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Amrit Gangar's The Close-up katha: Ritwik Ravivar-15

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

Image: A screenshot by AG from 'Scientists of Tomorrow', Dir. Ritwik Ghatak.

Look straight into the eyes of this young boy, the scientist of tomorrow that Ritwik Ghatak, in his one-reel (10-min) film, had captured in a close-up 56 years ago, in 1967 in his Films Division film ‘Scientists of Tomorrow’. The lensing philosopher, Ritwik Ghatak could see behind the retina surface, deep into the iris. He knew the ophthalmology of history, of cinematography. Today, in 2023, while the media-sensationalized race-drama of the two nations’ spacecrafts is being played on the theatre of the Moon, the lens of history’s eye would bring us to its closer proximity (called a close-up) and tell us about the pioneering and visionary contribution made by the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru from 1947 to 1964. Any attempt to negate it would be an utter falsehood, a serious distortion. Ghatak’s close-ups would dissect history’s anatomy to reach Truth. His close-ups were not hollow cosmetics of the actor’s face. The film explains the details of the research scheme instituted by the then GOI (under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) that nurtured the young scientists’ talents.


Ritwik Ghatak said this in his long essay on the documentary film. Besides directing and producing ‘Scientists of Tomorrow’ under the banner of the Films Division, he also scripted it, wrote the words for the commentary and composed its music. The film was shot by Amarjit and edited by Ramesh Joshi. The implicit ophthalmology of the film also seems to be advising the youth to be aware of the evil effects of bigotry and unscientific rhetoric spreading all around, paradoxically by media whose gadgets are the products of science itself. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first non-scientist to preside over the Indian Science Congress on 26 December 1937. In his address he said:

“It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people.” (‘Remembering Nehru as a ‘Friend of Science’, Shah Alam Khan, ‘The Wire,’ 22 June 2018)

Nehru invited the finest and the sharpest minds with uncompromising intellectual integrity, in the realm of ‘science’ in its holistic sense. Young independent India’s scientific foundations were laid by brilliant scientists such as Vikram Sarabhai and several others. In her memoirs titled ‘Akhand Divo’, his sister Leena Mangaldas, writes so beautifully recalling Vikram’s inspiring youth, “From the time of his youth, proper workshops for carpentry work as well as iron and glass (blowing) smitheries with lathe machines were set up for Vikram. Later on, Vikram launched a unique laboratory at the Retreat, which was, in fact, the first step to the birth of today’s Physical Research Laboratory. Its broader forms could be seen in the Atomic Energy Commission’s Electronics, Space Research, and the Atomic Energy’s Infinite Zone.” (The sprawling estate of the Retreat in Ahmedabad had a school based on Montessori principles of pedagogy) Leenaben adds, “Vikram was an institution builder and was the precursor to the establishment of the Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA) and the Institute of Management (IIM-A).” [Akhand Divo: The Eternal Light, translated from Gujarati into English by Amrit Gangar]

The Indian National Committee for Space Research was set up in 1962 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the suggestion of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, who along with many other scientists from different branches of streams need to be remembered with a sense of gratitude by the nation. In his short documentation, ‘Scientists of Tomorrow’, Ritwik Ghatak, brings the young face with a brilliant gaze, into the close proximity to the lens of our eye. For him, for us, ‘tomorrow’ is a ‘perpetuity’ beckoning the young minds, our hope.

Amrit Gangar is a well-known Mumbai based film scholar, writer & historian.

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