Portrayal of women characters in Rituparno Ghosh movies
The multidimensional portrayal of female characters to depict sensitive social, psychological and philosophical issues is the biggest draw of the Bengali movies under Rituparno Ghosh’s direction. His movies star the leading ladies of Tollywood and Bollywood. Most of his female protagonists are reflective of women in general. They rule; they dominate; they suffer; they protest; they entertain. Sometimes they are strong; sometimes they are vulnerable. Each of the women characters in Rituparno Ghosh movies is a slice of real life. However, in his soon-to-be-released Chitrangada the Crowning Wish, he himself is playing the leading role inspired by the mythological character Chitrangada in the Mahabharata. I have handpicked five movies from his directorial repertoire and focused on the female protagonists in them.
In Bariwali, Rituparno depicts the loneliness of a lady at her middle age, on the silver screen. Kiron Kher essays the role of a lonely landlady who feels blessed for the moment when she wears a red-bordered white sari and a vermillion mark on her forehead to sport the look of a married woman for a fleeting role in the shooting at her house. She preserves the bliss of the moment in the deepest of her heart until she sinks on ground with a heavy heart caused by the deletion of her role from the movie. Her loneliness and inherent desire for marital life are creatively depicted through dream sequences.
Unishe April explores the nuances of mother-daughter relationship. The plot of this National Award winning movie is a single-day event in the lives of two leading women characters – mother and daughter – played by Aparna Sen and Deboshri Roy respectively. Aparna’s character is an interface between a career woman and a struggling mother. The mental and emotional distance created by a misunderstanding between mother and daughter is bridged once the ego clash between them comes to an end.
Chokher Bali based on a literary classic by Rabindranath Tagore stars the Bollywood diva Aishwarya Rai as the protagonist Binodini – a young widow whose sexuality sparks like glowing embers but her unfulfilled sexual desires are suppressed by the then repressive social system. Binodini is an educated, refined, strong and dominating personality. The portrayal of the character’s transformation embodies the Tagore philosophy of human life that is, love is greater than sex and spirituality is greater than love. Another leading woman character is Ashalata, an embodiment of simplicity, played by Raima Sen.
In Antarmahal, Rituparno Ghosh takes a bold step to reveal the sexual exploitation of women in the confinement of four walls at a Zamindar’s household in British India. Rupa Ganguli and Soha Ali Khan play wives of a rich Zamindar who sexually exploits them to get a baby boy from them. The physical suffering and mental anguish that the women undergo in the patriarchal society are exposed through the sensitive portrayal of the leading women characters in this Bengali art house movie.
Again, two leading ladies of the Bengali entertainment industry call the shots in Dahan. Rituparna Sengupta and Indrani Halder won the Best Actress National Award for their gripping performance in the movie. How the happy world of a newly married bride turns into an unhappy one after she suffers the humiliation of being molested by roadside eve-teasers is the focus of the plot based on a real-life incident in the city of Kolkata. Indrani plays a high-minded school teacher who dares to get the miscreants behind the bars by giving witness in the court, but her voice for justice is suppressed by the iniquitous social and administrative system.