Reading Ritwik Ghatak’s Ajantrik (The Pathetic Fallacy) 1958.

3rd & 4th September 2022; 14:30 to 18:30 IST_ ONLINE.

What might be the relevance of studying a relatively unknown and unseen film made by Indian master Ritwik Ghatak, his first masterpiece Ajantrik (The Pathetic Fallacy, 1958), almost six and half decades later? Beyond historical curiosity, the study of this film may reveal that possibly this first work of cinematic modernism in India, provided possibilities of unique configurations of life and experience beyond familiar circles of family, community or thin relations to reality. At the same time that approach of modernism and subjectivity explored in the film is not a borrowed notion from the high modernism of Europe.

Positing a completely novel take on the human-machine relationship, this film draws upon unanticipated resources from the sense of truth of life-processes sustained by ancient dwellers in this land from deep past, suggesting a possibility of non-teleological assemblage of life-attitudes and temporalities constituting the reality specific to India. The search for this unprecedented idea of cinema gets duly transposed into the very formal queries of the film.

Though known and hailed among film academics and practitioners, the relative anonymity of this film within the memory of average cinema lovers in the country, suggests that possibly we have missed a chance both in deciding the course of post-colonial India and also a path of creative adventure in cinematic modernism in the specific yet complex context of India. The film Ajantrik remains as a glaring sign of that missed crossroad.

Debkamal Ganguly will read Ghatak’s Ajantrik coming weekend 3rd & 4th September_Online as a part of a month long course on Ghatak’s Cinema of Rupture & Epic Imagination.

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