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Titas Ekti Nadir Naam & the‘close-up’ kathā: Ritwik Ravivār – 9 by Amrit Gangar.

Image: In Ritwik Ghatak’s film ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Naam’ (1973), Basanti (Rosy Samad), screenshot by Amrit Gangar.


Neeta (Supriya Choudhury), who never protested against any injustice, according to her own confession in Ritwik Ghatak’s film ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ (1960) went on to transform into Basanti (Rosy Samad) in ‘Titas Ekti Nadir Naam’ (1973) who acquired a raudra swaroopa (furious form) against injustice and oppression. A young widow she was a nurturer too, of Rajar Jhi (Kabori Choudhury) and her son Ananta (Shafikul Islam). She loses them, and her parents, in tragic circumstances. Unscrupulous forces of landlords, urban traders and their agents usurp fishermen’s legitimate lands and put their huts aflame. They conspire to build a dam. The River Titash dries up. Hungry and thirsty, in her last struggle to survive, Basanti digs up dunes of sands to find water, and as she drowses into the domains of death, she sees in her blurry vision, a child ambling down a field, joyfully blowing up a toy trumpet. She rages against the dying of the light. In the endless (ananta) cycle of time, spring (basant) has to spring again. Ghatak’s close-ups amplify his बीजमंत्र (seed mantra). Basanti’s जिजीविषा (wish to live) cannot die. Bhagavati! Bhagavati!

In the process of living, the superstructure of caste (jaati) and religion keeps dialectically dissolving to unite against the oppressor. Through the archetype of the river and her life-force, Ghatak creates an epical composition, whose principle of construction, as Kumar Shahani says, is ‘separation in union’. “Separation in union goes beyond the synthesis of opposites, it opens up layers of experience of the mind and body that were hitherto latent, presented only in mythological thought, unyielding to science and open-ended codes. Now, it is up to us to rob and hoard it with the guilt of male knowledge, or to choose, instead, to deliver it in its pristine creativity.”

Shahani saw ‘Titash’ a decade and a half after it was made and in Pesaro, Italy. “It was an unusually cold morning last year in Pesaro, Italy, when that name was evoked: Titash. A river’s name it was. Ritwik Ghatak, who had been driven away from one home to another, had returned to Bangladesh to make ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Naam’. That was over a decade ago, and we had to discover it far away from our shores to be struck by wonder and awe by its grand lines of myth-thought. This wasn’t transparent celluloid. Here is a film sculpted with light, with the cold pigmentation that has come down to us from the chiseling of granite and other rock yielding itself to elemental energy.” (‘The Passion of a Resurrected Spring’, Kumar Shahani, ‘Arguments / Stories’, Eds. Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Amrit Gangar, Bombay: Screen Unit, Bombay, published on the occasion of the Ritwik Ghatak Retrosepctive, 18-24 December 1987) 463 words

THE FILM: Set in the 1930s, the film based on a novel by Adwaita Mallabarman, a Malo himself, focuses on the life and struggles of the East Bengal fishing community known as the Malos.

Premiered on 27 July 1973 at Madhumita, Gulistan and Lion in Dhaka; Hangsa and Gulshan in Narayanganj; Jalsa, Cinema Palace and Lion in Chattagram, Bangladesh and 11 May 1991 at Nandan,Calcutta. (from ‘Rows and Rows of Fences: Ritwik Ghatak on Cinema, 2000: Seagull, Calcutta).

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

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