Rituparno saved Bengali cinema from an early and trivial death. Everyone interested in the art of movie-making, has studied his creations. Everyone attracted to the bounty of human emotions, has found his films tantalizing. While no amount of praise suffices for his incredible body of work, Ghosh’s legacy goes beyond cinema. Ghosh was an undaunted warrior for Gender Fluidity, and left an enlightened generation at the wake of his short, but phenomenal life. To a middle-class Bengal in the early Millenium, caught in the currents of tradition and globalism, Ghosh’s sexuality became a provocation, a trigger that opened the gates of understanding. This is an ode to Rituparno’s audacious sexuality.
Ghosh was a master at portraying repressed sexuality, even in the early years of his career. Rituparno’s sensitive portrayal of the female psyche superseded only his deep understanding of the same.
His Bariwali made Bengal confront its ageism, and established a middle-aged woman’s right to sexuality. His Dosar dealt with the complexity of infidelity, and gave it a lens of compassion, almost. Rituparno’s scathing commentary on abuse, in Dahan, would remain one of the sharpest films in India.
As the years progressed, and his art enchanted more people, his statements grew bolder. His movies ventured farther, and charted unprecedented frontiers in gender and sex. But, also, his appearance changed drastically. By 2008, he was not bottling his flamboyance anymore. In his androgynous avatar, complete with a shaven head, kohled eyes, and ethnic jewelry, he stood out loud and proud, on behalf of the ‘third gender’.
The more the world in general, and his industry in specific, nudged, smirked, and joked about his singularity, the more emboldened he became of his stance.
Some rue that he spent an inordinate amount of his limited time, and infinite genius, making a case for his identity. Towards the end, he dedicated almost all his work to understanding the tribulations of homosexuality. From Arekti Premer Golpo to Chitrangada, each moving tale explored facets of sexual identity, in a country steeped in homophobia. It would seem though, that it all had a deep, positive impact.
The Impact on a Society Struggling with Gender Identity
Homophobia was all around me, as I grew up. Well into my late teens, I myself considered homosexuality an aberration of nature. It didn’t help that the idea literally disgusted my immediate family. Our defense mechanism was joking about it, of course, with absolute disregard to the isolation we were further inflicting on the minority.
But, bit by bit, we changed. When Rituparno confronted Mir on his repeated jokes at the cost of the gender fluid community, we were torn. Part of us wanted to keep up the defense, and back Mir on his ‘humour’. But, we had been transformed just that tiny bit. I remember feeling a deep regard for Rituparno the day my mother watched Memories of March. She called me to tell that she possibly understood them a little better. It was a huge step forward at my household.
Rituparno dedicated his life to create a less hostile future for those who didn’t identify with the gender binary. He gave them his voice, his confidence, and his emotions. He was truly a Renaissance Champion for Bengal, and not just in the field of movie making. We remember the genius, the bold, and the beloved Rituparno on what would have been his 54th birthday. We miss you!
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