Image: Indrani Mukhopadhyay in Ritwik Ghatak’s partially restored film ‘Bagalar Banga Darshan’ (1964), a still, courtesy: Ritwik Memorial Trust, NFAI.
‘Bagalar Banga Darshan’ (Bagala’s Discovery of Bengal, 1964) is one of the incomplete feature films that Ritwik Ghatak left behind for us, along with other two, viz. ‘Kato Ajanare’ (1959) and ‘Ranger Ghulam’ (1968). With the help of the Ritwik Memorial Trust and the Ghatak family, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) has acquired these incomplete films that show us the power of the close-up India’s lensing philosopher had captured. For Ritwik Ghatak, a close-up was not for sake of it or to satisfy the actor’s ego. It emerged out of his poetic intuition, like a word in a stanza. While the film 'Bagalar Banga Darshan' retains his regular cinematographer Dilip Ranjan Mukherjee and the editor Ramesh Joshi, what interests me are the two names,, the music composer Hriday Ranjan Kushari and the playback singer Pratima Barua. The latter, if my guess is right, is Pramathesh Chandra Barua’s niece (after marriage she became Barua Pandey). The close-up here is of the actor Indrani Mukhopadhyay’s. Originally shot on 35mm in B&W, its four reels survive. The film’s elaborate screenplay in Bengali is also extant and is published too.
HAD IT BEEN COMPLETED, 'BAGALAR BANGA DARSHAN' WOULD HAVE BEEN GHATAK’s ONLY UNABASHED COMEDY
Ritwik Ghatak’s son Ritoban has reconstructed a short version of the film from the eight sequences that existed out of the fifty envisaged in the elaborate extant screenplay by Ghatak. If completed, it would have been Ghatak’s only unabashed comedy. Significantly, the first sequence (as envisaged) would have ‘quoted’, in an indigenised remake, the Lumiere bit of the little boy stepping on the water hose and releasing it to splash the man with the hose, with a full blast of water. In a comedy of errors, Bagala, a medical representative in Calcuta, living with his schoolteacher wife and two children, out on a tour, befriends a young girl on the train, and accompanies her to her village, where he is mistaken for the girl’s boyfriend, with whom she is suspected to have eloped. Now the family and the community are prepared to accept them and marry them off, with all the conventional rites and the ubiquitous wedding feast for the entire village! An awkward Bagala gets caught out at the end, but Kanchan’s actual boyfriend, who had run away and abandoned her, having been beaten up by her, surfaces at the night time, and saves the situation. (‘Rows and Rows of Fences: Ritwik Ghatak on Cinema’, Seagull Books, Calcutta 2000, pp 164-165)
“Filmmaking is a highly mechanical process, where sudden bursts of imagination or inspiration are virtually non-existent. It is veritably a matter of emotion recollected in tranquillity, that, everything is planed out long before the actual process of filming.
The secret of good filmmaking is editing. This calls for an uncanny sense of timing. Satyajit Ray is the only director in India who has it.” (Kalpana Biswas in conversation with Ritwik Ghatak, originally published in the journal ‘Lekha’, September 1976; sourced from ‘Rows and Rows of Fences’)
Amrit Gangar is a Mumbai based film scholar, writer and historian,