Movie Review: Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud Capped Star)

June 01, 2006
Shantanu Dutta

In the process of probing into my roots in Bengali culture, I ran into the films of Ritwik Ghatak who has come to be regarded as one of the greatest directors of Indian independent film. Satyajit Ray considered his rendering of powerful images virtually unsurpassed in Indian cinema.

With its spare script, audacious expressionist soundtrack and startling cinematic elegance, Meghe Dhaka Tara is undoubtedly a modern masterpiece — infinitely compassionate while remaining resolutely unsentimental. Meghe Dhaka Tara, is part of the trilogy that Ghatak made on the socio-political impacts of partition. The visionary Bengali filmmaker peers into the future, and sees nothing but disintegration - succeeding at multiple levels. Meghe Dhaka Tara humanizes this bleak vision by locating the drama in a Bengali family, but everything occurring is something of a howl of outrage at what had become of his divided homeland.

The film is a gripping portrayal of Nita, a daughter from a middle-class refugee family who sacrifices everything to keep her family afloat. The film delves into Nita's life, the lives of her family and of those in exile, scarred and scattered by the 1947 partition of India. Ghatak's experimental style manifests the deep tensions weighing on his characters from various directions.

I saw the film late at night. Before watching the movie I knew that it was going to be an emotional drama and I might require a handkerchief or two. His movies are sentimental, sad and melodramatic at times. Ghatak, who is said to have developed his own style of cinema, saw very little commercial success and little critical acclaim in his life time. He died of tuberculosis and alcoholism. This was one of his few commercial successes and is considered one of his best works.

Although the film has a huge emotional impact, it never employs any cheap tricks to drain emotions. It is a film that manages to say things more subtly than a typical melodrama usually does. In portraying the plight on our heroine, this movie makes a strong statement - that every one wants to live or to simply survive.

In the reverberating penultimate scene, Nita cries out "I want to live..." and the shot moves to the stills of empty mountains, hills and roads giving us a deep feeling that nobody is listening, and probably because they too want to 'just' live and are busy with it. Nita, the breadwinner, was denied its gendered privileges and became the victim at the sacrificial altar of the displaced family. Nita's famous cry that resounds on the hills at the end of the film is the most living indictment of the Bengal partition which has received relatively little attention in history compared to the Punjab partition.

This scene and the whole movie seems to speak volumes about our tiny existence in this big world. Meghe Dhaka Tara works as a sad ballad, brooding with emotions and melancholy. Although the film comes with English subtitles, only people familiar with the Bengali language will be privy to the simplicity and beauty of the original title and its relevance to the film.

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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Movie Review: Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud Capped Star)


Author: Shantanu Dutta


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June 1, 2006
01:42 PM

melodramatic simplicity, melodramatic innocence - a lot of Bengali movies is about that ...

I think today Bengali movies need more realism, world-weariness, and cynicism - there is a simplicity, and naturalness to that...

I haven't seen this movie, but to me it seem Bengali movies are rehashing the same melodrama over and over again.

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