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Rituparno Ghosh - Too young to die

Rituparno Ghosh, who passed away at the age of 49, always wanted Tollywood to be identified with world cinema

Sujoy Dhar
Thu, May 30 2013

About Sujoy

Sujoy Dhar is a Reuters Correspondent in Kolkata and the Editor of India Blooms News Service and Trans World Features

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Versatility is not an easy virtue and Rituparno Ghosh, who died at the age of 49 in Kolkata on Thursday (May 23, 2013), was not only a prolific filmmaker, he was a virtuoso. He was an actor par excellence, a writer whose weekly articles in a Bengali daily are now priceless collections of many Bengalis.

Known for his effeminate bearing, a trait that had been the butt of ridicule and ragging by an otherwise insensitive society, Ghosh had almost changed the discourse on homosexuality and brought parallel sexuality in the mainstream of Bengali life with his powerhouse talent as a filmmaker and cultural icon.

No one understood better the mind of a woman than Rituparno Ghosh. And very few new filmmakers in recent times had hogged the limelight like this former adman.

While he understood women and offered great roles to actresses ranging from Sharmila Tagore, Rakhee, Aishwarya Rai, Monisha Koirala, Nandita Das and Priety Zinta to Tollywood heroines and actresses like Mamata Shankar, Indrani Haldar, Debasree Roy, Rituparna Sengupta and Ananya Chatterjee, he also reinvented commercial actors like Prosenjit Chatterjee with films like Dosar (Emotional Companion).

Rituparno stormed the Bengali cine world in 1994 with his film Unishe April (19th April) and went on to make many more award winning films like Dahan (which touched upon marital rape), Ashukh, Bariwali and Utsav, setting new trends in Tollywood and capturing the sensitivities of women, inter personal relationship and human psyche with rare understanding.

Discerning Bengali audience, who had shunned going to theatres after the death of matinee idol Uttam Kumar and since the end of Satyajit Ray-Mrinal Sen era, had come back to movie halls. His films were huge commercial successes too.

Son of documentary filmmaker Sunil Ghosh, Rituparno had always wanted to make his mark in cinema, inspired by Satyajit Ray movies. He was also influenced by a long line of filmmakers, including, Kurosawa, Antonioni, Bergman, Kieslowski and Fellini. Among the Indian lot, he had a great deal of admiration for Mrinal Sen, Buddhadev Dasgupta and Adoor Gopalakrishnan. And then, of course, there is his very own "Rinadi" or Aparna Sen who helped him get a financier for his first full length film Unishe April.

Since the middle of 1990s, Ghosh is hailed as the whiz kid of the Bengali film industry. His adaptation of Tagore’s Chokher Bali (Sand in the Eye when literally translated) was widely applauded. "Chokher Bali" was awarded the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. But of all the films he made and acted, Chitrangada was special and more autobiographical, though he was highly acclaimed in Kaushik Ganguly's film Arekti Premer Galpo (Just Another Love Story).

"I think Chitrangada will be acknowledged as one of the important movies one day. May be, it will not occur today itself, but that phase of change (in outlook) has started already," Ghosh had said in a recent media interaction, commenting on the film that was yet another step forward in the sensitive portrayal of homosexuality as captured in a gay man's tribulations to come to terms with his identity and social reality.

Ghosh always was against being pigeonholed as a Bengali filmmaker and rather wanted the Tollywood industry to be identified as one with world cinema.

He will probably be remembered as the harbinger of a new wave in Bengali cinema.

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