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Amrit Gangar's The Close-up katha: Ritwik Ravivar 21

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Image: Sudharani Sharma in ‘Rendezvous’, screenshot by AG.

The twenty-first edition of my Ritwik Robibarer Close-up Katha celebrates nearly the 60th birth anniversary of a diploma film he made with the first batch of the Film Institute of India (which became the Film & Television Institute of India) student Rajendra Nath Shukla from Lucknow. A philosophical diploma about love, life and longing, Shukla wrote and shot his 1964 diploma film ‘Rendezvous’ under the compassionate guidance and the watchful eye of Ritwik Ghatak whose close-up we cannot miss. And the lens. The repertoire of twenty-one close-ups from his films so far would perhaps produce a coherent ‘vision’ of this extraordinary lensing philosopher. Ghatak’s impressive ‘close-up’ as a teacher has left behind an indelible mark in a collective memory. In cinema the poetic punctuation of a close-up is an intuitive illumination. You cannot script it, it has to stream into your consciousness, your अंतश्चेतना. If it emerges out of the actor’s desire, its narcissism will be exposed in a second. Ghatak cut the closed-up face to an immensity of the sky assimilating the ‘face’ into it. Mist over the hills in ‘Rendezvous’ wombs the mood of ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ (1960), to my mind.


When we see the face of things, we do what the ancients did in creating gods in man's image and breathing a human soul into them. The close-ups of the film are the creative instruments of this mighty visual anthropomorphism, wrote (…) What was more important, however, than the discovery of the physiognomy of things, was the discovery of the human face. (‘Theory of Film: Character and Growth of New Art’, Bela Balázs). Ritwik Ghatak imbued this face with a galactic immensity, his cloud-capped star had to sparkle one day with the cloud moving in space (आकाश).A child had to ask his elder to move on, चरैवेति: चरैवेति: Close-ups in Ritwik Ghatak’s films possessed a certain ‘river-ness’, the नदीflew through their veins, their gaze, their skin, their breath. They are temporal and melodic in Time.

Facial expression, physiognomy, has a relation to space similar to the relation of melody to time. Balázs (1884-1949) pulls Henri Bergson (1859-1941) into his discourse of Face of Man and the Close-up, his peculiar understanding of Time and Duree. A melody. said Bergson, is composed of single notes which follow each other in sequence, i.e. in time. Nevertheless a melody has no dimension in time, because the first note is made an element of the melody only because it refers to the next note and because it stands in a definite relation to all other notes down to the last. Hence the last note, which may not be played for some time, is yet already present in the first note as a melody creating element. And the last note completes the melody only because we hear the first note along with it. The notes sound one after the other in a time-sequence, hence they have a real duration, but the coherent line of melody has no dimension in time; the relation of the notes to each other is not a phenomenon occurring in time. (Ibid)

RENDEZVOUS, a short film, 35mm, b&w, 13 mins (1 reel), 1965

Direction & Screenplay: Rajendra Nath Shukla, under Ritwik Ghatak’s guidance and supervision

Cinematography: Amarjeet Singh

Editing: R.V. Rajput, H.L. Chauhan

Sound: P.K. Panwar, S.C. Bansal

Music: Ram Kadam

Voice-over: Mrs. and Mr. Arjun Wadkar, Samir Roy

Cast: Sudharani Sharma (a girl), S. Dinkar (a boy), Govardhan Lal (a passer-by)

The one-feature film phenomenon R.N. Shukla was ready with his another feature film titled “Dharam Nirpeksh Bharat’ (Secular India) and had even recorded two song but ‘when the film will see the light of day remains as elusive as the beginning of life itself,’ he smilingly told Mehru Jaffer (‘The Colourful Filmmaker from Lucknow’, The Citizen, 22 February 2015)

Amrit Gangar is a Mumbai based film scholar, histrian & curator.

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