The unrestrained taleteller , A candid confessor cruelly parodied as ‘Ritu-Porno’
Real and natural. Are they interchangeable and identical? Are they antagonistic?
In the modern communication landscape which could be coined as the ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) age, information overload is an ordeal. The role of media is agenda setting and the extensive use of a particular language and images frame a topic or gives subtle hints and clues as to how we are ‘meant’ to interpret information according to our culture. Ideologies are part of the assumptions that we make out of our communication practices and behaviours. Mass Media – it reinforces the dominant ideologies of a society but must also leave enough room for new ideologies to come in and challenge that dominant hegemony.
Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding theory proposed that the creator must place an idea or event or experience in a format that will be meaningful for audiences. Audiences will then interpret the messages from the creator with their own contexts and cognitive information depending on an individual’s cultural background, economic standing, and personal experiences.
Writing about something that has been a reason of controversy, and about someone that has always been the cynosure of curiosity & caricature is always a daunting task. It draws sniggers from people and embraces critical comments.
Satyajit Ray had passed away in 1992, leaving behind him a vacuum which seemed difficult to fill. The Bengali bourgeois audience, unable to relate to the films being made after him, which lacked originality, turned away from the theatres to the small screen. Rituparno Ghosh arrived at a time when Bengali cinema was going through a tough phase. His life choices were open to challenges and were non-negotiable. The Iconoclast made us comfortable with the uncomfortable by portraying all that we refuse to acknowledge in the society. His loyal ‘madhyobitto‘ (middle class) fans started to question his work and denounced it as his personal agenda against the society.
Dick Hebdige, a British sociologist built a model from Hall’s idea of Subculture. In his influential book Subculture: The Meaning of Style, he argues that younger generations are challenging dominant ideologies by developing distinct styles and practices that manifest their separate identity, and subversions. Rituparno was the torchbearer. He had taken an oath to challenge the status quo and question the conventional school of thought, break the stereotypes.
He gave a new lease of life to cinema, is that disagreeable? Rituparno Ghosh will be remembered for giving the alternative a chance. He was born to blur the boundary that same sex desires are naturally normal. Why exchange glares and share whispers about it? Social stigmas that were largely left unspoken were suddenly brought into the middle class domain for discussion and dissection.
In the development communication models, Dominant Paradigm always glorified the powered. It was the Alternative Paradigm on the other hand that spoke for the marginalized, the unheard voices, empathizing with them, prioritizing their needs and wants.
In a society, certain behaviors are considered acceptable, others are strongly opposed. That which does not conform to the norms and principles of the mass, that which does not fit their scheme of things is always condemned. It became so difficult for him to heave a sigh of relief seeing the footfall at the multiplexes after Chitraganda released. A film that was accepted internationally with recognition from abroad, that roots from our motherland was denied of its transparency here in its homeland, a battleground.A constant battleground for Ritu fighting with audience’s beliefs, expectations, inhibitions, ideologies & misconceptions.
Despite uniformity in comprehension of his films, evaluation with each of us was different. The same aambangali that supported his artistic expression, talent in film making, fetched him a couple of national awards in Unishe April, Dahan, Asukh, Utsav, couldn’t accept his sexual orientation. Ghosh was deserted by his audience and he faced a double cross from them. He felt the pulse of the audience that turned their back towards him during Chitrangada, Antarmahal, Arekti Premer Golpo. The tragedy is Calcutta couldn’t value him. It was difficult for people to accept him and even impossible to ignore.
This was because the dominant image pattern that has been accepted by people and cultivated since ages was difficult to break. People used selective reception, perception and retention every time a Rituparno Ghosh film was screened. Cognitive dissonance stemmed from the mass, the moment status quo was challenged.
In his creations, Spiral of Silence got liberated with the alternative gender coming to the mainstream. This is also culture, no matter how radical and revolutionary yet significant. Minority is also a fraction, a number of some value. Humanity is one religion above all. How can someone’s gender define and typecast his/her identity, traits, beliefs, ideologies?
Is this a society? Is this an age old custom to discriminate others? Is this a culture where we don’t accept others differences, unique viewpoints? Tolerance is essential for harmony.
Don’t we see Hollywood movies that speak volumes on such themes? Where do our orthodox attitudes go then? LGBT-themed films have won the industry’s highest honor: Oscar. There has been enough support during the Moonlight’s historic win at the Academy Awards. We are somewhere shocked to find a Bong making such an audacious attempt probably.
Calcuttans’ decisions and choices are ever wavering, their stances keep oscillating. ‘Loke ki bolbe?’ (scared of consequences) and ‘Loke ja korbe tai korbo’ (blindfoldedly following the majority) syndrome is what we suffer from.Why do we fear to beg and differ?
He was the first in India to host a gay pride parade, attended by 15 people, back in 1991. He was a visionary who came out as gay in the early 2000s and used the media for conversations on LGBTQ experiences and rights which gained momentum when Section 377 of IPC got decriminalized recently. Rituparno Ghosh celebrated his gender-fluidity. He was the FIRST PERSON in many of LGBTQ’s lives.
He wanted empathy and we ended up being sympathetic to the loner. We did gift him pain and solitude every time he was made an object of ridicule thus disrespecting a man of such high intellect and creative bent of mind.
The alternative gender will be considered mainstream and united with all.
This Ritu-poriborton proborton is still a dream for Ritu himself that he wanted to see in the society. Yes, it is indeed a long lost, distant and unfulfilled dream that woke him up to the reality every morning telling him ‘Bonomali tumi poro jonome hoyo radha’…
He once told a newspaper: “Women can wear men’s clothes. The problem arises when men wear women’s clothes.”
A MAN comes from a woMAN. A MAN is born from a WOMAN. Can we beat that???
Finally, this goes out from one Ghosh to the other.
You are the void which I can feel….You are the void which no one can fill!
You were REAL, You were NATURAL, You were ‘YOU’. I miss you !
Ambika Ghosh: Currently pursuing Post Graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication with a specialization on Media, Society and Culture from Jadavpur University. FM Presenter with All India Radio, Kolkata. An empanelled anchor of Doordarshan Kendra, Kolkata. A student of Dakshinee.
Pictures: Hoichoi tv, Researchgate.com, Indiaware