Meghe Dhaka Tara: A Classic

Meghe Dhaka Tara is a gem of a film by our prominent film director Ritwik Ghatak. The film is a narrative that focuses on the post-independence Bengali society. Ritwik Ghatak had made 8 films and 11 short films in his lifetime. He was a member of the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) and worked there as a writer, performer, director and producer. According to him, he didn’t have the love for cinema, but just came into this business because of the massive size of the film audience. He said that, “Film is not a form, it has forms.” The leitmotiv or the recurring theme in his films is the socio-economic implication of the 1947 partition. Apart from ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ (1960), he also made ‘Komal Gandhar’ (1961) and ‘Subarnarekha’ (1962), which formed a trilogy with cultural integration forming the theme in all three films.

Meghe Dhaka Tara is a melodramatic film with stylistic components like the natural exteriors and the claustrophobic interiors used in mise-en-scene and a way of using dysphoric, euphoric and nostalgic structures of feelings, specifically through songs, music and sound effects. There are four interconnected elements in this film- women, landscape, sound and music.

The cinematography done by Dinen Gupta is stunning. The scenic beauty of Bengal is covered exquisitely. Deep-focus cinematography is employed permitting a certain connection/counterpart between background and foreground. The soundtrack by Satyen Chatterjee is revolutionary with the use of natural sounds. Such as the sound of a passing train, a kettle boiling and a whipping sound, etc; though they are post-dubbed. The soundtrack makes us rethink the dramaturgy of the visual and affects the ways we look at these visuals. Songs and music from Bengali folk songs are used several times in the film. This film actually reinvents the cinema with its soundtrack. Similarly, the lighting is also praiseworthy. Dramatic lighting is used to heighten the emotions with the use of contrast lighting i.e., in some scenes; it is illuminated and is darkened in some other scenes.

The movie revolves around Neeta (Supriya Choudhury), a beautiful young woman, who lives with her family in the suburbs of Calcutta. She is a self-sacrificing person, who is constantly exploited by everyone around her, even her own family, who takes her goodness for granted. Her life is ridden with personal tragedy; she loses first her fiancé, then her job and finally her health by contracting tuberculosis. Her elder brother Shankar (Anil Chatterjee) is the only person, who cares about her. The film deals with the life journey of Neeta, her sacrifices for the family and what she get back from her family. Not only, the film brilliantly showcased the gluttonous nature of humans, that how even the family members can behave avariciously to fulfil their selfish motives, but, also succeeded well in relating it with the lives of common women in that society.

Neeta is symbolised as Goddess Durga (Jagadhatri), the eternal giver and universal sustainer. Whereas, the courtyard of her home symbolises a centre of ambition for the rest of the family. Though, it is an oppressive and suffocating space for Neeta. The pronounced sound of the boiling kettle accentuates her mother’s insatiable greed.

The film is a must watch for the people, who believes ion the phrase ‘Old is Gold’. And, I am sure that those believers will also not feel disappointed with it at all. The film is a treat to watch. So, just grab your copy and enjoy the masterpiece!

Ashish Verma

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