On the 31st of May 2020, the anniversary of Rituparna Ghosh’s cross over day from a body with a soul to just a soul in the eternity of time, I read through his writings published in two volumes of First Person. The second volume, though thicker is not too relevant as these are notes on his travels for shooting or for film festivals and also contains some scripts those which were never made into films. The latter volume though could have been nice travelogues, but they were not because these travels were not; he was too full of himself and worried about work to notice the world he was travelling to. But the first volume though written badly, and Ritu never claims himself to be a writer, contains some interesting clues about the persona from where sprung some of the most amazing cinema in my opinion, why in Bengali but perhaps anywhere else in the world.
Rituparna is a fragile child, emotional and sentimental whose life’s purpose is to protect himself from hurt. He seeks spaces and creates those crevices into which, if ensconced well he thinks that he will be protected. He is scared of the outside world because of its violence, he shudders when he encounters the murder of Nirbhaya, hates it when the world oozes cruelty on Pinky Pramanik, he cringes at communalism but the final violence that gets him are the violence of Singur and Nandigram. The CPIM, he observes is another religion, a party behind the veil of ideology is a religious fundamentalist. How does he emerge into this world then?
Boys are supposed to be boys; Ritu must have hated his biological birth for an aversion to the violence of the external world to which boys were subject. He shrunk into a space of his own closer to girls, for he remembers many of them and suffered a sense of loss when the girls grew up because then he had to fall into the gendered role of his being a boy and different. One of the reasons why psychologically Ritu remained a child was because that helped him stay away from gendered existence. I was getting a feeling that his involvement into books and stories both of which required quiet and secured places lay at the root of his aversion to more intense physical activities. He may have been a sporty guy were it not for the fact that he loved being with books more than with a cricket bat. He shied away from being a boy because that would involve running, rushing, punching, kicking, none of which gave him as much of a high as stories did.
I don’t get the feeling that he read detective novels, nor ghost stories, for he admits he suffers a deathly fear of ghosts. He doesn’t seem to be too fond of travelogues either. But he loves novels, short stories and most of all, he loves poetry. And he reads almost every Bengali author those which have walked the earth. I am not sure whether he is attracted to music; he may be but he gets excited more with Lata Mangeshkar than anyone else, not for her Hindi songs but for her Bengali non cinema songs, which would blare from the microphones of the local clubs in preparation to their run up to the Durga Puja. Ritu’s favourite season seems to be autumn, he loves everything about it and Lata Mangeshkar somehow sits irretrievably meshed up into the blue vaulted skies with its white pile of cottony clouds. I am not sure whether he is much into the arts as well, he loves Jamini Roy though for his paintings of the faces of Goddesses, the prime Goddess being Durga, Ritu’s favourite and once again of the autumn. I may be wrong but I get a strange feeling that Ritu doesn’t quite like the spring time as he loves the other equinox; somehow he gives March, death. Memories in March is about loss, and spring in Bariwali is ominous.
Ritu loves movies, and like almost every Bengali of his times adores Ray and wants to be a filmmaker. But he is has no eye for the photograph because he can’t click photos and hence does not carry a camera when he travels. He is not a traveller at all and now he admits that he has no eye for the photograph as well. Then what is it about his movies? I was trying to think what is it about Ritu’s films that I recall as soon as I think of those. I remember dialogues of Bollywood, frames in Satyajit, faces in Uttam Kumar and Bengali movies but in Ritu’s films, I remember the flow; just the flow of one frame into the other, smoothened cuts and edits without sharp edges. His films are not jumpy, never surprise you, do not scare you, don’t try to titillate you, but just as a river would flow, the film just flows on. That flow is what one remembers. Satyajit Ray’s introduction to filmmaking, it seems started when he assisted the French director, Renoir as the master made his film, River. Renoir made the flow of the river as his essential theme and Ray understood that cinema is not the story it tells through its characters, nor the ideologies it professes; these are the pegs on which hangs the real tale, the real tale being the movement of the cinema. Deleuze was to write of this some years later and he did so after reading Henri Bergson, a French continental philosopher who placed said that art appealed to humans not through the ideas it presented by through the physical stimulations it invoked in the body. That’s was Ray believed, his inspiration from Renoir was to seek the real story of his films in the movements; so was Ritu’s in the flow.
Ray is expressionist; Ritu is impressionistic. Ray agitates the frame and produces images out there, unambiguous, unhesitant. Ritu really has no image, it’s always a flow of images, of movements, movements those which absorb images, loosen their borders, mix them up and surge them into the narrative stream. I think that the mastery of the flow is where Ritu becomes the master director of his craft.