Impact and Influence of Ritwik Ghatak on Indian Cinema had been great and far flung. During the time of Ritwik Ghatak
`s death on 6th February 1976 there was a huge void that was created in the field of cinema. He had a huge fan following and his legacy was carried forward by his former students from FTII.
Though his association with FTII was rather brief, but he was successful in having a profound impact on his pupils like, Mani Kaul, John Abraham, and especially Kumar Sahani
(among many others). They carried forward the ideas and thoughts of their master. Other students of his at the FTII included the acclaimed filmmakers Saeed Akhtar Mirza
and Adoor Gopalakrishnan
. He also tried new techniques which had never been used in the Indian cinema. Foe example the use natural sounds which are very prominent in the film, Meghe Dhaka Tara.
Ritwik Ghatak was an epitome of change and he stood obliquely outside the purview of typical Indian commercial cinema genre. None of the aspects portrayed in his works have commercial elements. His cinema doesn`t have the archetypical singing and dancing, melodrama, stars, glitz, that are actually a common aspect in Indian Movies
. His films were watched mainly by his students, intelligentsia and fans, not by the masses. His students have also inclined to work in the genre of art cinema or the tradition of independent cinema.
To depict the moral and social degradation of the post independent Bengal, Ghatak makes use of Indian myths and archetype. Neeta is not only emotionally and physically sacrificed by their families but are also symbolically sacrificed as goddesses. As symbolic goddesses, Neeta represents the land of Bengal and it is Bengali society that sacrifices her with division and greed. In Meghe Dhaka Tara, the character Neeta is actually the manifestation of multiple goddesses: Durga as Jagadhatri, the benevolent image of the eternal giver and universal sustainer, and Uma, the Mother Goddess.
Contemporaries of Ghatak, like Satyajit Ray
and Mrinal Sen
were successful in creating a section of audience aboard during their lifetime, but unfortunately Ritwik didn`t have such luck. During his lifetime, his cinema was liked and applauded mainly within India and among Indian audiences. However, Ray tried his best to endorse and encourage his colleague, but that did not translate into international fame and recognition for Ritwik Ghatak. As for example we can consider the film, Nagarik. It was first feature film by Ghatak and by far one of the earliest instances of a Bengali art film, preceding Ray`s Pather Panchali
by three years, but was not released until after his death in 1977. First film by Ghatak that released was Ajantrik in the year 1958. It was a film that created a trend in the Indian Cinema
. The film portrayed an inanimate object - an automobile, as a central character in the narrative, many years before the Herbie films.
The film Bedeni, was Ghatak`s was the first directorial venture which he had reportedly taken from another director Nirmal Dev, however it remained unfinished. Ritwik`s first complete film was Nagarik. Shot and edited in 1952-53, the film was released in the late seventies which dealt with the partition of Bengal and the life of the refugees. In the end of the film, Ramu, the protagonist, abandons his house and his individual aspirations to join a political struggle for equality between classes. It was during this period (1952 - 53) that the Language Movement was at its peak and that thousands of students had already laid down their life for getting Bangla approved as a state language. The movement continued till 1956.
Ritwik Ghatak`s Bari Theke Paliye released in the year 1958 had a related plot to Franƒ?ois Truffaut`s later film The 400 Blows (1959), but Ghatak`s film remained ambiguous while Truffaut`s film went on to become one of the most famous films of the French New Wave. One of Ghatak`s concluding films, A River Named Titas or Titas Ekti Nadir Naam (1973), is one of the earliest films to be told in a hyperlink format, featuring numerous characters in a collection of interconnected narratives, predating Robert Altman`s Nashville (1975) by two years.
The following statement made by Ritwik Ghatak, after he finished making Titas Ekti Nadir (1973), can give an overview of his life and his country. "I did not realize that whatever ideas I had about Bengal, the two Bengals together, were thirty years out of date", he said. "My childhood and my early youth were spent in East Bengal. The memories of those days, the nostalgia maddened me and drew me towards Titash, to make a film on it. The period covered in the novel, Titash, is forty years old, a time I was familiar with...Consequently, Titash has become a kind of commemoration of the past that I left behind long ago...when I was making the film, it occurred to me that nothing of the past survives today, nothing can survive. History is ruthless. No, it is all lost. Nothing remains". In spite of this Ritwik worked passionately on the project struggling with tuberculosis along the way.
One of the main commercial successes of Ritwik was Madhumati (1958); a film in Hindi language where he wrote the screenplay. This film was one of the original works on the subject of reincarnation. Later, it is believed, many directors have been inspired from this theme and made films on this topic. It may have been the source of huge inspiration for the American film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) and Karz, a Hindi film released in the year 1980, both of which dealt with reincarnation and have been influential in their respective cultures. One of the contemporary film to be directly inspired by Madhumati is a Bollywood
super-hit named Om Shanti Om
(2007), which led to the late Bimal Roy
`s daughter Rinki Bhattacharya accusing the film as a copy and even threatened legal action against Shahrukh Khan
and Gauri Khan
- film`s producers.
Ritwik Ghatak as a filmmaker has had a profound effect on many present day Indian movie makers, both from West Bengal
and across the country. For example- Mira Nair is a self-confessed Ghatak lover, and has, in many occasions cited Ghatak, and also Ray as the reason for her becoming a film director. Unfortunately for Ghatak, he was deprived of all the name and fame during his life time. It was only during the early 1990`s, much after his death, that restoration of his work had started. And a project to restore Ghatak`s films was also undertaken, and international displays (and subsequent DVD releases) have belatedly produced an increasingly global audience.
Though he made some of his films under the influence of alcohol, but he made them with great passion. His films were sometimes overemphasized, sometimes melodramatic, sometimes unevenly edited, but there was an enormous power in his films which transcended everything else.