The Cloud-Capped Star (1960, Ritwik Ghatak)

A family picture: Nita is our beautiful protagonist in love with Sanat, brother Montu is in college, brother Shankar (Anil Chatterjee, the goofy groom traveling with his uncle near the start of Ajantrik) sits under trees singing all day hoping to be famous, and younger sister Gita does nothing much. The family’s father is a schoolteacher, and mother sits around meanly bitching at everybody.

L-R hovering over father: Nita, Shankar, mother, doctor, Gita, Montu

Soon, Montu has failed out of school, gets a factory job and is hurt in an accident. Shankar continues to be a load on everyone, dad has to retire from disability, and while Nita is working to support her failing family, Gita steals away her man.

scheming Gita:

The strain is too much on poor Nita. Shankar is finally the famous singer he dreamed of becoming, but Nita has caught tuberculosis and dies alone in a sanatorium.

Nita: Supriya Choudhury, still acting, recently in The Namesake

Dad: Bijon Bhattacharya also played the director-surrogate character in Ghatak’s final film

Unusually gorgeous and interesting, and with unusually tolerable music for an Indian movie (and more of the pleasingly bizarre sound design that Ghatak used in Ajantrik). The filmmaking is probably a few steps up from Ajantrik, but I preferred that movie’s sadly comedic story to this one’s family misery. Wikipedia says this was the beginning of a trilogy “dealing with the aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 and the refugees coping with it.” I didn’t realize it took place in a refugee camp outside Calcutta, so might’ve missed other details.

A. Martin on a strange musical scene:

The whole of this bleak scene … is marked by breaks, ellipses, “unmotivated” camera movements, unrealistic pools and speckles of light in a painfully obscure darkness, and above all a wild sound mix that passes from ambient noise throughout song to the echoing lash of a whip that expressionistically conveys Nita’s increasingly manic despair. Every cut, every sound cue is an event in Ghatak: rather than simply “establish” a scene, he restlessly withdraws and redraws it, according to the turbulent pressure of the emotions within it.

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