Filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, who brought back the cinematic narrative of Bengal from the more popular to the serious and thought-provoking, died at 7.30 am on May 30 suffering a massive heart attack. He was 49. Rituparno Ghosh had just finished filming Satyanneshi – a mystery caper by fictional sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi in whose role he cast fellow director Sujoy Ghosh.
He veered into filmmaking from a successful career in advertising, bursting into the scene with Heerer Angti (The Diamond Ring) in 1992, which explored a man's failed attempt to ingratiate himself into the graces of a prosperous household to get hold of the property. Whether Gandharva Kumar's magic tricks work forms the movie's climax.
In 1994, came Unishe April (19th of April), a pathbreaking movie in Bengal, exploring the relationship between a mother and a daughter; the mother's inability to understand the daughter's reticence, and the daughter's bitterness towards her danseuse mother who was never really there for her. But, her father was till he died. The film is a loose adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata. Gradually the mother and daughter unlock decades of repressed feelings, bringing daughter Aditi to face the question: 'Will she be able to forgive her mother?'
Then followed Dahan, Bariwali, Asukh, Utsab, Shubho Mahurat between 1997 and 2003 with a variety of stars both from Bengal and the national arena. Shubho Mahurat – based on Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side -- had stellar performances from Sharmila Tagore, as the killer and Raakhee, who played to the hilt Ranga Pishima, the quiet, observant woman at home, a la Jane Marple.
Though probing and disturbing the social fabric was his forte, Rituparno Ghosh has also drawn inspiration from giant literary works like that of Rabindranath Tagore's Chokher Bali, not shying away from interpreting social problems of another era. Tagore had a favourite place in Rituparno Ghosh's heart, as he filmed another two of the bard's stories – Noukodubi and Chitrangada.
After Choker Bali with Aishwarya Rai, he cast her again with Ajay Devgn in Raincoat, an adaptation of O Henry's A Gift Of The Magi. Rituparno Ghosh has also hosted two celebrity chat shows – Ebong Rituparno and Rituparno and Co – addressing his guests fondly as tui (tu in Hindi). Much to the amusement of some and positive irritation of others! In one episode with commedian Mir, who had made Rituparno a frequent subject of his jibes, Rituparno attacked him for his insensitivity, laying bare in the middle class drawing room the alienation of the minority – whether religious or sexual.
Then followed Antarmahal, Dosar, The Last Lear with Amitabh Bachchan, Khela, Shob Charitor Kalponik, Abohoman and Sunglass. Most films delved into human desires and frailties, attempting with success to bring about a cathartic clarity at the end.
Rituparno Ghosh drew his passion for films at an early age, as both his parents were closely associated with the art. His father was a documentary filmmaker. He studied in South Point High School and graduated in Economics from Jadavpur University. Seen here with actress Debashree Roy and Producer D Ramanaidu at a press meet for Bengali film Asukh. (IE Photo)
He made his first screen presence in the Oriya film Katha Deithilli Ma Ku, directed by Himanshu Parija and released in 2003. He also acted in Arekti Prem-er Golpo, Memories in March and Chitrangada. Arekti Prem-er Golpo, written and directed by Kaushik Ganguly, was a film on homosexuality. Ghosh played a transgender filmmaker, shooting a biopic on the first self-evident gay jatra actor of Bengal, Chapal Bhaduri. Chapal Bhaduri was also known as Chapal Rani for his portrayal of feminine roles, at a time when women were not allowed on stage. Ghosh's own sexual orientation also gets full play in his portrayal of the gay director.
Rituparno Ghosh has won many national awards for his films. His actors have bagged awards for being putty in their director's hands, his sharp and irreverent dialogues have also won several best screenplay awards. Chokher Bali, Dahan, Raincoat and Antarmahal have also been nominated for prestigious foreign awards.