A director's ode to Ritwik Ghatak

Filmmaker Anup Singh's Punjabi film, Qissa, made waves at the Toronto Film Festival, last year. Kanika Sharma speaks to the director on his debut project, the Bengali film — Ekti Nadir Naam — which will be screened today

The Irrfan Khan-starrer Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost, announced filmmaker Anup Singh’s arrival as the next big thing at film festivals worldwide, last year. But it was with Ekti Nadir Naam (The Name of a River) that the filmmaker received recognition for his craft. The Bengali film explores the cinema and persona of Ritwik Ghatak, who is often credited to be Bengali cinema’s original visionary director.

Director Anup Singh

Singh, who marked his debut with this film in 2002, shares, “Ritwik Ghatak’s cinema is pivoted on a single, but frightening question: ‘Who is not a refugee?’ ”

Ghatak, a contemporary of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen (other pioneers of Bengali or parallel cinema) drew accolades for how he depicted social reality in his films. The migration theme, which is a recurrent motif throughout Ghatak’s works, is often attributed to his own forced emigration in 1947 as a 22-year-old, from Bangladesh to Calcutta.

“All of Ritwikda’s films are bitter reflections on the Partition of India and his refugee characters are often faced with the question: Do I live with bitter nostalgia for my loss or do I forgive and celebrate the simple wonder of my existence on this earth?” reflects the Geneva-based filmmaker.

Banking on this dilemma, the writer-director made his protagonists explore the idea of home, which he notes is “impossible”. The film has been acclaimed for its style too, as Singh shares, “The two protagonists often find themselves transforming into other characters; into literary personas, film heroes or heroines, tribal performers, mythic gods and goddesses. These transformations evoke the basic themes of identity, homelessness and journey.”

Interestingly, Singh’s work repertoire shows him to be multilingual: Ekti Nadir Naam was in Bengali, Qissa in Punjabi and one of his future projects, Lasya, will be in Marathi. “Lasya — The Gentle Dance won the Prins Claus Award for Best Project at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. It is set in the rain-flooded streets of Mumbai and profiles three beggar women from different generations. The second project, Mantra, The Song of Scorpions, is about a woman singer and healer in a traditional community in Rajasthan; this film will be in Marwari. The third is an adaptation of the subversive novel, Over the Rainbow by the British writer Paul Puckering, which will be a film set in
contemporary Afghanistan.”

Stills from the film Ekti Nadir Naam 

On Today, 6.30 pm onwards
At Alliance Française de Bombay,
Theosophy Hall, New Marine Lines, Churchgate.
Call 2203 5993

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