‘Bird Of Dusk’: Rituparno Ghosh lives again

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Film: “Bird Of Dusk” (Documentary on filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh); Director: Sangeeta Dutta; Rating: ****

Sangeeta Dutta spent considerable time with my friend Rituparno Ghosh before he died quite suddenly. Many feel it was his gender confusion that killed this brilliant filmmaker, considered next only to Satyajit Ray in Bengali cinema. In fact, when during the course of this illuminating, evocative and yes, talkative documentary on the ‘Man Who Would Be Queen’, Aparna Sen says, “He wanted to look like me”, she isn’t off the mark.

Ritu, my friend, was indeed taken up with his Reenadi’s (Aparna Sen’s) beauty. I am not sure if he wanted to look like her, though. Ritu told me in his closing years that he wanted to look like Rekha. In fact, director Kaushik Ganguly who directed Rituparno’s films as an actor in his closing years when he explored the issue of gender ambiguity, says Ritu indeed wanted to look like Rekha.

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There are shots of Ritu dressing up elaborately in bridal finery in this documentary that gave me goosbumps. This was the phase in Ritu’s life that ultimately took away his life.

And what a life! Sangeeta Dutta’s “Bird Of Dusk” is a gentle, poetic, elegiac tribute that tracks down the people Ritu worked with closely — from legends like Soumitra Chatterjee (who says Ritu wanted him to look and walk like an ordinary man) and Sharmila Tagore to more contemporary artistes like Prosenjit Chatterjee and Nandita Das… they all speak feelingly about Ritu’s amazing eye for feminine detail.

That he was a woman trapped in a man’s body is a fact that no one tries to sweep under the carpet. This is a film that flatters, but not to deceive.

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Ritu’s stubborn failings are also discussed in this eulogistic excursion. Sharmila talks of how the director invited the press in Kolkata to cover the shooting of “Shubo Mahurat”, the film in which Ritu cast Sharmila and Raakhee together after several decades. Ritu wanted the press to report the fireworks between the two actresses.

Nandita brings up Rituparno’s greatest failing as a professional artiste: his predisposition to offer the same role to a number of actors.

These are failings that I was personally privy to. During his lifetime, they never took away from Rituparno’s arching excellence as a filmmaker.

“Bird Of Dusk” brings forth the nuances in Ritu’s artistic vision without mincing words. Every interviewee seems to have a special insight into Ritu’s artistry. The warm glow that the illuminating thoughts spreads across the documentary brings to us the sad yet fulfilling journey of an artiste who died too young.

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I missed the presence of some very important actors who worked closely with the filmmaker, like Jisshu Sengupta, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kirron Kher and Amitabh Bachchan, in this delicately-tuned ode to the life and chimes of Rituparno Ghosh. But then it kind of falls into place… an incomplete documentary on an incomplete life. We will miss Rituda for a long time.

–IANS

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