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  • On Subarnarekha
  • Ritwik Ghatak
    Translated by Moinak Biswas

Having read the many opinions on Subarnarekha in various publications, I feel the necessity to present something from my side. Even though I know the film itself should contain all that the director has to say, I still feel the need to say a few words.

From my film and from some of the things I had written earlier some erudite viewers have gathered the impression that I have professed an ideology of “despair” in the film, “despair” and “decadence.”

I don’t understand this business of decadence. And I have no desire to be an artist of “decadence.” There was not the slightest intention in my mind to profess “despair.” What I felt and wanted to tell through my film is the story of the present economic, political, and social crises in Bengal. I have tried to capture the great crisis that, in the years between 1948 and 1962, has come to take on monstrous proportions. The first casualty of that is our sensitivity. It has been gradually benumbed; and I wanted to strike at that.

There is something else that comes to mind in this connection. I find myself being compared with some eminent filmmakers in various periodicals. From what I have seen of the work of these other directors whose names get invoked, I feel this attempt to connect us is not only erroneous; it is also an injustice done to them and to me. They make their films to say what they have to say, and I do the same to convey what I want to, which is completely different from their ideas. It is not a question of good or bad, but of difference. I do not believe I have any right to practice art if I cannot articulate the present crisis of our country in some form. Most of my films are just an attempt to capture that crisis. And Subarnarekha is no exception. While I do not seek to practice passionate sloganeering, I also hate to make films only to capture “human relationships.” I find the latter to be mere trickery, a cop-out. This line of thinking runs through all my films.

On the surface, the crisis presented in Subarnarekha seems to stem from the refugee problem. But refugee or homeless in this film does not mean only the homeless from East Bengal. I have tried to use that word to a different effect. I wanted also to speak of the fact that we have all been rendered homeless in our time, having lost our vital [End Page 18] roots. My intention was to raise the expression homeless from a specific geographical level to a generality. In Haraprasad’s [Bijan Bhattacharya] dialogue in the film (“we are formless, without substance”) or in the beginning, in the words of the journalist (“Refugee? Who isn’t one?”), this was implied.

I think it is my sacred duty to point to this crisis of our country, one which has brought great peril upon us. To point to it one needs the bare structure of a story. And that is merely a structure to me, nothing more exciting. I have heard a lot about the inconsistencies of that structure. I suppose most of them are true. And I hardly have any excuse for protest. But let me say something as a hint, which the thoughtful reader may wish to mull over. There is no trace of London in Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. There was no possible reason for Brecht not to know what London was like. But at a mechanical level Brecht felt no need to know what London looked like, what coherent form it should take on, and so on, and it did not take away one bit from what he wanted to put forward.

All that I want to say is, you have to sometimes ignore what your events will look like at the mechanical level. And it produces good results.

I have often had to face the criticism that Subarnarekha has made too much use of “coincidences.” No doubt there are far too many of them in the film. But the central event, the brother...


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