Kamaleshwar Mukherjee's "Meghe Dhaka Tara 2013" is a touching tribute to the Bengali film maker, Ritwick Ghatak, who is remembered for his 'non-linear narrative' in Indian cinema.
The narrative starts with a scene in the year 1969 and revolves around the period that the legendary film maker had spent in a mental asylum in Alipore, Calcutta. The well known film maker, Nilkantha Bagchi, is taken to the mental asylum by his wife Durga and the doctor, S P Mukherjee, takes charge of him.. Bagchi's alcoholism and momentary aberrations drove him to a state of intellectual instability. He is critically attacked as a wasted drunkard and an intellectual fool by the so called poseurs of the time. His enormous creativity, that started in the fifties, got him inclined to poetry, prose, journalism, film scripting and finally to parallel cinema. A true communist, he never conformed with the norms of the contemporary times. Uncompromising and bitter, he always did what he felt right, what his heart told him to do. For him cinema was a medium to express his sociopolitical ideology. His insatiable urge to feel the pathos and pains of the common man is evident in a series of heart warming films that he narrated so empathetically. He believed in portraying the stark reality of the contemporary life and criticized the cliched 'dancing in the rain' genre . He also had put aside series of alluring offers from the Bombay Film Industry (Filmisthan studio). When his friends deviated to main stream cinema, compromising on their collective ideology of Communism, Nilkantha Bagchi stood firm in what he believed in. The partition of Bengal, the naxalite movement, the hunger cry of the distressed people never really left him. Throughout the film, Nilkantha's 'mental agony, struggles, inner contradictions, disappointments as well as financial troubles' are depicted with interludes of flash backs and the present times.
The voracious creative genius went on to dream to stage a play with the inmates of the mental asylum. The contradictions and the pathos are horrifically portrayed by the way he was taken to undergo the terrible shock therapy in between.
Nilkantha Bagchi dies before the actual performance of his dream play. His wife Durga had been his conscience all through his life. She managed a job as a teacher and got separated from him hoping that the children would get a better future but was never out of touch.The film ends with the death of Nilkantha Bagchi. The director does it beautifully - with the same signature continuity with which Ritwick Ghatak's films usually ended. The poignant rendition of how the dead man walking tall, along with a novice woman coming from East Bengal with a 'potla' clinged arms and anxious eyes, is a climax just perfect for a new beggining.
Cast and crew
Direction, story, screenplay: Kamaleswar Mukherjee
Music direction, background music: Debojyoti Mishra
Cinematography: Soumik Halder
Editing: Rabiranjan Maitra
Dance choreography: Tanusree Shankar
Saswata Chatterjee as Nilkantha Bagchi
Ananya Chatterjee as Durga
Abir Chatterjee as Doctor S. P. Mukherjee
Joydeep Mukherjee as Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Abhijit Guha as Salil Choudhury
Padmanabha Dasgupta as Kali Banerjee
Anindya Bose as Mrinal Sen
Bidipta Chakrabarty as Shobha Sen
Biswajit Chakraborty as Charuprakash Ghosh
The film is touching and is beautifully done. It has poetry, drama, reality and sweet pathos that are typical of Ritwick Ghatak's films. The rendition of the transitions and the references of Ritwick Ghatak's works is finely tuned all through the movie. The audience may find it hard to get into the quintessential fervor of the movie if they are not acquainted with Ghatak's genre. It's a good idea to watch the films of Ghatak and then watch 'Meghe Dhaka Tara 2013' again to get the best of it.
The whole film is shot in black and white except for the last scene where the protagonist walks out and diminishes to the colorful horizon. The sequential music and the dance interludes are aptly used. The song with the ganasangeet ethos "mode kono nasha nai....' is too poignant and touches your heart straightaway. Saswata Chatterjee as Nilkantha Bagchi has once again left a mark. He is one of the finest actors in Bengali cinema now - this film goes to prove that once again. Ananya Chatterjee, Abir Chatterjee and Subhasish Mukherjee did justice to their roles. Kamaleswar, who had been intrigued by Ghatak's views on life and society did a fantastic job with the treatment of the film as well.
When asked about the title, Kamaleswar Mukherjee in an interview:
'The reason my film is called "MDT" is because Nilkantha, despite being a star, is covered in clouds. The title will also create a connection between Ghatak and my film's hero, Neelkantha'.
"Meghe Dhaka Tara 2013" has been criticized by Ghatak's family for not being able to depict the humorous side of Ritwick Ghatak. The happy side is being obscured by the desperation and the dejection and much talked about alcoholism.
I would like to watch the movie again just to understand the subtleties and the references more. Also, the death of Nilkantah Bagchi is shrouded in mystery. I kept wondering if that was how Ritwick Ghatak actually died or it was just the director's take. The film makes me want to watch the neo-realist film maker's works again. I would like to remember Ritwick Ghatak as the obscured star of the Bengali Movie fraternity and the film 'Meghe Dhaka Tara' is a befitting tribute to him. Kudos.
Images: Meghe Dhaka Tara 2013, IPTI
Cast and crew: Wikipedia