Ritwik Kumar Ghatak: Subaltern Auteur of Bengali Cinema

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In 1947, as the British colonial rulers left, the local leaders chose to have the entire South-Asian subcontinent partitioned into two countries basing on a sectarian ground: India and Pakistan. Pakistan was born into two slices apart from each other by sixteen hundred kilometers of Indian territory to home the Muslims of the area and human history experienced the largest exodus ever. The border between the then East Pakistan and India remains the "most porous border" till today (Ghosh, 2016). This border divided the people of Bengali ethnicity into two in the name of religion; riots broke out, trauma lingered. Usually, such significant historical events get wide coverage in film and literature. But, that did not happen to Bengal as the people of both the countries chose national/religious identity over ethnic identity. The uprooted and migrated people who were looking for 'home' in exile become the subalterns who could not speak out their trauma. Gayatri Charkarvorty Spivak suggests in her 1988 piece titled "Can the Subaltern Speak?" that subaltern-ness is a position without identity (University of California Television [UCTV], 2008). And even they managed to speak, they were often overlooked and silenced. Ritwik Kumar Ghatak, being a refugee himself, wanted to communicate his trauma and identity crisis caused by the Partition'47 through his films; all his films failed to reach the audience of his time. After decades of his demise, his films remain as indictment of a time the people of Bengal wanted to overlook. This paper attempts to read Ghatak as a subaltern filmmaker who tried to pen down what his people i.e. the refugees wanted to speak out, by providing a close reading of his Partition trilogy, Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960), Komal Gandhar (1961) and Subarnarekha (1962).
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