I never really liked him. Especially when he tried acting ( Memories of March), I remember being quite certain of my dislike for him. Even then, when I heard of his death yesterday, I felt a sense of loss. Similar to, but not quite the same as when I had heard of Reginald Hill’s demise end of last year. The difference is, I think Reginald Hill left behind his perfected literary contributions, with a definite potential for more, but no absence of a nicely tied bow for his readers.
Rituparno, for all his national awards, was still waiting to actually tell a flawless story that can grip you till the end and leave an impression that is everlasting. I have seen most of his movies, and other than the fact that he could make EVEN Aishwarya Rai- Bachchan integrate into some scenes that would normally have had her posing as the bereft and lonely woman in Rain Coat ( with the haughty or unfocussed eyes and body language of a beauty queen, who never for a moment forgets her beauty and her queenness) I never saw much to hold on to. I agree that most of his movies were probably better than anything Tollywood has produced in a long time, but still he is nowhere near Satyajit Ray, no matter how much he is inspired by him. Or, unfortunately today, was inspired.
Is he better than Satyajit Ray’s son, his contemporary , whose name I cannot recall? Yes. In fact better than most of the other bengali directors of the time after Ritwik Ghatak, Ray and Mrinal Sen. But thats like saying Chetan Bhagat is a great writer, just because he is a North Indian who has written books. Okay, bad analogy. Chetan Bhagat is purely a writer for people trying to say they read, and have no interest in content. (Khushwant Singh’s joke books or Sudhir Dhar’s or R.K. Laxman’s Cartoon collections are probably way better in content, according to me)
So Rituparno is not Chetan Bhagat, he had vision, he was ORIGINAL. In his style, his movies and in the stories he wanted to tell. Maybe he got Ash to fit in some of them because they were similar in one way, it is hard for both of them to actually separate themselves from their art and be one with their creation and still allow it to have its own life and more importantly its own soul. If you watch a Rituparno movie, you may not be moved very much because it doesn’t really try to draw you in at all, under the high handed pretext that you are not worth it, and it is beyond your capacity to understand such greatness. You will also immediately know who made that movie. It has his imprint all over it and by that I don’t mean a hallmark or the handling or some signature shots. I mean the movie is about him, in one way or the other. The lead actor (usually female, be it Sharmila Tagore in Shubho Mahurat, Bipasha and to a certain degree Prosenjit Chatterjee in Shob Charitro Kalponik) is him trying to portray his unequalled talents as an artiste, through his actors. Antarmahal, with Abhishek Bachchan, seemed to lack a story and a story teller. I think in Bariwali he was closest to separating himself from the story and that may be my favorite movie by him, I also liked Shubho Mahurat.
I guess I didn’t like him because I didn’t think he was great enough to justify so many movies showcasing his purportedly ‘extraordinary’ facets. Thats justified for writers or philosophers who thought deeply about what makes us all human, not just about their own greatness; like Dostoevsky ( which is why I would read the story ABOUT him, by someone else: The Master of Petersburg ), or their biographies.
I wouldn’t use cinema to be my endless (auto) biography. One movie, or two, well-made, is all that is needed and that too very few people actually make their own biographies successfully (I can’t think of many, except maybe parts of Kaagaz Ke Phool, by Guru Dutt, whose cinema has a life of its own and some characters in movies by Raj Kapoor and maybe some Hollywood movies that I have not seen).
However, I think because of his self consciousness or maybe the result from being in a society that has traditionally had very low acceptance of sexuality, let alone homosexuality or transsexuality, he was overtly manifesting himself through his movies. I strongly believe that had he lived, he would have moved beyond that soon. He was 49. That is young for someone who takes themselves seriously, their ‘being’ even more so and their art presumptuously.
I am sad he is gone before he fulfilled his expression of true self and moved on.
In ‘Never let me go’, Ishiguro used the term ‘completed’ when the organ donors or essentially the clones were used up for their body parts, for the benefit of the ‘real’ people. I feel that in this life Rituparno Ghosh had not yet lived fully and just used his talent in a fragmented manner. Being from a family with a movie maker father and an obvious knack for film making, he was still using those to find himself and be himself by projecting his feelings through the screen. I would have wished to see him find that peace. I think that would have made him better, though it seems to be unanimous that creativity thrives on unfulfilled desires and sorrow..
His creativity seemed to be stalled because of it.
I may never have liked you, but I appreciated you Rituparno. May you find peace somewhere.