I stay up late at night and a few days ago, while surfing channels, I came across Rituparno Ghosh's Shubho Mahurat. As someone who grew up on Agatha Christie, this film remains somewhat close to my heart, more so for Rakhi's flawless portrayal of Ranga Pishima (the character was modelled on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple). Shubho Mahurat is a thriller, a genre less tried by Ghosh. However, it has the trademark Ghosh style of storytelling all over it. As the story progressed, it turns more into a relationship drama than a murder mystery.
It's been two years that Ghosh has passed away (May 30, 2013). He was only 49. But his works, which will be alive forever, will continue to inspire generation of filmmakers. Even his contemporaries grieve his untimely demise.
Ghosh's film were largely shot indoors, dealt with the undercurrents of relationships and relied heavily on dialogues. Be it the Aiswarya Rai-Ajay Devgn discourse inside a room in Raincoat, the superstitions of a rich and oppressive zamindar in Antarmahal, the inner turmoil in Kaberi's life after she comes to know of her husband's extramarital affair after he is bedridden or the mother and daughter falling for the same man in Titli, Ghosh has always handed the complications of a relationship in the most delicate way. For National Award-winning filmmaker Srijit Mukherji, Ghosh remains a perennial source of inspiration. "Occasionally, I used to complain to Ritu da that he makes interior-driven films. I kept urging him to make grittier films and stressed that he go outdoors to shoot a film. Imagine two people sitting inside a dim-lit room and exchanging words in a film. Only Ritu da could write a screenplay with dialogues, which could make the audience sit for two hours in the theatre and watch a chamber drama. Such was his talent," says the Nirbaak filmmaker.
Filmmaker Sudeshna Roy, who has assisted Ghosh on several films, says, "Ritu had the strange ability of casting the right people in his films. It was quite unusual when he decided to cast Rabindra Sangeet exponent Suchitra Mitra as Jhinuk's grandmother in Dahan (1997). But Ritu had an eye for detail. It was a same when he cast Rakhi as Ranga Pishima in Shubho Mahurat. Having worked with him, I know relationships were always a priority to him."
Sanjoy Nag, who was the associate director for Ghosh's award winning film, Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish, and later directed Ghosh in the National Award-winning English film, Memories in March, in 2010, recalls that the filmmaker's strength was his dialogues. "He had complete control over the dialogues. He also liked to control his space and hence he liked shooting indoor scenes more and ended up making more chamber dramas. He also had an ear for music and experimented with it in his films," he reminisces.
Filmmaker Mainak Bhaumik, who was the editor of Ar Ekti Premer Galpo (2010), which marked Ghosh's debut as an actor, informs how well-read the filmmaker was. "Ritu da was extremely observant, excessively well-read and watched all kinds of cinema. He always used to tell me that sitting in Kolkata, it's not possible to make a gangster film. It's not something that goes with the Bengali milieu. Bengali society is about interesting people be it the milkman, the maidservant, the cranky baby or the next-door neighbour. Since he was dealing with these people in real life, his cinema too reflected those relationships," says Bhaumik.