If you were eighteen years old, growing up in New Delhi, a student of cinema or a plain film snob, it was a given that you would swoon over the filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, discussing his films, his alcoholism and his eventual death from tuberculosis. An ‘avant garde’ writer and director, Ghatak had caught the imagination of many of us who carried Mao’s Red Book and quoted liberally from it at the drop of a hat. After all, didn’t Ghatak film the extreme poverty and the cultural extinction of Bengal via Imperialism? Because of the political ‘din’ surrounding much of Ghatak’s work, ironically the work itself, as opposed to the man’s personality and politics, got neglected by the legion of his die-hard fans.
It was only years later when I saw his epic, A River Called Titas, that I swooned for totally different reasons. The film is a work of pure genius. A passionate elegy for a dying culture, it moved me profoundly and continues to haunt me to this day. Based on a novel by the Bengali author Advaita Barman and adapted for the screen by Ghatak, A River Called Titas, tells the raw and powerful story of a dying river and a dying culture.
World Cinema Foundation