Ritwik Ghatak (About this soundlisten ; 4 November 1925 – 6 February 1976)[3] was a noted Bengali filmmaker and script writer. Along with prominent contemporary Bengali filmmakers Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, his cinema is primarily remembered for its meticulous depiction of social reality, partition and feminism. Although their roles were often adversarial, they were ardent admirers of each other's work and, in doing so, the three directors charted the independent trajectory of parallel cinema, as a counterpoint to the mainstream fare of Hindi cinema in India. Ghatak received many awards in his career, including National Film Award's Rajat Kamal Award for Best Story in 1974 for his Jukti Takko Aar Gappo[4] and Best Director's Award from Bangladesh Cine Journalist's Association for Titash Ekti Nadir Naam. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri for Arts in 1970.[5][6]

Ritwik Ghatak
Ghatak on a 2007 stamp of India
Ghatak on a 2007 stamp of India
BornRitwik Kumar Ghatak
(1925-11-04)4 November 1925
Dacca, Bengal Presidency, British India (now Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Died6 February 1976(1976-02-06) (aged 50)
Calcutta, West Bengal, India (now Kolkata)
OccupationFilmmaker and writer
Notable worksNagarik, Ajantrik, Subarnarekha, Meghe Dhaka Tara, Titash Ekti Nadir Naam
Notable awardsPadma Shri
National Film Award's Rajat Kamal Award Best Story for Jukti Takko Aar Gappo
Best Director's Award from Bangladesh Cine Journalist's Association for Titash Ekti Nadir Naam
SpouseSurama Ghatak[1]
ChildrenRitaban Ghatak (son)
Samhita Ghatak (daughter)
Suchismita Ghatak (daughter)[2]
RelativesManish Ghatak (elder brother), Mahasweta Devi (niece), Parambrata Chatterjee (Grandson),

Ghatak Family Tree

Early lifeEdit

Ritwik Ghatak was born in Dhaka in East Bengal (now Bangladesh).[7] Ghatak's father Suresh Chandra Ghatak was a district magistrate and a poet and playwright; his mother's name was Indubala Devi. He and his tin sister Prateeti, were the youngest of nine children. The other children were Manish, Sudhish, Tapati, Sampreeti, Brototi, Ashish Chandra and Lokesh Chandra. He and his family moved to Berhampore, Murshidabad and then to Calcutta (now Kolkata) just before millions of other refugees from East Bengal began to flood into the city, fleeing the catastrophic Bengal famine of 1943 and the partition of Bengal in 1947. Identification with this tide of refugees was to define his practice, providing an over-riding metaphor for cultural dismemberment and exile that unified his subsequent creative work. The 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, which led to more refugees fleeing to India, was to have a similar impact on his work.


Ritwik married Surama Devi, niece of active left-wing member, Sadhana Roychowdhury. They separated and she went to her ancestral place, Shillong after Ritwik was temporarily sent to a mental hospital. They had three children: a son Ritaban and two daughters, Samhita and Suchismita. Ritaban is a filmmaker[8] in his own right and is involved in the Ritwik Memorial Trust. He has restored Ritwik's Bagalar Banga Darshan, Ronger Golam and completed his unfinished documentary on Ramkinkar. He has also made a film titled Unfinished Ritwik. He is now working on adapting Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's novel 'Ichhamati'. Ritwik's elder daughter Samhita, has made a docufeature titled Nobo Nagarik. His younger daughter died in 2009.[1] Ghatak's elder brother Manish Ghatak was a radical writer of his time, a professor of English and a social activist who was deeply involved with the IPTA theatre movement in its heyday and later on headed the Tebhaga Andolan of North Bengal. Manish Ghatak's daughter is the writer and activist Mahasweta Devi.

Creative careerEdit

In 1948, Ghatak wrote his first play Kalo sayar (The Dark Lake) and participated in a revival of the landmark play Nabanna.[9] In 1951, Ghatak joined the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA). He wrote, directed and acted in plays and translated Bertolt Brecht and Gogol into Bengali. In the early 1970s, he wrote and directed his last play Jwala (The Burning). The music director was Darbar Bhaduri, who was called by Ghatak 'Dada' or 'Guru." Ghatak was greatly inspired by Darbar Bhaduri. In Rajshahi, Bangladesh—his homeland Ritwik had lived next door to Bhaduri's house.

Ghatak entered the film industry with Nimai Ghosh's Chinnamul (1950) as actor and assistant director. Chinnamul was followed in two years by Ghatak's first completed film Nagarik (1952), both major breakthroughs for the Indian cinema.[10][11] Ghatak's early work sought theatrical and literary precedent in bringing together a documentary realism, a stylised performance often drawn from the folk theatre, and a Brechtian use of the filmic apparatus.

Ghatak's first commercial release was Ajantrik (1958), a comedy-drama film with science fiction themes. It was one of the earliest Indian films to portray an inanimate object, in this case an automobile, as a character in the story.

Ghatak's greatest commercial success as a script writer was for Madhumati (1958), one of the earliest films to deal with the theme of reincarnation. It was a Hindi film directed by another Bengali filmmaker Bimal Roy. It earned Ghatak his first award nomination, for the Filmfare Best Story Award.

Ritwik Ghatak directed eight full-length films. His best-known films, Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-Capped Star) (1960), Komal Gandhar (E-Flat) (1961), and Subarnarekha (Golden Lining) (1962), a trilogy based in Calcutta and addressing the condition of refugee-hood, proved controversial and the commercial failure of Komal Gandhar (E-Flat) and Subarnarekha prevented him from making features through the remainder of the 1960s. In all three, he used a basic and at times starkly realistic storyline, upon which he inscribed a range of mythic references, especially of the 'Mother Deliverer', through a dense overlay of visual and aural registers.

Ritwik Ghatak, at young age

Ghatak moved briefly to Pune in 1966, where he taught at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). His students included film makers Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani. During his year at FTII, he was involved in the making of two student films: Fear and Rendezvous.[12]

Ghatak returned to filmmaking in the 1970s, when a Bangladeshi producer financed the 1973 epic Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Called Titas). Making films became difficult because of his poor health due to extreme alcoholism and consequent diseases. His last film was the autobiographical Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (Reason, Debate And Story) (1974), in which he portrayed Neelkantha (Nilkanth) the lead character.[13] He also had a number of incomplete feature and short films in his credit.

Bagalar Banga DarshanEdit

Bagalar Banga Darshan (1964) (Bengali: বগলার বঙ্গদর্শন)[14] is an incomplete Bengali film created by legendary filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak. The film was shot for one week only and later it was abandoned and the film remained incomplete. Recently Ritwik Memorial Trust has collected the available reels of the film, and after their work of re-editing they published four reels of the film which has 6 songs which were recorded before the shooting. Ritwik Ghatak not only was the director of the film, he also wrote the story and the screenplay. The plot of the story was inspired by a film of an Italian director Blasetti.[15]

Cast and crewEdit

  • Sunil Bhattacharya as Bagala
  • Indrani Mukherjee as Kanchanmala
  • Padma Debi
  • Renuka Roy
  • Jahor Roy
  • Mumtaz Ahmed Khan
  • Keshto Mukherjee
  • Tarun Ghosh
  • Master Dipak
  • Producer: Ramanlal Maheshwari
  • Direction, story, screenplay: Ritwik Ghatak
  • Cinematography: Dilip Ranjan Mukherjee
  • Editing: Ramen Joshi
  • Music: Hridoy Raanjan Kushari
  • Art Direction: Rabi Chaterjee
  • Still Photography: Mahendra Kumar
  • Singer: Pratima Barua, Arati Mukherjee


Dey's Publishing, Kolkata has published the script in the form of a book, titled same as the film (ISBN 81-295-0524-X).

Impact and influenceEdit

A scene from Ghatak's last film Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (1974)

At the time of his death (February 1976), Ghatak's primary influence would seem to have been through former students. Though his stint teaching film at FTII was brief, one-time students Mani Kaul, John Abraham, and especially Kumar Shahani (among many others),[16] carried Ghatak's ideas and theories, which were further elaborated upon in his book Cinema And I, into the mainstream of Indian art film. Other students of his at the FTII included the acclaimed filmmakers Saeed Akhtar Mirza and Adoor Gopalakrishnan.[17]

Ghatak stood entirely outside the world of Indian commercial film. None of the elements of the commercial cinema (singing and dancing, melodrama, stars, glitz) featured in his work.[citation needed] He was watched by students and intelligentsia, not by the masses. His students have tended to work in the art cinema or independent cinema tradition.

While other neo-realist directors like Satyajit Ray succeeded in creating an audience outside India during their lifetime, Ghatak was not so fortunate. While he was alive, his films were appreciated primarily within India. Satyajit Ray did what he could to promote his colleague, but Ray's generous praise did not translate into international fame for Ghatak. For example, Ghatak's Nagarik (1952) was perhaps the earliest example of a Bengali art film, preceding Ray's Pather Panchali by three years but was not released until after his death in 1977.[10][11] His first commercial release Ajantrik (1955) was one of the earliest Indian films to portray an inanimate object, an automobile, as a character in the story, many years before the Herbie films.[3] Ghatak's Bari Theke Paliye (1958) had a similar plot to François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959), but Ghatak's film remained obscure while Truffaut's went on to become one of the most famous of the French New Wave. One of Ghatak's final films, Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (1973), is one of the earliest to be told in a hyperlink format, featuring multiple characters in a collection of interconnected stories, predating Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) by two years.

Ghatak's only major commercial success was Madhumati (1958), a Hindi film which he wrote the screenplay for. It was one of the earliest to deal with the theme of reincarnation and is believed to have been the source of inspiration for many later works dealing with reincarnation in Indian cinema, Indian television, and perhaps world cinema. It may have been the source of inspiration for the American film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) and the Hindi film Karz (1980), both of which dealt with reincarnation and have been influential in their respective cultures.[18] Karz in particular was remade several times: as the Kannada film Yuga Purusha (1989), the Tamil film Enakkul Oruvan (1984), and more recently the Bollywood Karzzzz (2008). Karz and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud may have inspired the American Chances Are (1989).[18] The most recent film to be directly inspired by Madhumati was the hit Bollywood film Om Shanti Om (2007), which led to the late Bimal Roy's daughter Rinki Bhattacharya accusing it of plagiarism and threatening legal action against its producers.[19][20]

Ghatak's work as a director influenced many later Indian filmmakers, including those from the Bengali film industry and elsewhere. Ghatak is said to have influences on Kumar Shahani, Mani Kaul, Ketan Mehta, and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. For example, Mira Nair has cited Ghatak as well as Ray as the reasons she became a filmmaker.[21] Ghatak's influence as a director began to spread beyond India much later; beginning in the 1990s, a project to restore Ghatak's films was undertaken, and international exhibitions (and subsequent DVD releases) have belatedly generated an increasingly global audience. In a critics' poll of all-time greatest films conducted by the Asian film magazine Cinemaya in 1998, Subarnarekha was ranked at No. 11.[22] In the 2002 Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll for all-time greatest films, Meghe Dhaka Tara was ranked at No. 231 and Komal Gandhar at No. 346.[23] In 2007, A River Named Titas topped the list of 10 best Bangladeshi films, as chosen in the audience and critics' polls conducted by the British Film Institute.[24] Russia-born German actress Elena Kazan once said Ghatak's Jukti Takko Gappo has the most profound influence on her view about world cinema.[25]

Bangladeshi filmmaker Shahnewaz Kakoli said she has been greatly influenced by Ritwik Ghatak's films and regarded Ghatak as her idol. She said, "like all Bengalis, I too have grown up watching movies of Satyajit Ray and Ghatak, though I like Ghatak more and I idolise him. I am greatly inspired by him and consequently my movie 'Uttarer Sur' (Northern Symphony) too is influenced by Ghatak."[26]


Though Ghatak is mainly known as film director, he wrote many stories and plays. In his creative career, Ghatak made eight full-length feature films and few short films and documentaries. He also wrote many short stories, plays and poetries. Ghatak wrote more than 50 articles and essays on film.


Ghatak was not only a film director, he was a theorist, too. His views and commentaries on films have been parts of scholarly studies and researches. As a filmmaker his main concentration was on men and life and specially the day-to-day struggle of ordinary men. He could never accept the partition of India of 1947 which divided Bengal into two countries. In almost all his film he dealt with this theme.[27]

Filmmaking was not only art for him. In his opinion it was only a means to the end of serving people: It was only a means of expressing his anger at the sorrows and sufferings of his people.[28]

He was a lifelong communist and actively supported CPI in his earlier life. He believed that the film was just a medium of his larger thoughts about the society. He could easily leave film-making and adopt another form of art if that could better represent his unique vision of both the individual self and the society as a whole. But due to his independent nature, the CPI Calcutta District Committee expelled him in 21 October 1955.

Awards, honours and recognitionsEdit

  • Padma Shri for Arts in 1970 by The Government of India.[5][6]
  • Musafir had won the Certificate of Merit for Third Best Feature Film at 5th National Film Awards in 1957.[29]
  • Madhumati Nominated for Filmfare Best Story Award.[30]
  • National Film Award's Rajat Kamal Award for Best Story in 1974 for Jukti Takko Aar Gappo.
  • Best Director's award from Bangladesh Cine Journalist's Association for Titash Ekti Nadir Naam.
  • Ajantrik got special entry in the Venice Film Festival in 1959.
  • In a critics' poll of all-time greatest films conducted by Asian film magazine Cinemaya in 1998, Subarnarekha was ranked at No. 11 on the list.
  • In the 2002 Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll for all-time greatest films, Meghe Dhaka Tara was ranked at No. 231 and Komal Gandhar at No. 346 on the list.
  • In 2007, A River Named Titas topped the list of 10 best Bangladeshi films, as chosen in the audience and critics' polls conducted by the British Film Institute.
  • Heerer Prajapati had won the Best Children's Film Award (Prime Minister's Gold Medal) at 16th National Film Awards in 1970.[31]


  1. ^ a b "My husband as I saw him". Times of India. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  2. ^ Partha Chatterjee (6–19 October 2007). "Jinxed legacy". Frontline. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b Carrigy, Megan (December 2003). "Ritwik Ghatak – Great Director Profile". Senses of Cinema. ISSN 1443-4059. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Na22nd National Film Awards" (PDF). Iffi.nic.in. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2014)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs (India). 21 May 2014. p. 39. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 September 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Controversy". Ramachandraguha.in. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  7. ^ Hood, p. 20.
  8. ^ "Ritaban Ghatak". Biff.kr/. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  9. ^ Fredric Jameson; Masao Miyoshi (30 June 1998). The Cultures of Globalization. Duke University Press. pp. 195–. ISBN 978-0-8223-2169-9. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  10. ^ a b Ritwik Ghatak (2000). Rows and Rows of Fences: Ritwik Ghatak on Cinema. Ritwik Memorial & Trust Seagull Books. pp. ix & 134–36. ISBN 81-7046-178-2.
  11. ^ a b Hood, pp. 21–24
  12. ^ "Ritwik Ghatak's Lesser Known Prowess of Writing Plays". The Wire. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  13. ^ Hood, p. 45.
  14. ^ "Bagalar Banga Darshan". British Film Institute. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  15. ^ Ghaṭaka, R̥tvikakumāra (2005). Calaccitra, mānusha ebaṃ āro kichu (in Bengali) (1. De'ja saṃskaraṇa. ed.). Kalakātā: De'ja Pābaliśiṃ. p. 354. ISBN 81-295-0397-2.
  16. ^ William van der Heide (12 June 2006). Bollywood Babylon: Interviews with Shyam Benegal. Berg. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-1-84520-405-1. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  17. ^ Chitra Parayath (8 November 2004). "Summer Viewing — The Brilliance of Ritwik Ghatak". Lokvani. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
  18. ^ a b Doniger, Wendy (2005). "Chapter 6: Reincarnation". The woman who pretended to be who she was: myths of self-imitation. Oxford University Press. pp. 112–136 [135]. ISBN 0-19-516016-9.
  19. ^ Vyas, Hetal (7 August 2008). "Ashanti nags Om Shanti Om". Mumbai Mirror.
  20. ^ "Shah Rukh, Farah Sued: Writer Claims SRK stole his script for Om Shanti Om". Humsurfer.com. Archived from the original on 13 April 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  21. ^ "Why we admire Ray so much". Naachgana. 14 April 2009. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  22. ^ Totaro, Donato (31 January 2003). "The "Sight & Sound" of Canons". Offscreen Journal. Canada Council for the Arts. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  23. ^ "2002 Sight & Sound Top Films Survey of 253 International Critics & Film Directors". Cinemacom. 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  24. ^ "Top 10 Bangladeshi Films". British Film Institute. 17 July 2007. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  25. ^ "German actress says Ritwik Ghatak's films have profound impact". The Indian Express. 10 July 2013.
  26. ^ "Bangladeshi filmmaker idolises Ritwik Ghatak". News Track India. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  27. ^ Nandi Bhatia (2008). Partitioned Lives: Narratives of Home, Displacement, and Resettlement. Pearson Education India. pp. 68–. ISBN 978-81-317-1416-4. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  28. ^ Ghatak, Ritwik (1987). Cinema and I (PDF). Ritwik Memorial Trust. p. 77.
  29. ^ 5th National Film Awards. nic.in
  30. ^ Gulzar; Govind Nihalani; Saibal Chatterjee (2003). Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema. Popular Prakashan. pp. 639–. ISBN 978-81-7991-066-5. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  31. ^ "16th National Film Awards" (PDF). Iffi.nic.in. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2012.

Cited sourcesEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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