Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rituparno Ghosh: Shaking you out of your comfort zone

Miss not the quiet by lanes of Kolkata, for oft they conceal great minds; although, if you ask, even the paan-bidi wala, he will lead you to their home. Nor must your eyes overlook the aesthetically done with beautiful antique furniture and large paintings, dimly lit dark rooms, whose walls tell stories, no less than half a century old.  In one such home, resides, India’s pride, the brilliant film maker, Rituparno Ghosh.  His name and work go far beyond the domain of the ordinary to reach out to the sky, where freedom of expression weds the colours and hues of human relationships, in its diverse alternate shades.

Engaged with presenting human relationships from two points, loneliness and companionship, finding a friend in unlikely places, indeed, all of Rituparno Ghosh’s films talk recurring same subject and bring the viewer to address realities they do not acknowledge consciously. Questioning the institution of marriage, it’s happily ever after cover which hide deeper schism between couple, the film maker’s representation of the urban middle class families is unprecedented on Bengali screen.

“I was the first at least in Bengali films to deal with the urban middle class home in a manner that some poignant truths of their lives came out which have not been spoken of before. For the first time the audience was watching things that had remained buried within them; in fact, there was a denial of this truth. So in a way it was some kind of getting into the unchartered waters, at the same time dealing with loneliness and companionship and questioning the whole notion of the two.”

In Dahan, the first film that talked about marital rape, or the National Film Award winner, Unishe April (19th April) depicting the stressed relationship between a divorced couple, and the strained mother-daughter relationship, Utsab, which show complex set of problems in a family who have gathered for the annual Durgapujo, or Shubho Muhurat,  showing parallel relationships running from past to present, a sleuth and a victim find companionship in each other, even as a medley of human emotions, compassion and empathy come to the fore and leave the audience with much food for thought, there is no right and wrong, no judgment made at any time. This reflects Rituparno Ghosh’s own aspiration as non-judgmental. His films, in Hindi, English and Bengali, are his voice to artistically reach that destination.

When asked whether he thinks a committed live-in relationship is better than a marriage, he is wise.
“I don’t condemn marriage nor is it something I am immediately elated about; it is how you want to conduct yourself, and we can’t preempt our behavior at any stage. Marriage is not about two individuals; it is two families. When you are staying together there are certain odds you are facing. Are you staying together just to challenge the institution of marriage, or are you really living together happily? Quite often, just because, we have chosen to live together over marriage, there is an extra effort to prove that we are happy, which may be artificial at times. In the face of being marginalized for living lives that do not conform to society, it is entirely upon our fortitude and patience, our  ability to complement each other that make the relationship last.”
Rituparno Ghosh (49) is blessed with fingers that give away his parents’ profession as artists. These long, perfectly manicured hands learned their first lessons in film making with his father, who made low budget documentary films, converting the family’s dining table into his editing table! Further, his love of cinema took a serious turn when at 12, in 1975, Doordarshan Kolkata started airing Hindi and Bengali cinema on Sunday evenings. ‘It was then only a matter of scale,’ he says when armed with the technique of making films and ten years in advertising experience, the final push came while shooting a documentary, Vande Mataram with Shabana Azmi. She suggested that he take up making films for the larger screen. Hirer Angti, a children’s film, was his first.  He was young and hungry for fame and recognition. With Unishe April, his second, he rose to become one of India’s best known film-writer and Directors.  From 1994 to 2010, almost year on year, Rituparno Ghosh won Awards at the national and international level.

With his latest film, Chitrangada (A), released in Kolkata, in August, 2012, now available across India, on DVD, from 11th February, 2013, Rituparno Ghosh has ventured upon a yet again widely discussed subject of same sex relationships and the Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS).

“After Article 377, it has actually given visibility to homosexuality and there is a clear line drawn in the minds of people between homosexuality and heterosexuality. What lies with the entire gender matrix of various kinds of sexual desires had not been discussed before on screen. Chitrangada wanted to talk about the liminality of one’s desire to belong to a particular sexuality and the entire debate of gender and sex and the need to have an altered body, which everyone can wish to have. We are all working toward sculpting our own gender identity; women alter their bodies at Beauty Parlours, men get six packs. No transformation is actually over, it is a process; it is fluid.”

Clearly, Rituparno Ghosh’s mind is larger than life. The world will confer, in life and on the silver screen. 

This article by Julia Dutta was first published in Atelier India, March 2013 Issue of  the magazine. If you are not in India, write to: Creative Nest Media Pvt. Ltd, M-66, Punj House, Outer Circle, Connaught Place, New Delhi - 110 001 Email:info@creativenestmedia.comAdd caption

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