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Meghe Dhaka Tara & the ‘close-up’ kathā: Ritwik Ravivār – 12 by Amrit Gangar.

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

Great Lensing Philosopher Ritwik Ghatak filled darkness with sonority of an ocean, close-ups entered like the dancing waves, poetic senses of wonder…

Image: a screenshot by Amrit Gangar

He wandered. He wondered. Like the sonorous ocean with waves rising up dancing, flickers of sound – of words, voices and notes on an octave, the saptak, he leapt up his cuts and pans, bringing in close-ups with textured light and movements as poetry does. One of the world’s greatest lensing philosophers and luminous thinkers, Ritwik Ghatak created this scene in a low-light with lilting close-ups that will survive in the moving-images archive of the world.

Shankar has been doing ‘riyaaz’ (practice) of singing a traditional sonorous Khayal bandish in raag Miyaa Malhar composed by the legendary Adarang, who was the nephew and son-in-law of Sadarang. On tanpura, Shankar sings –

करीम नाम तेरो, तू साहिब सतार।

दुख दरिद्र दूर कीजै, सुख देवो सबन को

अदारंग बिनती करत रहे

सुनले हो करतार |

Banish sadness and poverty / Bring happiness to all / Adarang makes this plea

Hear him, O Supreme Being / You called the Merciful One…

The way Ghatak creates breaks and pauses and wonderous emotional leaps, as he does in this scene, you have to see it to feel it, it is one of the most poignant moment in the world cinema.

Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah patronized Adarang, who revolutionized Hindustani classical music through propagation of Khayal with Sadarang. In the context of Sitar the mention of Adarang deserves attention. Feroze Khan Adarang was one of the chief musicians in the royal court and is considered as the first musician who introduced sitar in the 18th century through the Delhi court. Nawab Dargah Quli Khan's description of his mehfils in Muraqqa-e-Dehli is taken as the earliest mention yet found of Sitar in Northern India. Later Sadullah Khan the son of Ali Mohammed Khan used to invite Adarang to Aonla for musical conferences.

‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’, music credits: Composer: Jyotiridra Moitra, Theme music: Bahadur Hussai Khan, Lakshmi Thyagarajan, Mahapurush Mishra; Playback: A.T. Kanan, Debabrata Biswas, Geeta Ghatak, Ramen Roy Choudhury.

Arkut Kannabhiran (1920 – 2004), more popularly known as Pandit A. T. Kanan, was one of the legendary vocalists from Kirana Gharana. He is known for the khayal form of singing to which he lent his individuality. Not many of his recordings survive but he always be remembered for his soulful singing in ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’, it was he who also rendered the song ‘Lagi lagan sakhi pati sang…’ in the raag Hamsadhwani.

Ritwik Ghatak himself had a great sense of the Hindustani musical traditions as well as folk traditions of Bengal, which he employed so masterly to cinematography, raising it to deeply evocative poetry, it doesn’t matter whether you call it melodrama or whatever. दुख दरिद्र दूर कीजै, सुख देवो सबन को… - Text by Amrit Gangar

Premiered: 14 April 1960 at Sree, Prachi, Indira – Calcutta.

Amrit Gangar is a Mumbai based film scholar, critic, curator and historian.

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