Ghatak’s directorial debut was part of a co- operative effort. The film is an ensemble piece featuring a family from North Calcutta (the original residents of the city) faced by the War and Partition. Ramu (S. Bhattacharya) the eldest son, hopes to get a job to support the family but spends his time gazing wistfully at a flowering tree and dreaming of settling with his girlfriend Uma (K. Devi) in a house resembling one he saw in a calendar painting. His aged father (K. Bannerjee) is an idealist who clings to fantasies of the past while his mother (Prabhadevi) passionately regrets the loss of their old mansion; his sister Seeta (Sen) internalises the family’s suffering and tries to escape the situation via the lodger, Sagar (A. Bannerjee), they have taken in and who becomes the figure through whom the family articulates its future. Eventually they move into a proletarian slum and abandon their individual aspirations as they become progressively politicised. The film came in the wake of the IPTA-derived political cinema in Bengal (e.g. Chinnamul, 1950) and remains Ghatak’s most direct call to political action, including his only explicit propaganda scene: the insertion of the Internationale on the sound-track as the family leaves the house while another group ‘just like them’ comes in presumably to live through similar experiences. Acknowledging for the first time in Indian cinema the melodramatic origins of an apparently realist plot, Ghatak uses wide-angle lenses to make the histories and the social relations crystallised in the urban environment resonate with the fate of the characters, starting with the presentation of the city itself, Calcutta, through a series of pan- dissolves at the film’s opening. The development of the relationship between the central characters of the melodramatic plot and the city is gradually inflected by the encounter with peripheral characters: Jatin Babu (K. Mukherjee) who lives under the staircase and whose wife dies; Shefali (G. Shome), Uma’s sister, who becomes a prostitute; Sagar, who changes from a rent-payer to an escape route for Seeta. These inflections begin to clarify the relations between broader social processes and the lives of individual characters, opening up the melodrama towards a directly political consciousness of the need for radical change. The film was never released and believed lost, but a restored print, unfortunately showing the extensive decay of the recovered positive, was eventually released in 1977.
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Ritwik Ghatak's directorial debut. Read More