Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Ajantrik (The Unmechanical/The Pathetic Fallacy) 
Ritwik Ghatak, despite being one of the greatest and most iconoclastic filmmakers India has ever produced, never received due recognition for his genius during his lifetime. The fact that he was asocial in nature, an alcohol addict and a hardline communist, ensured that he died a deeply misunderstood man. Ajantrik, made 6 years after his debut movie Nagarik (often considered India’s first neorealist and arthouse film, preceding Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali by 3 years), and one of only 8 completed feature films made by him, bears ample testimony to his exceptional talents. One of the earliest movies to have an inanimate object as one of the protagonists, Ajantrik is the tale of the unique and profound attachment that Bimal, a poor Bengali taxi-driver, shares with his rickety (and hilariously anachronistic) 1920 Chevrolet jalopy which he affectionately calls Jagaddal. Kali Bannerjee gave an incredibly layered, tour-de-force performance as Bimal, a hotheaded, friendless and forever misunderstood loner (ironically, a touch of the director himself perhaps?), whose only companion is the dilapidated Jagaddal. His emotional journey, from pride through anger and devastation to peace, must be seen in order to be truly appreciated. The tragi-comic movie, which is filled with a plethora of cinematic techniques and generic conventions as also strong social commentary, might easily have been a reference point for Ray’s Abhijan, which in turn seemed to have at some level influenced Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, as noted by me sometime back in this article on Ray.
Director: Ritwik Ghatak
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Slice of Life