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Archive for June 1st, 2019

by Shubhajit Lahiri

One of the most fascinating aspects in the world of arts or music or literature or cinema, is how two artists sometimes end up becoming conjoined, pop-culturally as well as in more serious and self-conscious discourses, for reasons that may range from complex friendships to bitter rivalries (or a curios combination of both). Or perhaps, in the way they inspired one another to newer realms while pursuing distinctively different routes and choices to artistic expression. Or, for that matter, in the way they simultaneously converged and diverged.

Picasso-Matisse, Van Gogh-Gauguin, Camus-Sartre, Hemingway-Fitzgerald, Márquez-Llosa, Lennon-Dylan, Klimt-Schiele, etc. are all enduring examples. Godard-Truffaut, Ozu-Imamura, Fellini-Antonioni, Chaplin-Keaton, etc. were similarly memorable elucidations specific to world cinema. And then, a pair like Buñuel-Dali even took that beyond the confines of their respective mediums.

Those who’re well acquainted to these two contemporaries of Bengali cinema, would agree that Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak, too, unequivocally belonged to this interesting club.

I’d become aware of Ray much earlier in my life – his popularity went significantly beyond just “serious” cinephiles because of his diverse filmography, his many artistic involvements beyond cinema, and his easy accessibility. Ghatak entered much later in my life, and that’s perhaps understandable since he’s not as universally known, albeit immensely admired by a small group of intense aficionados.

Ghatak was a rebel, a radical and a recluse. He was never easy to endear personally – he was embittered, alienating, abrasive, unpredictable, innately non-conformist, oftentimes contrarian, and yes, a self-destructive alcoholic too. As an auteur, as well, he’s an acquired taste (though one, once acquired, is difficult to let go) – he made just eight films in his life (except for a dazzling burst of 5 films, viz. Ajantrik (The Unmechanical / Pathetic Fallacy), Bari Theke Paliye (Running Away from Home) and the ‘Partition Trilogy’, made between 1958-’62, he was never a very prolific filmmaker); his films were seeped in a milieu and style and context that were singularly his own and hence often tad difficult or uncomfortable for those who’re not well accustomed to them; and, most importantly, his cinema was inextricably linked to a complex combination of his resolutely formal vision and avowedly leftist politics. (more…)

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