Updated: Sep 3
Image: Last close-up from Ritwik Ghaak’s film ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Naam’ (1973), screenshot by AG. [Titash is also often spelt as Titas – AG
In his deeply evocative essay ‘The Passion of a Resurrected Spring: Kumar Shahani, the filmmaker, thinker, visionary and the disciple of Ritwik Ghatak writes, Titash Ekti Nadir Naam is not about the drying up of a river but of bringing it forth again. It is itself a ritual which takes on the form of ritual-myth that preceded theism and its attendant institution of prayer. Ghatak’s close-up of child at the end of Titash which he had shot in Bangladesh, imbues us with optimism amidst loss of hope. He and his cinematography belonged to the world, writes Shahani, “that we owe it to ourselves to show to everyone; to preserve it and to develop it." As devastated Basanti walks to the sandy banks of the river to gather just a drop of water for Ramprasad’s last rites, she collapses. As she lies dying, her blurred eyes see a vision of a small boy blowing a whistle, running through a green paddy field. His ‘close-up’ forms the part of history of humanity’s ‘hope’, this is a close-up of a greater undying energy. The little one’s trumpet will resonate the galaxies in closer proximity than Ritwik da’s ‘lens’ will make us feel.
IN ‘TITASH’, SEPARATION IN UNION IS MADE THE PRINCIPLE OF CONSTRUCTION ITSELF.
‘In a sense, of course’ as Shahani writes in his essay, ‘The Passion of a Resurrected Spring,’ this principle has permeated oriental thinking and almost all of the greatest art in the world. But here it is not just a matter of craft – the point of release is the maximum point of tension It is internalised as a principle of existence. It is as if the feminine principle, dismembered, used and abused joined in devices of seduction, juxtaposed in metaphysical search, has finally revealed itself to give birth to a new form and meaning in spasms of untrammelled passion. This process promises to be the farthest development of montage, in narrative sequencing taking us to its origins in the dialectics of nature as experienced by us. Separation in union goes beyond the synthesis of opposites. It opens up layers of experience of the mind and body that was hitherto latent, presented only in mythological thought, unyielding to science and open-ended codes. Now, it is up to us to rob and hoard it with the guilt of male knowledge or to choose, instead, to deliver it in its pristine creativity.’ [reproduced from ‘Arguments / Stories’, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Amrit Gangar]
Life denies death. Therefore all art has to confirm life. Birth is life.
Art is birth.
[‘Art Film and the Future,’ Ritwik Ghatak, Tr. Mitra Parikh, ibid]
Q: The refugee problem has been a recurring theme in most of your films. Do you think this problem has a different relevance to the film you have made in Bangladesh called Titash Ekti Nadir Naam?
Ritwik Ghatak: It doesn’t affect me directly; it does in a broader sense, in an indirect way, in a subliminal way. Filmmaking is a question you know, of your subconsciousness , your feeling of reality. I have tackled the ‘refugee’ problem as you have used the term, not as a refugee problem. To me it was the division of a culture and I was shocked. During the partition period, I hated these pretentious people who clamoured about our independence, our freedom. You kids are finished, you have not seen the Bengal of mine…. [‘I am only recording the great changes,’ Ritwik Ghatak in conversation with Kalpana Biswas, reproduced from ‘Ritwik Ghatak: Face to Face, conversations with the Master 1962-1977’, compiled and edited by Sibaditya Dasgupta and Sandipan Bhattacharya, Tr. Chilka Ghosh]
Set in the 1930s, Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (A River Named Titas, 1973), based on a novel by Adwaita Mallabarman, a Malo himself, focuses on the life and struggles of the East Bengal (Bangladesh) fishing community known as the Malos.
The film was premiered on 27 July 1973 at Madhumita, Gulistan and Lion in Dhaka; Hangsa and Gulshan in Narayanganj; Jalsa, Cinema Palace and Lion in Chattagram in Bangladesh and 11 May 1991 at Nandan, Calcutta. [‘Rows and Rows of Fences: Ritwik Ghatak on Cinema’]
Amrit Gangar is a Mumbai based writer, scholar & historian.