Thursday, April 02, 2009

World Movie Series - 12 - Meghe Dhaka Tara

Women. We have seen a lot of them struggle hard for their families. Many of them support the entire family by working tirelessly, sacrificing their happiness for the sake of the family. We have seen numerous such women in our lives. I have seen many of them myself. But, have we thought about them at least for a second? Have we thought about giving them back their happiness, their well being and the love which they have been totally deprived of?

Meghe Dhaka Tara is one such journey in to a woman’s life, who sacrifices everything for her family. I first learned about the film from Cheziyan in 'ulaga cinema' and later from Charu Nivedita, in his book about the articles he has written about cinema. Most of the details I have given about Ghatak are also by Charu. Hence, my heartfelt thanks to both, especially to Charu.

Neeta is a lower middle class woman. She has an elder brother, a younger brother and sister to support, in addition to her aged parents. The elder brother is a wanna-be singer who is practicing all through the day on the banks of a near by river. The younger brother and sister are studying in college, and her father is a teacher. Neeta too is studying, and is earning by taking tuition for MA. Her mom is always annoyed by her elder brother, who is not searching for any job, and keeps on practicing without any success. Neeta loves her family very much, and feels that she is living for the sake of her family members.

The movie begins with Neeta returning to home from college, and her sandal breaks while walking on the road. Her singer brother sees this, and she adjusts it and later mends it. That was the first day of that month, and as soon as she goes home, her college going sister and brother surround her. The brother wants a sports shoe for the match ahead, and the sister wants a sari, as all her saris have become old. She happily gets them both, and the whole of the tuition fees gets spent in this way. Her singer brother affectionately asks her she should’ve bought herself a dress, and she tells him that she is happy seeing the happiness of her family.

Her singer brother is the only one in the family who is affectionate towards Neeta. The others pretend they love her just to take away the money she brings to home. She has a boyfriend too, Sanath, who is trying to pursue higher studies, instead of getting a job. He has three offers, but is unwilling to go for a job. Neeta tells him that she is proud of him, and she is sure he will get a great job once he finishes his studies.

Neeta’s brother is constantly getting reproached by his mom, and Neeta tells her brother that she is in no doubt he will become a talented singer, and after he becomes a popular singer, she wants him to take her to the mist clad hills, and she will sit there enjoying the beauty.

One day, Neeta’s father fractures his bone, and as a result, is unable to move. So the entire burden falls on Neeta, and she quits her studies, joins a job. While she is off for her tuitions, one day she sees Sanath with Neeta’s sister. They both are happily chatting. Even before, one day when Neeta visit’s Sanath, she has seen a woman inside his room, hiding. Neeta gets heartbroken, and goes home and cries. Her mom knows about this, and she thinks it’s good for Neeta’s sister to marry Sanath, as Neeta has to be in home to bring money, and if Neeta gets married, then the flow of money will stop. She also cunningly makes Neeta to accept the marriage.

The Marriage gets over, and Neeta’s sister leaves with her husband. Neeta’s younger brother fails in the college exams, but it was due to the fact that he got a job a month ago at a factory. He too leaves for a hostel as he feels he cannot have good food at home.

By this time, Neeta has become mechanical. The shock of her boyfriend marrying her sister has made her gritty. Unable to sustain his mother’s curses, Neeta’s singer brother too gets a job at a music school at Bombay and leaves home. He urges her to come with him, but Neeta refuses, as there will be no support to her parents.

Time goes by. Neeta’s sister gets pregnant. Neeta’s younger brother suddenly jams his hand in the factory, and is brought to a hospital. Neeta desperately tries to arrange for money. She finally goes to Sanath, to ask for money, but returns back after seeing her sister’s unwillingness.

Neeta’s younger brother comes home, and Neeta’s pregnant sister too, comes to stay. She has to earn for all of them now. Her father understands Neeta’s quandary and becomes compassionate. Neeta becomes all the more mechanical and emotionless as time passes.

One day, Neeta’s brother returns to his home town, after becoming a great singer. Many people run for his autograph. Even the ones who criticized him. He comes to home and his mother, who was cursing him previously, invites him with words full of praises. He asks for Neeta, and the mother tells she is in her room. She doesn’t talk to anyone these days, and spends all of her time in the room. Even if she is diseased, she is not coming out, the mother says.

Neeta’s brother rushes to her room, and he discovers she is suffering from acute Tuberculosis. She pukes blood, and he helps her by fetching treatment. That night, Neeta’s father tells her that the family members are planning to rebuild the house in to a two storied building, and eventually will drive her out. Also, her room is being planned for the new born baby. So, he asks her to run out, leaving the house. Neeta goes out in pouring rain, without knowing what she is doing. Her singer brother comes to her rescue and stops her from running out.

He takes her to Nainital, to a sanitarium, for treatment. Finally, Neeta is able to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, the promise fulfilled by her brother. One day, she cries to her brother that she wants to live, and enjoy her life. She screams out her anguish and pain that she wanted to live all through her life but it was not possible.

Neeta’s brother returns home, and while walking, he sees a woman’s sandals getting cut while walking, and she gives him a smile and adjusts them, and walks away slowly. The brother cannot control his agony, as he once saw the same thing happen to Neeta. He covers his face, and starts crying, in memory of his sister. The film ends.

Meghe Dhaka Tara is a powerful film about the woes of middle class women. It painfully portrays the torment Neeta undergoes to support her family and how the family ill treats her, in return. All through the movie, we see an ever smiling Neeta, always ready to accept the suffering, and at the end, she breaks out that she too wanted to live. How painful!

Meghe Dhaka Tara means Cloud capped Star. This Bengali film was directed by Ritwik Ghatak and was released in 1960. Ghatak was the first original alternative Indian film maker. He was the one who would have reached the place of Satyajit Ray originally, but was oppressed, due to many factors like his rebellious nature. Satyajit Ray himself has said that Ghatak should’ve been the one at his place. Ghatak’s first film Nagarik was completed at 1952, but was released after many years.

Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960) was the first of his trilogy (Komal Gandhar and Subarnarekha are the other two) which portrayed the poverty and pain of refugees in Calcutta (even in Meghe Dhaka Tara, the family has moved from Bangladesh). Komal Gandhar and Subarnarekha were commercial failures which made Ghatak unable to film any picture for some years. His health deteriorated rapidly in the sixties and he died in 1976, without being recognized as a brilliant film maker.

Noted film director John Abraham is a student of Ghatak when he taught at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII – Pune) in the sixties. He and the other students took Ghatak’s name to the world outside. With all his revolutionary films, Ritwik Ghatak will remain to be the foremost film visionary of India.

PS:- This movie was later copied by ‘Iyakkunar Imayam’ (!!??) K. Balachandar in Tamil as ‘Aval Oru Thodarkadhai’ and received critical acclaim. It was thought that the copy was a original work coz of the fact that Ghatak was not very popular at the time of the copycat attempt.


nitesh said...

Interesting post. Ghatak was definitely one of the greatest auteur of Indian Cinema. One whom we lost too early.

We dedicated a special issue. I hope you could find something more on him.

The S c o r p said...

Sure Nitesh. . I'm gonna buy d other movies by him too, and will publish more on him soon. Thanx 4 d comment, buddy

nitesh said...

That's great, my suggestion would be to start with the Partition Trilogy first and then move on to his other works.

The S c o r p said...

Yes. I'll be doing that. I'll post my reviews in my blog shortly after watching them . .

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