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Amrit Gangar’s The Close-up Katha: Ritwik Ravivar 30

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Image: Screenshot by AG from the film ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ (The Cloud-capped Star, 1960), Direction: Ritwik Ghatak, Sound: Mrinal Guha Thakurta and Satyen Chatterjee, Music: Jyotirindra Moitra, Theme Music: Bahadur Hussain Khan; Neeta (Supriya Chowdhury), Sanat (Niranjan Roy)

This foregrounded close-up of the tree and the guilt-laden Sanat has left behind an intense train of close-ups, of uprooted sorrows and sustenance. Ritwikda’s close-ups are deeply integrated with agonies and ecstasies, hopes and a human will to live. And yet, the nurturing daughter and sister Neeta is martyred in the yagya, the sacrificial fire, in presence of the non-indifferent Nature all around. The echoes of her screams form a close-up of sound-image, shaking us up from within. The state of being uprooted from one’s own land and poverty stare at you agape – in visible-invisible close-ups! The tree casts its shadows, and the sky is a witness, epical in its being. Everything turns into a close-up! A sound-image would enter your five senses, the Panchendriya, so palpably. The whiplash on the soundtrack would hit you, too! The 30th and the final close-up in my Ritwik Robibarer series will bring back all its predecessors – entering your entire zehen – brain, mind, mental faculty, sagacity, understanding and memory…. We are back to the sheltering tree with Hamsadhwani! Jai Maate Vilumbh Taj De grooving into Keno Cheye Aachho Go Ma, enveloping the universe…


This is the subject Sanat wanted to pursue his doctorate studies in. All- sacrificing Neeta, her lover, wanted to finance his studies to be a great scientist as she wanted her brother Shankar to be an accomplished vocalist. Sanat’s choice of the subject for his Ph.D. thesis obviously is brilliant and that is Ritwik Ghatak’s own worldview. The lower Gangetic ecoregion compromises most of Bangladesh and West Bengal, Bihar and Tripura, extending into Odisha, UP, to some extent Assam and Myanmar. And here we find the vibrant resonances reverberating in Ghatak’s mind. Though I am completely ignorant and novice in this realm of science, it is Sanat’s choice of subject that drew my attention and its application to the Lower Gangetic Plain, from where we, perhaps, see Anasuya (Supriya Chowdhury) and Bhrigu (Abanish Banerjee) stopped by the buffers on the rail tracks, rendered redundant – in ‘Komal Gandhar’. The other side is East Bengal, now partitioned. From where the boatmen’s songs are breezing in? The Lower Gangetic Plains?

Simply put, an experimental program to investigate the flow and acoustic properties of model under-expanded supersonic jets was conducted. In particular, examination of the role played by large-scale organized fluctuations in the flow evolution and acoustic production. In the context, we can imagine the versatility of Ritwik Ghatak’s mind that made Sanat choose this particular subject for his Ph.D. thesis, which, unfortunately, he could not complete despite Neeta’s wish. His wavering mind that could deeply hurt Neeta, eventually leading her to a deathly darkness.

Providing us an immediate clue, Tayfour El-Bashir’s book ‘Fluid Flow at Small Reynolds Number: Numerical Applications’: “This book is concerned with the numerical solution of the Navier-Stokes equations for some steady, two-dimensional, incompressible viscous fluid flow problems at small and moderate values of the Reynolds number. The first problem relates to a two-dimensional, incompressible flow both with and without a line rotlet at various small values of the Reynolds number. A circular cylinder of radius is rotated with a constant angular velocity ω0 in the presence of a uniform stream of magnitude U. Two techniques are introduced, one in order to avoid the difficulties in satisfying the boundary conditions at large distances from the cylinder, the other to achieve convergence of the solution at zero Reynolds number…”

We get a close-up of Ritwik Ghatak’s ‘pragya’ (intellect), of his vision that we need to explore more. And more. Deep. And deeper. Into subsonic, transonic and supersonic flow. Perhaps, the universe of Ghatak’s ‘close-ups’ is much more expansive than we imagine.

Sitting under a tree, Sanat and Neeta enter into a dialogue much later into their struggling life. Neeta has already caught the deadly disease of tuberculosis and Sanat has given up his studies, married to Geeta, Neeta’s sister, his life is different now:

Neeta: What can we do now?

Sanat: So I should go on acting a part?

Neeta: It’s not acting. Perhaps it’s our penance.

Sanat: Penance? But you never sinned.

Neeta: Didn’t I? I never protested the wrongs done to me. That’s my sin. The truth vs I should not have been so ordinary. Go on home.

Sanat: You have nothing else to say?

Neeta: What else can I say? Now that I think about it, it’s all quite distant now.

Now there’s only work.

Sanat: Neeta, you’ve been made clean. I want to be clean too. I’ll quit my job and go back to a life of struggle. Whatever obstacles arise, I’ll face them. I may be rotten, but I have my limits too. I can’t go on banging my head against a wall.

Neeta starts walking, the black umbrella disappears and we are left with the whiplash sounds again, and with brooding Sanat and the tree….

Neeta lives with us with her cry. In an eternal close-up… The Reynolds’ number ‘zero’ is infinite… The Shunya…

Amrit Gangar is a Mumbai based films scholar, histrian and writer

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