Different strokes Rituparno Ghosh dead

Abhishek Law Aditi Nigam Kolkata | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 30, 2013

Ritupurno Ghosh Photo: Anu Pushkarna

12-time National Award winner stands out for strong and original views on sexuality

A self-confessed Satyajit Ray fan, he was credited with reviving the art of parallel film-making in Bengal.

Rituparno Ghosh, who died on Thursday at his south Kolkata residence, following a massive heart attack, glorified women through his films, many of which dealt with controversial subjects. 

Ghosh, who was suffering pancreatic inflammation at the time of his death, would have turned fifty on August 31. 

The 12-time National Award winner, fondly called “Ritu da” in Tollywood (Bengali film industry, located in Tollygunge in south Kolkata), shot to fame with movies that masterfully portrayed a range of stories, from complex mother-daughter and husband-wife relationships to thrillers.

He was also hailed for bold attempts at making movies centred around same-sex relationships.

Ghosh frequently cross-dressed, a trait that brought him admiration, criticism, and caricaturing. He once told a newspaper: “Women can wear men’s clothes. The problem arises when men wear women’s clothes. Wearing things like earrings and necklaces has always been a part of our sartorial history and tradition.”

His strong and original views on sexuality reflected in his films, which strove to smash the perception that gay sex is all about physical relationships. “There is much more to such relationships. Same-sex relationships, too, are extremely soulful, emotional and have the same pathos that any heterosexual relationship has,” he said in an interview in 2010, after his film Aar Ekti Premer Golpo, on the life of gay Jatra actor Chapal Bhaduri, got rave reviews.

Born in August 1963 to film-loving parents (his father was a documentary filmmaker), Rituparno needed to look no further than his home to discover his calling. But the calling did take its time coming. He went to Kolkata’s South Point School and then studied economics at Jadavpur University.

It was only after a short stint in advertising that he directed his first film – Hirer Angti (The Diamond Ring), starring Moon Moon Sen. His second film Unishe April (April 19), starring Aparna Sen and Debashree Roy, won the National Award for Best Feature Film.

His ascent was at a time when the Bengali mainstream cinema was dominated by potboilers targeted at the rural audience. Contemporary new-age film makers like Suman Mukherjee (of Harbert fame) feel Ghosh re-established the role of new age film making in mainstream Bengali cinema. The commercial success of Unishe April and Dahan (1994), which saw Ghosh win the National Award for Best Screenplay, created financing options for films that was appreciated by the urban middle class.

Bariwali (The Landlady), starring Kirron Kher; Asukh (Sickness) in 1999; Titli (The Butterfly), starring Konkona Sen Sharma, Aparna Sen and Mithun Chakrabarty in 2002; and Subho Mahurat, a thriller with Raakhee Gulzar, Sharmila Tagore and Nandita Das in pivotal roles in 2003 cemented his position among the successful directors in the genre of parallel film-making.

Ghosh’s Chokher Bali (The Eye-Sore) and Raincoat (a Hindi movie-based on O’ Henry’s Gift of the Magi) both starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan saw him again win a National Award for Best Film.

Rituparno Ghosh also directed Amitabh Bachchan and Preity Zinta in his only English film The Last Lear, whichwon the National Award for Best Feature Film in English.

He hosted two celebrity chat shows — “Ebong Rituporno” and “Ghosh and Co.” He also was the scriptwriter of hit soap “Gaaner Opare” for few initial episodes.

In front of camera

Ghosh played pivotal gay roles in Kaushik Ganguly’s Arekti Premer Galpo and Sanjoy Nag’s Memories in March. His first foray into acting, however, was through an Oriya film, Katha Deithilli Ma Ku (I Promised My Mother), in 2003.


Ghosh’s last release was Chitrangada, a modern-day take on Rabindranath Tagore’s tale of the same name. The film won the special jury award at the National Film Awards.

Departing from his last few films on relationships and sexuality, Ghosh took up the ambitious work of filming the adventures of popular Bengali sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi. Titled Satyenewshi (The Truth Seeker), the film is currently in the post-production stages. Sujoy Ghosh, director of Kahaani, is playing the title role in the film.

Published on May 30, 2013
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