RIVER CALLED TITAS (TITASH EKTI NADIR NAAM)
(director/writer: Ritwik Ghatak; screenwriter: based on
the novel by
Advaita Malo Barman; cinematographer: Baby Islam; editor:
Bahadur Khan; cast: Rosy Samad (Basanti), Rajar Jhi
Prabir Mitra (Kishore),
Rani Sarkar (Mungli),
Islam (Magan Sardar);
Runtime: 151; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Habibur Rahman Khan;
BFI; 1973-India-in Bengali with English subtitles)
"Laments a dying culture."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
"A River Called Titus" is based on the autobiographical novel by Advaita Malla Barman and adapted by Indian director Ritwik Ghatak ("The Cloud-Capped Star"/"The Golden Thread"/"Ajantrik"). It's the great East Bengali filmmaker's penultimate film. It tells in documentary style of the hard life of a tiny fishing village, in the 1930s, in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), as it laments a dying culture. A non-professional cast is employed, and they bring a sense of realism.
It opens with a traditional
folk singer (Dheeraj Uddin Fakir) serenading us about
the powers of the Titas River in East Bengal. At a poor traditional
fishing village near the Titas river, a girl named
Basanti prepares with her strident mother for the
Maghmandal ritual to celebrate the coming of winter
and her passage to maturity as her two rival lover
friends, Kishore and
Subol, compete for her affection by building a leaf
boat in her honor before joining an uncle to embark on
their first extended fishing expedition to the village
of Ujaninajar. However, fate intercedes when, years later,
Kishore (Prabir Mitra), while staying at a distant
village to fish, rescues a beautiful young woman named
Rajar Jhi (Kabari Choudhury) during a tribal fight and
ends up marrying her after persuaded by the tribal
elder, who wants to forge closer economic and social
ties between their communities. The union is
short-lived because bandits board their boat en route
home and Rajar
Jhi escapes to be rescued by a nearby fishing village.
Rajar remains there for ten years and has Kishore's son Ananda.
the one chosen to marry Basanti (Rosy Samad), becomes so
overcome with grief that he becomes a madman upon his
return to his native village. Thereby an arranged
marriage between Basanti and Subol is consummated but
tragically ends in a fishing accident for the groom
one-day after his marriage.
The villagers' pattern of
poverty, despair, and tragedy keeps them from
improving their lot in life. Meanwhile Rajar Jhi
returns to Kishore's village with her son and is
befriended by the lonely and embittered star-crossed
Basanti. Choosing to live with her madman husband, the
innocents are both beaten to death by ignorant
adopts the child, but pressures from her mother and
relatives force her to kick Rajar Jhi' child out, who flees to
the city to survive. When the river dries up and
money-lenders take advantage of the ignorant fishing
community and cause the destruction of the village,
only a starving Basanti remains behind and dies with a
smile on her face when she envisions a child running
through the fields playing a whistle and realizes even
if everything once valued is gone--life goes on.
It's a passionate film made with great conviction, that features a marriage ceremony with the only sounds heard being the bride's heavy breathing. The pic is filled with traditional music, tribal customs, an abduction, a murder, a suicide, an insanity and starvation. In the end, it signals the demise of a long-standing culture because of various reasons, such as the inability to change with the times, the fractured nature of the village and their inability to deal with outside forces like money-lender schemers. It's a haunting and unforgettable film about the joys, anguish and rage of a community that was unable to survive. Ghatak clearly uses the story as a tragic analogy of what happened to the Bengali people as a result of the Partition of Bengal between British India and Pakistan in 1947.
REVIEWED ON 8/16/2011 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ