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Amrit Gangar's The Close-up katha: Ritwik Ravivar-22

Image: Jahar Ray in ‘Ranger Golam'

‘Ranger Golam’ (The Knave of the Trump, 1968) was yet another incomplete feature film left behind by Ritwik Ghatak which even in its fragmented form possesses some masterly strokes and sparks. Incidentally, a synopsis of the film script survives. For this film Ghatak had adapted the Bengali story by Prabodh Kumar Sanyal. Ghatak preferred the tracking shot to zooming about which he wrote in one of his 1969 essays, “When the scope of tracking is limited and it is required to quickly navigate from close space to something distant and vice-versa, zoom is favoured. But zooming is not an alternative to tracking.” (‘The Eye: Movement in Film’, Ritwik Ghatak, first published in ‘Chalachitra’, September-October issue, 1969, pp.6-12, tr. from Bengali by Arindam Sen).The close-up of the face from ‘Ranger Golam’ is worth studying in this context. As a compassionate teacher, Ghatak, analytically explains us the concept of motion and its alteration: (1) Firstly, the pace in the moment of visible object or body, (2) Secondly, the motion of the camera, (3) Thirdly, still motion, (4) Fourthly, pace of the mind.


In the above-mentioned essay, Ghatak very persuasively explains us the behaviour of motion vis-à-vis the function of the camera and its intricacies. “The shutter-blade in my camera revolves clockwise i.e. from left to right. Hence, panning or tracking from right to left can be achieved at a certain speed.

“If we can think the tool’s properties through, it aids in its suitable deployment. For example, he elaborates upon the employment of the zoom lens which, “has some of its own characteristics. Optically it triggers a different kind of experience. Suppose someone is walking towards you, the camera keeps him at a constant distance with a single magnification and gradually withdraws away from the person. This can be achieved by both tracking and zooming. But the lateral movement of the background registers with a peculiar difference. People who have used these techniques will get my point. The movement of the camera towards the person achieved through these varying strategies will also give rise to similar peculiarities. In a static pose of a person, the gestures such as movement of the fingers, turning of a face, sets a kind of motion, but when two people move, come closer, move apart, cross each other, different patterns are created, and each person is at a different distance from the camera at different intervals of time.” (Ibid)

As a film, ‘Ranger Golam’ story is steeped in motion: Sushil, a kind-hearted, trusting young man, on his way to meet his wife at his in laws’ place, makes a long trip – by train, by boat, walking through unfamiliar terrain – accompanied by a young woman, Jhumri, against whom he has been warned by almost everyone he has met. People suspect her to be a robbers’ moll, an infanticide, and what not. Sushil finds her a warm-hearted friend, who is grateful to him for a lift in the boat he has hired, and helps him in all possible ways. When they come to a village where they have to spend the night, Jhumri asks Sushil for the clothes and jewellery that he is carrying for his wife. She would wear them for the rest of the journey, and return them to him when they parted. At the end of the journey, Sushil is reunited with his wife, whom he tells the story of his travels with Jhumri, the mysterious woman. On their way back by boat, they find a crowd gathered on the riverbank, and Sushil brings his wife down from the boat, to allow her a last look at the dead Jhumri who has committed suicide.

In retrospect, how we wish, Ritwik Ghatak had finished this film along with ‘Bagalar Bangadarshan’ (see Ritwik Ravivar 21) and ‘Kato Ajanare’!!

‘Ranger Golam’ (The Knave of the Trump), 35mm, b&w, 3 reels

Direction, Screenplay and Production: Ritwik Ghatak, Story: Prabodh Kumar Sanyal, Cinematography: Mahendra Kumar

Cast: Anil Chatterjee, Sarbani, Jahar Ray, Moni Srimani, Seeta Mukherjee

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

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