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Upperstall Review


Meghe Dhaka Tara


Bengali, Drama, 1960, 134 min

Neeta (Supriya Chowdhury) is the breadwinner in a refugee family of five. Her elder brother, Shankar (Anil Chatterjee) aspires to be a classical singer. Neeta postpones her marriage to the scientist Sanat (Niranjan Roy) to support the family and pay for her younger brother's and sister's studies. The father and younger brother both suffer accidents forcing Neeta to remain the sole breadwinner of the family in spite of her worsening tuberculosis. Her mother encourages Sanat to marry the younger sister Gita (Gita Ghatak). Finally, Shankar having realized his ambition , takes her to the hills for treatment. There terminally ill, having sacrificed her best years, Neeta cries out into the silence of the mountains her desire to live....

Meghe Dhaka Tara is perhaps Ritwik Ghatak's greatest and most complete film, the first in a trilogy examining the socio-economic implications of partition, the other two being Komal Ghandhar (1961) and Subarnarekha (1965).

Complexities notwithstanding, Meghe Dhaka Tara reaches out to the audience with its directness, its simplicity, and its unique stylistic use of melodrama. Melodrama as a legitimate dramatic form has continued to play a vital role in rural Indian theatre and folk dramatic forms. Ghatak goes back to these roots in his presentation of a familiar struggle for survival, which has lost its dramatic force and pathos through repetition in real life. In Meghe Dhaka Tara, day-to-day events transform into high drama: Neeta's tormented romance is intensified with the harsh sweep of the whiplash on the soundtrack; Shankar's song of faith in a moment of despair reaches the height of emotional surrender with Neeta's voice joining his and Neeta's urge to live becomes a universal sound of affirmation reverberating in Nature, amidst the distant peaks of the Himalayas.

For the discerning critic, however, Meghe Dhaka Tara provided unique intellectual stimulation. To quote filmmaker and critic Kumar Shahani...

"The triangular division, taken from Tantrik abstraction, is the key to the understanding of this complex film. The inverted triangle represents in the Indian tradition, fertility and the femininity principle. The breaking up of society is visualized as a three-way division of womanhood. The three principal women characters embody the traditional aspects of feminine power. The heroine, Neeta, has the preserving and nurturing quality; her sister, Gita, is the sensual woman; their mother represents the cruel aspect. The incapacity of Nita to combine and contain all these qualities... is the source of her tragedy. This split is also reflected in Indian society's inability to combine responsibility with necessary violence to build for itself a real future. The middle-class is also seen in triangular formation, at the unsteady apex of the inverted form."

In Meghe Dhaka Tara, Ghatak tries to delve deep into our roots and traditions and discover a universal dimension within it. And for the first time, he says he experimented with the techniques of overtones. In the film, Ghatak succeeds in achieving a grand totality through an intricate but harmonious blending of each part with the whole in the inner fabric of the film. Meghe Dhaka Tara transcends into a great work of art that enriches and transforms the visual images into metamorphical significations...

The music in the film perfectly intermingles with the visuals, none dislodging the other be it a remarkable orchestration of a hill motif with a female moaning or a staccato cough with a surging song.

Lastly, the film is greatly helped by an absolutely stunning performance by Bengali Filmstar Supriya Choudhury as Neeta. Meghe Dhaka Tara is one of the rare instances when she was successfully able to break her star image and cover new ground as a performer. In the end as she cries out "I want to live", one cannot helped but be totally overcome by emotion. It is one of the greatest and most unforgettable moments in the history of Indian Cinema...

Upperstall review by: Karan Bali aka TheThirdMan

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