Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Nemai Ghosh, Tapan Sinha were filmmakers of the post independence era. Buddhadev Dasgupta, Utpalendu Chakraborty, Gautam Ghosh were the product of the fiery turbulence that wracked West Bengal and India from the mid 60s to the mid 70s. Aparna Sen, Anjan Dutta, Raja Sen came into film making much later. But they also are the fall out of the volatile ultra left Naxalite movement.
Rituparno started making films in the nineties. Hirer Angti, his first film, based on a story by Shirshendu Mukherji, was released in1992.
He lived in Kolkata, worked here. He saw Calcutta being transformed to Kolkata. He saw the Metro Rail slowly expand its network to span the length and breadth of the city. While he thought his films and wrote scripts for them, he saw the coming up of multiplexes, the coming into being of malls in and around Kolkata. He saw the upwardly mobile Bengalis leave their ancestral homes and get into condomiums. He observed the mass exodus of Bengalis from the city.
Rituparno saw the advent of Sector V, the sprouting of the IT hub in the Eastern Metropolis. He felt and observed the facade of the decaying left politics in West Bengal. He also observed the fall of the Soviet Union, Romania, and the continuous struggle of the Serbs, the Bosnians and the Croatians. These he saw, observed, comprehended, absorbed and assimilated and evolved to become perhaps the most important Indian film maker of the recent times – a milestone by his own right, in the realms of intellect and film making per se.
The subjects he brought into film making, his treatment of them were inevitable. He had to speak about them. Those were the subjects relevant to the then society, the milieu he lived in, the ambience he belonged to. One would not call him bold. One would rather say he followed his compulsion, his commitment to his art, intellect and legacy. All the film makers he inherited and thereby disinherited were trailblazers. Each of them - Ghatak, Ray, Sen – were path breakers. They were forthright. They were bold. Rituparno, by his own admission, was inspired by Ray. He also had another very important influence – Aparna Sen.
Aparna Sen is an institution by her own self. She is a successful actor and has a big fan following. She was immensely successful as a heroine of the Bengali commercial cinema. She was a bankable actor who created a niche for herself. She had been a youth icon. She did theatre with Utpal Dutt. She did professional theatre. She is a journalist of commendable stature. She makes socially relevant films. Rituparno found a mentor, a confidante in her. She was a big influence to the late filmmaker. Rituparno moved ahead with his subjects, his treatment of them and thereby the statement he made on them.
Rituparno was an icon of the LGBT community in India. He cross dressed. He explored transgender lifestyle. He openly confessed his homosexuality. Rituparno was a necessity of the then society. He was bound to happen. As a creator, as a performing artist, as a film maker, he stated what the society made him say. Others hold themselves back thinking about conventions, about being ostracised or it might be so they lack in craftsmanship.
Rituparno was not pretentious. He was a master story teller. He broke conventions but never compromised with aesthetics. He was a cultured craftsman who was in control of his art. The society we live in needs him. He had much to give, such a lot to say. That is why his death is untimely. That is why we all will rue his absence.