The first movie he made never got a theatrical release. The film, called Hirer Angti (The Diamond Ring; 1992), was subsequently praised once it aired on television. Two years later, with Unishe April, Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh shot to stardom; the film won two important National Awards – Best Film and Best Actress for Debashree Roy. His next, Dahan (1998), won Rituparna Sengupta the National Award for Best Actress, as did the one after that, Bariwali (The Lady of the House; 2000), for Kirron Kher.
Simplistically seen, it began to seem that the path to a National Award lay through a Rituparno film. The man wrote and directed 20 movies in just two decades, picking up several Indian and international awards. He initiated the new wave of intellectual Bengali cinema, and had leading artistes, even Bollywood stars, vying to work with him. So he made The Last Lear (2007) with Amitabh Bachchan, Chokher Bali (2003) with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Ajay Devgn, and Shob Charitro Kalponik (2005) with Bipasha Basu, among others.
Known to be a gentleman among his peers, he did, at times, reveal a tempestuous side to him. After a TV anchor mocked him for his effeminate mannerisms, he called for a televised interview, at the end of which he left the man embarrassed and apologetic.
The 49-year-old filmmaker was busy right till the end. Two days before his demise (on May 30), he tweeted about finishing the shoot of Satyanweshi, starring director Sujoy Ghosh as his lead actor: “Wrapped up the shoot of Satyanewshi, a crime thriller in the molten glow of the pensive falling afternoon (sic)”. Perhaps, one last National Award will still get added to the remarkable but tragically short career.
Total films made: 19 (First film Hirer Angti in 1994, last was Satyaneshi, under production, starring filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh in the lead role of Byomkesh Bakshi)
Total National Film Awards won: 12 (Of his 17 films released, 13 won National Awards in different categories, right from direction, screenplay and acting)
Pet actor: Prosenjit Chatterjee (six films)
Bollywood film actors worked with: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Rakhee Gulzar, Kirron Kher, Soha Ali Khan, Preity Zinta, Bipasha Basu, Deepti Naval, Ajay Devgn, Jackie Shroff, Arjun Rampal, R Madhavan, Mithun Chakraborty, Divya Dutta.
Industry reacts to Rituparno Ghosh’s passing away
One of my finest films is Shob Charitro Kalponik (2009). He was a great filmmaker and fun human being. Treated me like his little sister always. I’m shocked and heartbroken. One night ago was chatting so much about him. Was going to call him this week to check on him.
-Bipasha Basu, actor
Every generation needs people who are more learned than the previous. It’s a very intellectual loss for us more than anything else. There are very few people today who engage in intellectual conversations.
-Parambrata Chatterjee, actor
India has lost one of its finest filmmakers. He was an extremely sensitive director and a true artiste. I am deeply saddened by the sudden demise of this artistic director of India. His movies will be remembered always. God bless his noble soul.
-Subhash Ghai, Filmmaker
He was the finest filmmaker we had in recent times. He was so perfect from his very first film. The most incredible thing about him was his nature and his belief in the subject. The way he could handle every subject he dealt with so perfectly was unbelievable.
-Mrinal Sen, filmmaker
I am shocked and deeply saddened by this news. I just don’t believe it! May his soul rest in peace.
-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, actor
It’s a great loss to the industry, even to Indian cinema. I was the daughter he never had. He loved me and I learnt a lot from him- from what movies to watch to what books to read. He’s made me whatever I am today in my career because of Chokher Bali (2003). He was like family.
-Raima Sen, actor
I can’t express my sorrow. My first-ever National Award was from him for Dahan (1997). He even designed my wedding card. I think that this is a terrible loss to the nation. He was like a child, he would scold us, but he was also our guardian.
-Rituparna Sengupta, actor
I shared a very close bond with him. He was suffering for a long time. He was one of the warmest and most affectionate people I knew. He was well read and his writings are worth archiving. He was a flawless filmmaker but so open to any kind of criticism.
-Sandip Ray, Director
Shocked and saddened to hear of Rituparno Ghosh’s demise. It was great working with him in Raincoat (2004) and his way of looking at things was so different. That’s probably what made him a good director. He has made some great films and through them he will always be remembered.
-Ajay Devgn, actor
He was a brilliant filmmaker and a prolific writer-director. Each of his films is a masterpiece. I remember no National Award where Rituparno wasn’t there- either as a director, producer or writer or his actors were getting the awards.