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Rituparno Ghosh: Rest in Power, Master!

One of India's most acclaimed filmmakers Rituparno Ghosh passed away this morning. Why he was so important

Sohini Mitter
Published: 30, May 2013

I am a student of life. My professional interests lie in reading and writing on consumer-oriented businesses, brands, media and entertainment. Personally, I see the world in portraits through the lens of my camera. Literature, history, politics and sports are my other major interests. Direct your feedback to

57th National Films Awards

Waking up to the news of someone’s death is one of the most unpleasant things of life. And when that someone is Rituparno Ghosh, whose untimely demise has left Bengal’s intelligentsia in a state of shock and speechlessness, it is all the more painful and disturbing. Scores of tributes have already poured in for the departed filmmaker and many more will follow. He meant much to the consciousness of Bengal’s post-liberalisation youth and moulded their perspectives with his writings, philosophies, ideals, and an unparalleled body of celluloid work.

Ghosh’s illustrious career spanned two decades and was lined by constant comparisons with Bengali and Indian cinema’s other luminary Satyajit Ray. Ray passed away in 1992. Ghosh made his first film Hirer Angti [a children’s feature] in the same year. It went mostly unnoticed due to logistical issues. In 1994, came the outstanding Unishe April [a loose adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata] which fetched him the first of his multiple National Awards.

Such compelling sensitivity, deft handling of human relationships, impeccable attention to detail and starkly real dialogues were distinctly Ray-esque. It was as if the baton of good filmmaking was passed on seamlessly from one genius to the other. Bengal had another ‘Renaissance Man’ in the making and he surely didn’t disappoint.

He made 18 films, seventeen of which were in Bengali and one (the sombre and soulful Raincoat) in Hindi. His last film Chitrangada won a special jury mention in this year’s National Awards. Some say the film was autobiographical and Ghosh (who played the lead) beautifully depicted the struggles of the LGBT community. His unfinished work, Satyanweshi, is a detective film adapted from a Byomkesh Bakshi story. One of his final tweets confirmed that he’d wrapped up its shooting a few days ago.

One of the most distinguished aspects of Ghosh's filmmaking was his characterization and portrayal of women. His films almost always had strong female protagonists fighting for their rights, for acceptance and equality in an unforgiving, patriarchal world.

From the misunderstood danseuse and her reticent daughter in Unishe April to the molested victim and the teacher-activist in Dahan; from the lonesome landlady in Bariwali to the star-struck teenager in Titli; from the Miss Marple-like old aunt in Shubho Mahurat to the alluring widow in Chokher Bali; from the troubled muse of a prodigal poet in Shob Choritro Kalponik to the raw-turned-nuanced actress of Abohomaan—Ghosh’s cinema is a celebration of women and femininity and a voice to their concerns.

Another significant feature of Ghosh’s work is his interpretation of Rabindranath Tagore. Cultural commentators and critics acknowledge that no one understood Tagore as well as he did. The youth of Bengal, perhaps distanced from the greatest poet of their land, has discovered Tagore in various forms through Ghosh’s cinema—his eloquent adaptation of Tagorean tales, his brilliant use of Tagore songs and his delicate interpretation of Tagore’s sensibilities.

And last but not the least Ghosh brought the discerning Bengali cine-goer back to the theatres. Throughout the nineties, when audiences shunned inferior films by Tollywood’s listless directors, there was one filmmaker whose releases were keenly awaited. They were gala events for true connoisseurs of cinema. Ghosh promised gold and delivered each time. With him, Bengali cinema went international again.

There was Satyajit Ray. There was Rituparno Ghosh. And then there are none!

  • Harshit Gupta

    I still haven't come out of the shock. Or probably, I haven't been sad enough yet. But whatever it is, there is something I'll take from your last line and hope it changes. I'll sincerely hope there are more. Because we really need some.

    on Jun 4, 2013
    • Sohini

      Agree with you, Harshit! We surely need some. It's not that there aren't any good filmmakers but Ray and Ghosh were leagues ahead of the rest!

      on Jun 5, 2013
  • Krittika Chatterjee Ghosh

    Many a times heard from Bangali that they don't like watching Bengali movies because they are Jatra types. After Ray passed away his son created movies but very few, and we eagerly waited for it. Then came Rituparno and on Piped Piper's tune we followed him to the hall. He was applauded and at the same time criticized for his ways of living life. It happens in Bengal only. Artists get acknowledged after they are cremated. The patriarchal society developed a bit of soft corner for the weaker gender after watching the movies made by Rinkuda. We could easily give examples from the characters, each and every character was so real. We will miss you as a person who understood us, women, and the film fraternity will miss you as their mentor and torch bearer. Will remain in my heart through your golden creations which shines like "Hirer angti" in my "Antarmohal".

    on Jun 3, 2013
  • Amit Acharya

    5 days passed but still in shock of ritu da's death...he was simply brilliant in portraying man-woman relationships & kudos to ur write up...very lucidly explained the details

    on Jun 3, 2013
  • Sachi Mohanty

    Seen and liked Rain Coat, Chokher Bali, and Nauka Dubi (Kashmakash).

    on May 31, 2013
    • Sohini Mitter

      You must watch some of his other films too. The ones he made through the nineties.

      on Jun 5, 2013
  • Arindam

    There's so much pain in your words. This is a really touching tribute! Especially the last line is very impactful. Rituparno Ghosh's death is a huge loss for Indian cinema. Is there anyone currently who can take his place? I doubt

    on May 31, 2013
    • Sohini Mitter

      Only time will tell!

      on Jun 5, 2013
  • Arun Prakash Ray

    Sohini, this one is straight from the heart. So well written, Thank You.

    on May 31, 2013
  • Subhojit

    Sohini, you emoted vacuity so well..

    on May 30, 2013
  • Swagata Sen

    "Ghosh promised gold and delivered each time. With him, Bengali cinema went international again." Speechless...

    on May 30, 2013
  • Mousume Roy

    Sohini, you nailed it with this one. Being a huge Rituporno Ghosh's fan, Im literally distressed with his demise. And, you last line summoned it beautifully.. There was Satyajit Ray. There was Rituparno Ghosh. And then there are none! Sadly, that's so true!

    on May 30, 2013
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