30 May 2013: Rituparno Ghosh, Indian director, died

“Rituparno's comparison is only Rituparno. Bengal has lost a golden man of golden era.”

~ Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, quoted on NDTV, 30 May 2013

Rituparno Ghosh, Indian director, writer, actor and producer, is considered among the gems of cinema personalities from Bengal. His rather untimely death on 30 May 2013 came as a shock to the film fraternity not only in Bengal, but to the entire country. He has left behind a formidable career of 21 years, with multiple national and international awards. Rituparno Ghosh is remembered among his fans and contemporaries as a lyrical and sensitive filmmaker, who brought back the golden age of cinema of Bengal, after Satyajit Ray. Many of his films portrayed the various emotional struggles of women in the middle class society.

Ghosh was born on 31 August 1963 in Kolkata, to a documentary film maker father and a painter mother. His sensibilities were well evident from a young age owing to being deeply influenced by Bengal’s creative stalwarts, Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray. After schooling from South Point School (Kolkata), and a college degree in Economics from the city’s Jadavpur University, he started his career as a copywriter in an advertising agency. He became famous for his witty lines like Sharad Sammam, and ad campaigns for consumer brands like Boroline and Frooti.

Film Career

An impassioned follower of Tagore and Ray's works, it was but a natural progression for Ghosh to enter into the movie industry. His first movie was based on a children's story, written by Shishirshendu Mukhopadhyay, called Hirer Angti (Diamond Ring) in 1992. Even though this film was well-received, the worldwide acclamation came for his second movie, Unishe April (19 April 1994), which starred veteran actress Aparna Sen. The movie received multiple awards, and Ghosh became an acclaimed director.

Rituparno Ghosh in his rather short career spanning 21 years directed 19 films, of which most were in Bengali, and some in Hindi and English as well. The first few years of his movie making conformed to the regular middle class Bengali audience. The stories were about their aspirations and struggles, like Bariwali and Dahan. After gaining much popularity with his audience, Ghosh brought in established movie stars from Bollywood, and explored his comfort with two languages. Some of the movies during this time were, Chokher Bali and Raincoat, both gave actress Aishwarya Rai a great opportunity to show her immense acting skills. The last phase of Ghosh’s movies showcased a mixed bag of projects, that ranged from an English film called The Last Lear, with veteran and established actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta, to those where Ghosh opened up about his interpretation of “sexual fluidity”. His work in Chitrangada, where he himself portrayed as a transsexual, and Aarekti Premer Golpo, where again he acted and showcased himself as a gay character, made people either sit up and take notice or estrange themselves from Rituparno. In an interview, he sadly stated his changing relationship with his audience, saying that the city can now neither accept him nor ignore him.

Ghosh’s renowned film projects includes Dahan (1997), Bariwali (1999), Asukh (1999), Utsab (2000), Titli (2002), Shubho Mahurat (2003), Chokher Bali (2003), Raincoat (2004), Dosar (2006), The Last Lear (2007), Abohoman (2010), and Memories of March (2011). Many of these won him awards. In his 21 years in films, Ghosh won 12 national awards and a few international acclaims as well.

Apart from Films…

Ghosh explored his literary side through his editorial activities for Anandalok, a Bengali movie related magazine, and Robbar, the Sunday edition for the Sangbad Pratidin newspaper (2006 onwards). He also had two television programs – Ghosh & Company and Ebong Rituporno, where he hosted and chatted with celebrities. Among fictional television, Ghosh wrote the script for the show Gaaner Opare, which was a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore.

His Death

According to his doctors, Rituparno Ghosh was suffering from several clinical conditions like pancreatitis, diabetes and insomnia. In the past few years, he was also undergoing hormone replacement therapy after his breast augmentation and abdominal plasty surgeries, for his character in the movie Aarekti Premer Golpo. The treatments had weakened his body system. The work pressure, and not being able to follow the diet and taking medicines together, were considered reasons for his health becoming worse. All combined, Ghosh is believed to have gone into cardiac arrest in the early hours of morning at 7:30 a.m. of 30 May 2013.

Ghosh’s death was mourned by his fans, and the film fraternities from all over India. Most of the people took to the micro-blogging site Twitter to voice their dismay and astonishment. Some of the notable tweets were:

  • Onir, Indian filmmaker - “Very very sad that the man whose every frame spoke of cinematic beauty and gave a new identity to New wave Bengali Cinema is no more. His passing away will be a big loss not only to lovers of cinema and art, but a huge loss to the LGBT community.”

  • Rajeev Masand, the renowned film critic - “Deeply saddened by passing of Rituparno Ghosh. He understood the human condition with all its complexities and conveyed them with such sensitivity.”

  • Shekhar Kapur, an Indian filmmaker - "Shocked by passing of Rituparno Ghosh. He was dreaming of getting into what he called his 'next phase.' Hugely creative explorer on film.”

Ghosh received a grand send-off by the state government and fans. Thousands paid their tribute, and his body was first taken to the places closest to him – the Tollygunge studio and the film fraternities’ hangout destination in the city, Nandan – before he was cremated in the city’s crematorium.

Also on this day:

1950 – Paresh Rawal, Indian actor, was born

1970 – Ness Wadia, Indian businessman, was born


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