinematic medium to encompass other forms, be it regional performances or romantic poetry or Western Classical music, that has intimidated Ghatak to the extent of producing such a work as this film. However, it should be understood that a decisive shift from politics is only to incur a more active engagement with society and its people.

The conflict of the urban idea of progress and the rural traditional living; the former devouring the diminishing latter gradually. This made it all the more necessary for Ghatak to choose as subjects for his film rapidly disappearing practices, largely overlooked, and gradually being modernized (the growing demand of Chhau, for instance, to be performed at urban auditoriums away from the rural settings, thus robbing it off of its ritualistic importance). Despite being the protagonist, Ghatak as Neelkantha is also merely a spectator, like an audience, as he leaves the stage for such practices to unfold. In other words, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo revels in the admiration of the people, of the conflicts, of the struggles that it portrays and although also consisting of Ghatak’s own views, is undoubtedly indebted to its subjects.

An ideal artist, Ghatak believed, is a socially-conscious one. His own stance is strongly reflective in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo. To those who run away from siding themselves with a stance, his warning to them is,

ভাবো ভাবো, ভাবা প্র্যাকটিস করো।

(Think, think, practice thinking!)

Neelkantha, Jukti Takko Aar Gappo

Ghatak propounds in Jukti Takko Aar Gappo a visual idea. One witnesses his attempts at self-criticism in it, as does one see it as a last will addressing the youth; even presenting them the future ahead. For Ghatak’s generation, the time has come, and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo is nothing short of final closure.

Jukti Takko Aar Gappo does not provide a solution. However, with it, Ghatak could perhaps attain the closest possible proximity to his goal. It is a statement, a cultural encompassment of sorts. Here, the story(Gappo) is only one part of reasoning(Jukti) and argument(Takko). Clinging desperately to his ideals, Ghatak critiques himself through Neelkantha. He failed in his political endeavors as well as even to progress himself socially. His life had been quite like the third movement Scherzo: Allegro from Beethoven’s Fifth that finds recurrence in the film; but it never attains the pleasure of the final movement Allegro Presto, considered one of the finest and most successful transitions in music history.

Yet, Ghatak’s final work shines at the epitome of excess and also, brilliance. Ghatak has wrapped his arms around everything he could ever wish to reflect on, resulting in an abstraction; however, it is this very abstraction that attains an aesthetic quality itself.

An epic closure of the mundane
An epic closure of the mundane

All in all, it is a film that witnesses its creator closest to his creation; bare, and still throbbing with an inner urge to communicate through his creations; although knowing that the time left for him has only shortened. Neelkantha dies during the shootout that happens with the arrival of the police (another subject of Neelkantha’s criticism). He spills his alcohol as he falls. The wails of Durga ring out at the very moment the fluid spills out. The motif from Beethoven’s Fifth rings out again, as Durga and his son wail over him. Such melodramatic demise was reserved, however, only for Neelkantha in Ghatak’s reel. Unfortunately, the filmmaker’s own death was neither dramatic nor even grieved upon by many. It was only two years later, in 1976, that Ghatak saw his own demise.

The primary objective of making films is to do good to mankind. If you do not do good to humanity, no art is a true work of art. Rabindranath said that art must be faithful to truth first and to beauty secondarily. This truth comes out of an artist’s own perceptions and meditations. Since truth is never everlasting and constant… as this world is always subjective and changing, everyone must arrive at their personal truth with their entire life’s deepest thoughts and understandings. One should accept that truth only after fully realizing it. Art is not a trivial thing.

Ritwik Ghatak, Interview conducted in 1975

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