Ritwik Ghatak’s Pursuit of Truth Beyond Realism
With The Cloud-Capped Star, Bengali director Ritwik Ghatak reinvented the melodrama. The story of a refugee family’s increasing dependence on self-sacrificing eldest daughter Neeta (Supriya Choudhury), the 1960 film makes innovative use of an array of striking techniques—including elliptical editing, off-balance framings, and varied performance styles—as its domestic tragedy unfolds. The video above is a clip from a supplement on our brand-new edition of The Cloud-Capped Star, in which acclaimed Indian filmmakers Saeed Akhtar Mirza and Kumar Shahani discuss some of these devices and how they help endow the movie with its uncommon emotional power. Here, Mirza delivers an impassioned appreciation of the film’s “enhanced realism”—its dexterous interweaving of elements both expressionistic (the densely layered soundtrack) and naturalistic (Choudhury’s supremely moving lead performance)—while Shahani identifies a seemingly simple, vérité-like scene shot on the streets of Kolkata as one way that Ghatak draws viewers into the heightened reality of his pathos-filled story.