The South Asian Melodramatist

Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (Ritwik Ghatak, 1972)

This film, by the sadly forgotten but fortunately rediscovered Indian autuer Ritwik Ghatak is one of the first forms of hyperlink. Hyperlink cinema is that which deals with several interlinking stories that connect through a center theme or thread. Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (English: A River Named Titas) deals with several tales of villagers centering around the banks of the river Titas in rural Bangladesh. The shadowy atmosphere, highlighted by the contrast of lighting and the use of black and white gives the feel of an ancient fable that has been passed down for generations. Ghatak’s ability as a high dramatist is in full force here. Unlike many Indian or other South Asian cinema, which treats drama as a major event which can be exploited through milking emotion, Ghatak’s restrained efforts tug at the heartstrings through much more intricate aspects like facial expression, tragedy, misunderstanding and intolerance. The drama built in a Ghatak movie is evolved through raw emotion, not manufactured circumstances geared to make an audience cry. The conversation between Basanti and new girl in the village is one to note and the dialogue is haunting to say the least. Basanti tells her new friend of a tale of a wife who was kidnapped by a bunch of bandits, forced to give up her life… but the story keeps its mystery with Basanti insisting to never reveal the true tragedy of the occurrence. Such a indirect form of melodrama makes for much more effective cinema because they evoke an inner sorrow which many people are too scared to face. Too often we see Indian cinema try to find manipulative ways to artificially create “sadness” over a tragedy, when in reality, the sadness should be evident in the tragedy itself… but that only happens when the narrative is well composed. Ritwik Ghatak is one Indian filmmaker who surely know how to do it the right way.


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