Director: Ritwik Ghatak; Writer: Ritwik Ghatak; Producer: Ritwik Ghatak; Cinematographer: Dilip Ranjan Mukhopadhyay; Editor: Ramesh Joshi; Cast: Supriya Choudhury, Abanish Bannerjee, Anil Chatterjee, Geeta De, Satindra Bhattacharya, Chitra Mondol, Bijon Bhattacharya, Mani Srimani, Satyabrata Chattopadhyay, Gyanesh Mukherjee
Duration: 02:07:54; Aspect Ratio: 1.290:1; Hue: 95.928; Saturation: 0.037; Lightness: 0.390; Volume: 0.314; Cuts per Minute: 9.928; Words per Minute: 34.382
Ghatak’s innovatively filmed critique of both the IPTA style of radical theatre and of Partition caused a major political controversy in Bengal, apparently prompting the director to look for work outside the state. Set in the contentious 50s, the film’s plot is structured around the rivalry of two radical theatre groups. One is led by Bhrigu (A. Bannerjee), the other by Shanta (G. De), while Shanta’s niece Ansuya (S. Choudhury) participates in Bhrigu’s work to the disapproval of her own group. When the two groups join together for a production of Shakuntala (Tagore’s version of the story functioning as a constant reference within the film), Shanta deliberately sabotages it. Bhrigu and Ansuya discover they are both refugees separated from their country (Bangladesh) by a river and they fall in love. Eventually Ansuya, scheduled to marry Samar and move to France, decides to stay with Bhrigu. As in Ghatak’s earlier Meghe Dhaka Tara
(1960), the story is interrupted by sound effects including ancient marriage songs, sounds of gunshots and sirens. Music and sound effects mark particularly emotive political moments, as in one of the film’s classic shots: a tracking movement along a disused railway ending abruptly at the national border with a fishermen’s chant rising to a powerful crescendo. Appropriately for a film dealing with both political and geographical division, the most intense interactions of sound and image occur in spaces which simultaneously divide and connect, as in the aforementioned tracking shot or in the 360-degree camera pans showing a theatre group singing in boats on the river Padma which marks the border between India and Bangladesh. Spatial divisions are further elaborated as a critique of the theatre groups with their cramped and fragmented proscenium spaces and cavernous rehearsal rooms and the claustrophobic, expressionistically lit urban scenes. The overall effect, as noted by Kumar Shahani, is the creation of a space-in-formation, a dynamic though static-looking space animated by history.