Ritwik Ghatak on DVD

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Lino
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#1 Post by Lino » Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:32 am

Well, I somehow managed to watch Cloud-capped Star amidst all this Christmas hustle and bustle and boy, was it worth it!

A truly emotionally devastating film with a film heroine to rank amongst the most tragic and heart-giving to be put on a screen! Tough one to watch, I tell you.

Besides that, I really enjoyed Ghatak's mise-en-scene, filled with unusual framing of scenes and characters and one of the most creative uses of sound in film I've ever experienced. Great work of art and highly recommended of course.

Can't wait to put my hands on the other Ghatak title available on the bfi label: A River called Titas.

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#2 Post by acquarello » Wed Dec 22, 2004 10:46 am

Ghatak seemed to be particularly pleased with his use of the frying oil "sound effect" in The Cloud-Capped Star, which he cues to show jealousy and distrust, particularly on the mother's part. His application of sound in this film is a little more abstract and sophisticated (like the whipping sound) than usual. Often his metaphoric devices are more basic, like the amplified heartbeat and heavy breathing that he uses in films like A River Called Titas (wedding night) and Reason, Debate and a Story (when his young companions are tied to a tree together). Visually, his approach is similarly intuitive (or at least, natively intuitive), like the act of putting on glasses to show vision, clarity, or enlightenment, or drought and famine to show dying humanity (which also alludes to the man-made Bengali Famine of 1943).

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#3 Post by Lino » Wed Dec 29, 2004 7:43 am

Serendipitiously, here is a fine review of A River Called Titas:

http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=55644

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#4 Post by Lino » Tue Jan 18, 2005 12:22 pm

This thread is definitely one for the long-run and I hope I'm not bothering you guys.

The reason I'm returning here is that I watched yet another of Ghatak's film - this time, A River called Titas - and I'm posting some thoughts about it.

Well, this one was a little harder to endure that Cloud(...) because it is a bit uneven and its 2 and a half hour duration certainly doesn't help. I understand
that he was getting very sick at the time of filming and it shows especially in the editing (it's a bit clumsy at times).

Still, a very ambitious film by any measure and it reminded me of Visconti's own La Terra Trema in parts as it deals with the troubles of a fishing village and of a particular family.

Worth checking out but do not choose this film as an introduction to Ritwik's work - it's a bit confusing and it will give you a wrong idea of his craft.

Many thanks for the bfi for making this film available on DVD and my final question is - are there more Ghatak planned from them in the future?

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#5 Post by Lino » Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:01 pm

Well, I seem to have come to the end of my Ritwik Ghatak exploration on DVD as I just finished watching late last night Anup Singh's hommage to Ghatak, The Name of a River (also available from the bfi, just like the other two mentioned in this thread).

All in all, I enjoyed this film and found that it can be read through three perspectives (at least): as a documentary on the late bengali director; as a tribute to his filmmaking ways and themes; and as a film in its own right. Yes, it's that rich in subject and aproach.

However, I will not recommend buying this one as an introduction to Ghatak's work as it's a lot more enjoyable if you've already seen a few of his films - for instance, it was nice to spot some actors that worked for him and how they've aged.

The picture and audio are good/acceptable but could have been a lot better especially for a 2000 film. Of noteworthy is the inclusion of Anup Singh's audio commentary that runs through the whole feature.

I hope I have turned some people into Ritwik Ghatak's work with this thread and I sincerely hope you have found in him a fine human being - as I did.

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#6 Post by davida2 » Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:29 pm

I was able to see Cloud-Capped Star for the first time about a month ago, and was very impressed. I've heard mixed comments regarding the later films, but I would especially like to see Subharnekha and E-Flat reissued somewhere.

I wouldn't say that Ghatak has overturned my fondness for Ray (I'm soon to order some Ray VCDs from India; it's the only way to see several of them; I've done plenty of bitching elsewhere over Sony's bad-to-offensive handling of his work in the US); they are two very different filmmakers. I have yet to see any Mrinal Sen, finding independent Indian film is incredibly difficult in the US; even finding good Bollywood is a bit of a challenge...

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#7 Post by Sai » Tue Apr 19, 2005 8:10 am

My film school had a showing of A River Called Titash, and I mostly agree with what Annie said: it's a great movie, but very uneven. While the scope is huge and there are some great scenes (the boat races for example), I couldn't help but feel that it couldn't realize all it's ambitions. Which is quite logical for a movie that wants to say so much: giving an impression of the people in the village, saying something about class relations, giving a Marxist message and showing the dying of this kind of society.
It's main flaw, however, was that every time one of the stories got interesting, it ended and other characters were introduced. Even though it got very slow at times, I felt it would have been better if it ran for another hour, giving the viewer more time with the characters and expanding their stories. Still, an epic movie that can surely be recommended.

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#8 Post by davida2 » Wed Aug 17, 2005 2:52 pm

acquarello wrote:That wasn't the question you asked though. I haven't seen the documentary, but I think that the best way to understand Ghatak is to read his own words. Rows and Rows of Fences: Ritwik Ghatak on Cinema is illuminating reading.

I like everything I've seen by Ghatak so far - along with the two BFI releases, I've also seen Subarnarekha and Reason, Debate, and a Story. His films are not perfect, but they have equal measures of idiosyncratic awkwardness and intelligence.
Acquarello - How were you able to see Subharnekha? I've looked online, even some Indian DVD sites and haven't been able to find it thus far...

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#9 Post by godardslave » Wed Aug 17, 2005 4:28 pm

davida2 wrote: Acquarello - How were you able to see Subharnekha? I've looked online, even some Indian DVD sites and haven't been able to find it thus far...
If you look at the reviews on Acquarello's site: Strictly Film School at http://www.filmref.com/index.html you might notice he also watches films on VHS.
This could be one such example.

Or i could be completely wrong, and he may have watched this particular film on DVD. :wink:

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#10 Post by acquarello » Wed Aug 17, 2005 6:24 pm

Heheh, yeah, this was a French SECAM too, for added conversion amusement. :)

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#11 Post by davida2 » Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:44 pm

Thanks for the info; I know the site. I might have to work up the nerve for that level of conversion amusement...

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#12 Post by franco » Fri Nov 25, 2005 9:13 pm

Not wanting to start a new thread, would anyone please recommend some decent Bollywood movies? I understand it's a challenge to find them.

I am glad I found this thread. Now this Ghatak is a whole new terrority for me to discover.

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#13 Post by kekid » Sat Nov 26, 2005 3:49 pm

Most Bollywood movies can be readily obtained on DVD from Indiaplza.com or Indianblockbuster.com. It is difficult to recommend unless you specify whether you are interested in films intended as pure entertainment, (with lots of songs, dancing, and good-looking people), or in films that attempt more serious subjects and are stylistically more interesting. A simple walk-through of either of the sites mentioned will suggest many films in the first category (Lagaan strides the boundary). A few classics in the second category would be films of Guru Dutt (Pyasa, Kagaz ke Phool, Saheb, Bibi aur Ghulam), Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam. The non-Bollywood Indian films are by far the most interesting. Anything directed by Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani is good. And, of course, the sui generis director remains Satyajit Ray. This short list excludes many, many great directors and works, and is intended only as an entry-point rather than claim to be the list of "the Greatest".

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#14 Post by franco » Sat Nov 26, 2005 7:08 pm

Thank you so much for the suggestions, Kekid!

I am looking for the more "stylistically interesting" ones, namely those that have the potential to attract members of this forum. Before, I had very little hope that such Bollywood films exist, but now that you have given me some pointers, I have a direction to begin.

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#15 Post by acquarello » Sun Nov 27, 2005 4:20 pm

Not Bollywood-centered, but John W. Hood's The Essential Mystery - Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema is probably the best English language text out there in terms of a comprehensive primer on Indian parallel cinema. He not only has individual chapters on golden age masters like Ray, Sen, Ghatak, and more contemporary masters like Benegal, Nihalani, Dasgupta, Aravindan, and Gopalakrishnan, but also has a chapter entitled "Some Eminent Others" that has proven to be an indispensable guide to some more recent filmmakers who, at the time of publication, had only made a handful of noteworthy films. I wrote some notes on it a while back, but I don't suggest using it as a replacement to actually reading the whole thing. (I don't agree with Hood's assessment in places, but the information contained in the book is first-rate).

Incidentally, Gopalakrishnan's Shadow Kill has been released on R1 earlier this month with little fanfare. I first caught the film at Film Comment Selects a few years ago and it was definitely one of the highlights of that program. Like Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Gopalakrishnan has a natural storytelling ability that's elliptical but also quite visual.

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#16 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Aug 22, 2006 11:06 am

This isn't anything to do with DVD but Channel 4 in Britain, now that Big Brother has finished for another year, are showing four of Ritwik Ghatak's films over the next few weeks. Cloud-Capped Star was last night and Subharnekha is next week.

According to Mark Cousins in the latest Sight and Sound (page 8) Komal Gandhar (A Soft Note On A Sharp Scale) and A River Called Titash are also being shown, with River Called Titash being introduced by Mani Kaul.

I'm excited about this since I hadn't gotten round to getting the BFI DVDs. It looks like the TV print of Cloud-Capped Star was the same as the DVD, as it even starts with the BFI logo.

I was posting this to ask if there was any interest in my transcribing the introductions to each film for everyone to read (the Cloud-Capped Star was introduced by Ghatak's son).

I certainly consider Nasreen Munni Kabir, who creates the introductions for the Indian film seasons on Channel 4 as being up there with Nick Freand Jones who used to do the same thing for the BBC with Moviedrome and its like (Do you have to have three names to work in this field?). If there is interest I could try putting up a list (in the lists section) of the films Channel 4 has shown in Bollywood seasons since 1998 (when introductions to the films began). Then perhaps the list could be used to discuss the films.

My other reason for posting was to do what Annie/Lino previously did and re-ask for opinions on the four films. Any comments for Subarnarekha or Soft Note On A Sharp Scale in particular would be exciting!

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#17 Post by porcupine2 » Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:29 am

The introduction (two mondays ago, Channel Four) to Cloud-capped Star was excellent, so I'm looking forward to this monday night's showing of Komal Gandhar (A soft note on a sharp scale) - I saw this in a cinema several years ago, I'm looking forward to being refreshed. It is about a group of musicians and artists during partition, C4 finishing showing the "economic consequences of partition trilogy" but out of order?; the dance and music in a serious context is more similar to some of Ray's films of middle years.

A week on monday will be Titash Ekti Nadir Nam (A river called Titash) - haven't seen it - about a fishing community apparently.
Last edited by porcupine2 on Sat Sep 02, 2006 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#18 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Sep 02, 2006 12:20 pm

Subarnarekah was excellent - it even used the song 'Brazil' at one point!

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#19 Post by bamwc2 » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:22 pm

Lino wrote:This relatively unknown bengali director is getting a wonderful treatment thanks to the lovely efforts of the bfi.

Apart from Cloud-capped Star (1960) and A River called Titas (1973), I only recently found out that there is a 2001 documentary by Anup Singh about Ghatak called The Name of a River also out on DVD from the bfi.

Has anyone seen this? Is the documentary worth the big bfi price (as is customary on their discs...)?
I just made it my very first review for Gary's site. Since I don't come from a film background, I'm afraid that I may have said something very stupid in there. If you have any comments on it, please let me know.

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Re: Ritwik Ghatak on DVD

#20 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:27 am

I've become aware of Ritwik Ghatak only recently, I'm sorry to say - he's been hailed as one of India's great filmmakers, and I've yet to see any of his films. Cloud-Capped Star, arguably his best work, was restored by Cineteca di Bologna back in 2012, and Lincoln Center in NYC is apparently screening a DCP of it on Friday, January 5 at 8:30pm. (Press releases of the restoration label it as a "digital restoration" and a cursory search suggests only a DCP was made for distribution.)

FWIW, it doesn't appear that the restoration was ever made available for any home viewing format, which is a shame because the only English-language home release I could find was BFI's out-of-print DVD, which pre-dates the restoration and commands a hefty price on the second-hand marketplace.

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