Today we lost one of India's most vibrant and promising cinematic voices in the form of Bengali filmmaker/actor, Rituparno Ghosh. Even in the relatively brief period in which he was active, Ghosh was integral in expanding the cinematic language and visibility of underrepresented groups in Indian cinema, both in regional and Hindi films.In twenty years Ghosh directed 20 features, beginning with dramatic interpretations of working class life in Calcutta, moving through higher profile films with big name Bollywood actors, and finally settling into a series of films addressing the challenges of the LGBTQ and other minority communities in a rapidly evolving India.
Between 1995 and 2012, Ghosh won an astounding twelve National Film Awards in India. In a film culture that seems to hold an award show every 15 minutes, the National Film Awards are the most respected of the bunch. Among the winning films have been Chokher Bali
, starring Aishwariya Rai in her first Bengali film, and Unishe April
, his second film and the only one to with the overall best film award at the ceremony. Many more accolades for screenwriting and direction followed, leading Rituparno Ghosh to become one of the vanguards of new Indian independent cinema and a leading light in the always exciting Bengali film community.
Ghosh's final released film was Chitrangada
, which premiered at last year's New York Indian Film Festival, which I was sadly unable to see at the time. The film is a loose adaptation of the story of Chitrangada from the Mahabarata. In it Ghosh writes, directs, and stars as a homosexual choreographer facing all of the challenges that brings along with the struggles of a gay couple attempting to adopt a child. Ghosh's semi-autobiographical portrayal of an androgynous man in a masculine world mirrored his own brave stance to be who he was even in the face of a less than friendly culture.
Though he has left us at the young age of 49, Ghosh leaves behind not only a legacy of powerful films, but he completed a final one, Satyanweshi.
The film stars director Sujoy Ghosh (Kahaani, Paa)
and was described by Rituparno in a tweet as "a crime thriller in the molten glow of the pensive falling afternoon".
I reached out to fellow Bengali filmmaker, iconoclast, and friend of ScreenAnarchy, Q, to get his reaction to Ghosh's passing, this is what he had to say:
I got to
meet him couple of times, and once had a decent conversation. My
regard for him grew as I began to appreciate how he had kept the flag
flying for something other than trash aesthetics of commercial Bengali
cinema. His coming out was his 'fuck you' to his, and my, society, and I
loved the way he did it.
Extremely well said. Rituparno Ghosh passed away in his home on the morning of May 31st at around 7:30 AM. He was 49 years old.
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