A lecture about form and history in the work of the Indian avant-garde filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Memory
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Temple Film and Media Arts, Penn Cinema and Media Studies Program


Nora Alter

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce Punctuations, a lecture by scholar and filmmaker Moinak Biswas about form and history in the work of the Indian avant-garde filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 from 5:30-7pm. This event is free and open to the public, and has been organized in partnership with Temple Film and Media Arts and the Cinema and Media Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

A maverick and enigmatic filmmaker, Ritwik Ghatak (1925-76) is the most celebrated auteur of Partition narratives in India. In his work, he set out to create a cinema that could speak to a predicament that continues to this day – the loss of home and homeland. The partition of India in 1947 formed the immediate backdrop; but he was looking for means to develop its experience into a general symptom of homelessness. He tried to work out a form that could capture the unfolding of ordinary lives in the wake of 1947, and also figure the epochal resonance of that process. Ghatak is best known for his Partition trilogy, Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud-capped star) (1960), Komal Gaandhar (E-Flat) (1961), and Subarnarekha (1962) where themes of displacement, alienation, trauma, and despair dominate. Eschewing conventional aesthetic discipline and borrowing eclectically from Sanskrit literary texts and Marxist filmmaking techniques (from Tagore and from Shakespeare), Ghatak is able to emerge with a highly expressive and individualist style replete with anachronistic allusions and incomplete allegories.

Biswas, a professor in the Department of Film Studies (Jadavpur University, Calcutta), will look closely at Ghatak's film Subarnarekha (The Golden Line, 1962) and its logic of narrative transition. Ghatak drew from English Chronicle plays in structuring the film. The abundance of coincidences, which alienated his already unsympathetic critics, is itself treated as a theme in the film. As it tells the story of a refugee family moving into new settlements Subarnarekha adopts a seemingly simple technique of indicating the passage of time, but these transitions appear to be making secret connections across time and consciousness.

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Moinak Biswas is Professor of Film Studies at Jadavpur University, Calcutta. He has taught in the Department, the first of its kind in South Asia, since its inception in 1993. He is also the initiator of the Media Lab, a centre for experiments in digital forms, at Jadavpur. He writes on Indian cinema and culture in Bengali and English, and has contributed in many anthologies and journals. Among his publications are Apu and After, Revisiting Ray's Cinema (2005), and Ujan gang baiya (1990, 2018).

He edits the Journal of the Moving Image and was one of the founding editors of BioScope, South Asian Screen Studies. He has written and co-directed the award-winning Bengali feature film Sthaniya Sambaad (2010), and has recently created the video installation Across the Burning Track, commissioned for the 11th Shanghai Biennale, 2016.