Ritwik Ghatak was forever haunted by the memories of the 1947 Partition; that, combined with his defiant Marxist lens, meant that the uprooted, the displaced and the dispossessed formed a recurring motif in his filmography. His ‘Partition Trilogy’ comprised of three radically and ferociously beautiful masterpieces, viz. Meghe Dhaka Tara, Komal Gandhar and Subarnarekha, and the latter remains the most unforgettable of the lot. Ishwar (Abhi Bhattacharya) and Haraprasad (Bijon Bhattacharya, a doyen of left-bank Bengali theatre), refugees from the erstwhile East Bengal, join hands to rehabilitate a refugee camp in Calcutta; however, to his friend’s utter dejection, Ishwar takes up a conventional job (courtesy a schoolmate, a typically philistine petit-bourgeois businessman) and, along with his kid sister Sita (Indrani Chakraborty), relocates to a remote village on the banks of the Subarnarekha river; he also takes along the orphaned Abhiram who, unbeknownst to Ishwar, belongs to a lower caste. His tranquil, secured life, years later, takes a debilitating hit when the adult Sita (Madhabi Mukherjee) defies his commands, borne out of selfishness and prejudice, and elopes with Abhiram (Satindra Bhattacharya). And it gets shattered a few years later when, upon getting reconnected on a fateful night with the now-irrevocably disillusioned Haraprasad and after a night of uncharacteristic revelry – captured with Felliniesque dash – he has a tragic chance encounter with Sita. Ghatak was mesmeric in his infusion of harsh realism and melodramatic bursts while portraying the elusive quest for home and thus roots, and the accompanying loss of innocence and idealism; that, along with Ustad Bahadur Khan’s stirring Classical score, and incredible cinematographic compositions – the abandoned airstrip sequence was especially memorable – made this a lacerating, haunting and brutally poetic cinematic experience.
p.s. This is a revisit. My earlier review can be found here.
Director: Ritwik Ghatak
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Family Drama