Rituparno Ghosh 50th birth anniversary: Remembering the genius filmmaker

August 31 is the late filmmaker’s birth anniversary. Two of his close associates and his brother remember the genius on the occasion, also talking about his last film Satyanweshi

Born on August 31, 1963, it’s late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh‘s 50th birth anniversary today. Revered as a brilliant chronicler of human relationships, Ghosh forged strong personal ties with his co-workers from different strata of society and nurtured them as his surrogate family. Two of his colleagues – one a reputed designer and the other a humble driver – recall Ghosh as a true professional who had an affectionate side for the cast and crew, thereby endearing him to all. He would go all the way for them, disregarding social barriers.

“Ritu da (elder brother in Bengali) had this amazing quality to build and nurture a surrogate family around him. I was fortunate to be part of this family,” said Darshan Shah, Founder and Trustee of Weavers Studio, a textile design firm.

Ghosh died of a heart attack May 30.

What costumes did Rituparno Ghosh plan for Satyanweshi?

Shah and her team had been working closely with him for the costumes for Satyanweshi – the director’s last film. Produced by Shree Venkatesh Films, Ghosh’s swansong features filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh as Byomkesh Bakshi and Bengali actors Anindya Chatterjee, Arpita Chatterjee, Sibaji Bandyopadhyay and Indraneil Sengupta in key roles in this detective thriller. (A Facebook posting says the film is due for a September release though the date has not been specified.)

“Ritu da narrated the story of Satyanweshi in short and highlighted what clothes and costumes each character would wear and the look of each of the actors – the period, the different settings, from the Zamindarbadi (Zamindar’s household) to when they would travel and the influences would have to also be in sync as the movie progressed,” Shah explained.

Possessing a clarity of vision about how the script would progress, a sense of aesthetics and the nuances he expected from his actors, Ghosh got the best out of his team. “He challenged us with deadlines but always thanked us for our efficiency,” Shah noted.

The sartorial elegance in Ghosh’s films is the evidence of his love of natural earthy organic textiles, his eye for detail and a penchant for the vintage.

For Satyanweshi, Ghosh chose exquisite tussar silk (raw silk produced in Malda district of West Bengal that has a dull gold sheen) and organic cotton. “The men were to be either in dhoti Punjabis (kurtas) in organic cottons, hand-reeled tussars and sometimes with an elegant tussar matka shawl draped over their shoulders or be dressed in simple old-fashioned trousers and shirts when the scene changed and the location changed. “He told us what type of collar, buttons, zip and pleats he wanted for the trousers and shirts,” said Shah.

Ghosh guided Shah’s team and chose the sarees that Aloka (the character portrayed by Arpita) would be wearing and selected the type and fabric for the blouse. “He told us how he wanted it styled and chose the accessories carefully from a wide range of Narayan Sinha’s artistic creations to Amrapali’s traditional pieces. For some costumes, he just asked us to convert a piece of textile and put a border and define it and make it like a saree.”

Did Rituparno Ghosh’s crew members make fun of his sexuality?

Tarakeshwar Shaw, who currently chauffeurs for a government undertaking, had a chance to rub shoulders with the “gentleman” as part of his crew. Ritu da, for Shaw, was a disciplinarian, yet friendly with all. “He used to be elated if crew members showed up on time. Especially if the set, camera and lighting were all ready before the cast arrived. He used to call me up to ensure whether I would make it on time. He used to ask ‘Ki Taraka, time e chole ashbe toh?’ (Tarak, will you be on time?),” said Shaw.

During his decade-long tryst as a crew member in the Bengali film industry, Shaw (now in his late 40s) used to ferry cameras and other essential production staples. He drove a car packed to the brim with equipment during the filming of Ghosh’s Bariwali (1999), Shubho Mahurat (2002) and Chokher Bali (2003).

Shaw recalls Ghosh having a casual attitude on set. He insisted that all should lunch and dine together. Moreover, Ghosh preferred the same team for his subsequent films. However, his homosexuality made him a constant target of jokes. “He was mocked by some technicians because of his effeminate mannerisms. He used to speak in a ladylike manner and some people on set used to answer him back in the same way. But he never complained and took it stoically,” Shaw revealed.

He reacted in the same way when his brother Indranil Ghosh, an art director in the regional film industry, distanced himself because of his sexual preferences, Shaw added. Indranil is now remorseful. “I have lost everyone…my parents and now my brother. I don’t want to comment…I just want to get out of this whole thing,” said a grief-stricken Indranil.

Ghosh’s premature death at the age of 49 due to cardiac arrest shocked industry insiders, Bollywood and his fans.