This is not a well-designed obituary. I do not have the energy or interest to think about grammatically flowery and embellishing language. Grammatical correctness will just distance my feelings for the man whom I had always held so dear. It will be the writer in me who will be spelling the article out, one who is brutal and cruel and cares only about perfect prepositions. The human and ardent lover of Ghosh’s art that I am, finds solace today in silence.
I have never met him. He remains for me a guiding light just like Ray is. Or Tagore always will be. A man who was brave enough to have a voice, who might not always be appreciated or accepted, but was never ignored. Behind all his makeup, bejeweled accessories and prominent (and uncomfortable) effeminacy remained an exceptionally perceptive, intelligent, absorbent, and engaging individual. Rituparno Ghosh was never hated for his words. When he spoke, you heard every word and realized that he made sense. He had a voice.
Ghosh came into the Bengali film industry at a time when everybody was unsure of the goal and vision of cinema. The greats were fading away; along with stalwarts like Aparna Sen and Gautam Ghose, he became a part of the independent film triumvirate – making cinema that was unafraid, vocal, and had a mind of its own. His debut, Hirer Angti, must be the only film where he ‘aligned’ himself to the audience. All his other films coaxed the audience to rise to his level. Every film of his, some better than others, had a piece of him, affected heavily by his personal transformations. We forget that he was human – his work will be affected by his changing mindset. If the man wants to give wings to his sexuality, we always have the option to criticize – but not condemn. Yes, his personal changes might not to be our liking, but that does not take away his calibre, education, cinematic authority, and heightened sensibilities.
Almost all his films create magic. The emotional dynamics of Baariwaali, the chemical Utsab, firebrand Dahan, the macabre of Antarmahal, entangled Titli and Unishe April, stylish Shubho Mahurat, and sheer poetry in Chokher Bali and Raincoat. The latter urban pieces like Dosar, The Last Lear, Khela, Shob Choritro Kalponik, and Abohomaan might not be his directorial best but did uphold a change in psyche, and an attempt to delve into even more complicated relationships. These films also broadened his popularity and gave him global acceptance. He returned with a bang with Noukodubi, one of his best films; a cinematic gem, which definitely proved that he, was one of the most trusted authorities of Tagore. He understood Tagore almost on a personal, visceral level and hence, was able to go beyond just the literature. His documentary on Tagore, when and if released, will surely prove this fact. Choosing to act in Arekti Premer Golpo, Memories in March, and Chitrangada (which he also directed) might be a debatable decision. While on one hand he flirted with the uncomfortable, his courage is to be commended. It takes immense confidence in one self to perform a deviant character which almost borders on taboo. He might not be an astounding actor, his writing had also faltered recently, but his directorial and cinematic genius is undeniable. He knew how to suck you right into his story – he knew how to affect you.
Ghosh’s ability to work and derive the best from his actors is exemplified by the likes of Prosenjit Chatterjee – an actor who was the leading face of crassy Bengali potboilers till Ghosh trusted in him enough to cast him in Utsab. If not for Ghosh, Chatterjee would have never found respect, or realized the immense talent he bore and was wasting away. The same could be said for Rituparna Sengupta (whose talent was also given wings by Aparna Sen), Raima Sen, and Jisshu Sengupta. Two of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s best performances are in his films. Even the much ignored Riya Sen became an actor in his hands. His actors and their careers bear testimony to the amazing director that he was.
I will refrain from discussing my personal relationship with his work. I am grieving the loss of a guiding light, an inspiration whose work I might have criticized in recent times, but have always been attracted by. I have never been able to ignore the allure of Rituparno Ghosh’s work. I am angry at the injustice of his death. He was meant to be even greater.
I pray Satyanweshi is released. Also Sunglass and the Tagore docu-drama. I hope he is kept alive and remembered through his work.
Anyway, I doubt forgetting him will be easy.