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Rituparno Ghosh was full of paradoxes yet loved by all: Sangeeta Dutta on making 'Bird Of Dusk' based on late filmmaker's life

File image of late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. Photograph:( WION Web Team )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 19, 2019, 09.08 AM (IST) Written By: Shomini Sen

The world may have known filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh as an eccentric genius but for filmmaker Sangeeta Dutta,  it was a facade for the outer world that Ghosh had adapted over a period of time.

Dutta's film 'Bird Of Dusk' documents Ghosh's life - from his early years to him becoming a huge name in the Indian cinema to his stand on gender fluidity. And while Dutta captures the star Rituparno Ghosh had become, she also narrates the human, creative side of the director that was unknown to most. 

"I saw him in a different way, I saw his vulnerability much more than anything else," recalls Dutta while speaking to WION. Dutta served as Ghosh's associate director in 6 projects including 'Chokher Bali' and considered him her brother, friend, and a confidant.
 
Considering she shared such a close bond with the director, was it difficult to present an unbiased story? Dutta says that the documentary offered her to be objective about Ghosh and see other aspects of the late filmmaker.   "I tried to remain as unbiased as possible. As an artist, he too was full of paradoxes. And yet all of us loved him despite all those weakness. He was quite a drama queen when he wanted to be. But that perhaps was just the exterior, inside as an artist he was also very lonely, especially after his parents' death," revealed Dutta who called the director methodical and systematic.

 "I feel the eccentric side of his personality was somewhat put on for the world. He was one of the most methodical people I knew who would wake up at 5 am every day and write and research. Without that sense of discipline, he wouldn't be able to make such powerful films."

Dutta though feels on the hindsight that there was a reason why Ghosh was known for his eccentric nature. "We all grew up in the early ' 80s and that time there were no ways to express his feelings- so there were reasons why he was like that. There were a lot of contradictions really to his personality. He never had a long time partner, his love-life was a roller coaster but he was at the end of the day a great artist, exceptionally gifted- the greatest our generation has seen," said Dutta.

Bird of Dusk poster

Dutta's film captures Ghosh through the eyes of different people- his colleagues, the actors he had worked with and above all through his own writings. Ghosh was a regular contributor to a Sunday magazine and his writings serve as a good insight into his life, his passion for cinema and his love for the city of Kolkata.

 While the film touches upon myriad aspects of the filmmaker, his quirks even, Dutta has not really dealt with the controversy that surrounded his death. “I did keep away the unnecessary speculation about his death, or the fact that he had become a transgender. I didn’t want to feed on that sort of speculation, but at the same time spoke about the way he himself dealt with his gender identity and how it influenced the younger generation.”

She does feel that ‘Ritu da’ with his unique take on gender fluidity has given voice to an entire generation. “He opened doors for all of us. Because of him people could speak confidently and assert themselves which I think culturally goes beyond his films and writings. The growing LGBTQ community did consider him as an important voice.”

Having traveled to various international film festivals last year, ‘Bird Of Dusk’ was screened at MAMI in Mumbai in last year before it got a theatrical release in January in Kolkata. “The government and NFDC released it in Kolkata, where the film was well received. A documentary doing well in a commercial space is unheard of so it felt good to see the film do well. I worked with a young crew who all have hero-worshipped Ritu so it was a good validation to see the film doing well commercially.”

Does she ever plan to make a biopic on Rituparno Ghosh? “ I am sure a biopic will be made on him in the coming years. Hopefully, many more films will be made on him as he was such an exceptional talent- someone who should be celebrated by everyone”

Story highlights

Sangeeta Dutta's film 'Bird Of Dusk' documents Ghosh's life - from his early years to him becoming a huge name in the Indian cinema to his stand on gender fluidity.