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Jukti Takko aar Gappo & the ‘close-up’ kathā: Ritwik Ravivār – 11 by Amrit Gangar.


Image: a screenshot by Amrit Gangar

The wandering trio, Neelkantha Bagchi (Ritwik Ghatak), Nachiketa (Sugata Burman) and Bangabala (Shaonli Mitra) enter a forest and encounter a young gun-wielding militant revolutionary. The dialogue between Neelkantha and a young man ensued towards the end of the film remains remarkable.

Neelkantha: ‘For a bottle, I will lie or steal, but for name or fame or position – I will never lie.’

Young militant (with gun in hand): ‘You have practiced this pose long enough to have become an adept!’

Neelkantha (Laughing): ‘You have caught me out.’ ‘But’ continues Neelkantha with a confession, ‘I spoke the truth, when I said that I am confused. Maybe we are all confused. We are all groping….” Bagchi had already delivered a long lecture on Marxism-Leninism, on Stalin and Mao, to the young militant, who has found it boring and meaningless.

Neelkantha dies with a quote from the Manik Bandopadhyay story ‘Shilpi’ about a weaver who wove an empty loom because ‘one must do something’. Filmed while Ghatak was ill, the great lensing philosopher has left behind an enchanting ‘chhand’ of close-ups…

But, as his disciple and the eminent filmosopher Kumar Shahani says, like other poets, he had not the ability to organize. He chose instead to sing – or was that his form of action? ‘At the time I met him, in the early 60s, he had already rejected the mechanistic and somewhat alienated modes of some of his colleagues. He was extremely disenchanted with those of his colleges, who wanted to maintain false unity, and were not, implicitly, painted enough by the splintering of every form of social and cultural values and movement.

About Ritwik Ghatak’s performance in ‘Jukti’, Shahani, very poignantly compares it with that of Vishnupant Pagnis’s in the film ‘Sant Tukaram’ (1936) – for his simplicity and directness. “He does not hide behind a medieval or dead past, or a decorative Indianness. Nor is he content with the nineteenth-century critical tradition of the novel, moving from the romantic to the iconoclastic frenzies of a basically anarchist political genre. Very few of his contemporaries have avoided these pitfalls, whether they work in the cinema or other arts, or in the theoretical or cultural sphere. The conservatives have glorified the past in decorative and theological terms, and the moderns have rejected tradition and history to deprive even the contemporary of its meaning.

“I remember him on the days when he stalked down the Film Institute corridor and we addressed him as the tiger from Blake’s poem. In ‘Jukti Takko aar Gappo’ he seemed to remember it too – only with a change of meaning, I am burning, everyone is burning…. The universe is burning…” (Kumar Shahani)

Note: Neelkantha or the Blue Necked carries a legend: Parvati on leaning that Siva had consumed Halahala, held his throat so as to stop the poison from running down to his bowels. The impact of the poison was such that it turned Siva’s neck blue and hence the name Neelkantha.

Premiered: 30 September 1977 at Minar, Bijoli, Chhabighar – Calcutta.

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

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