Rituparno Ghosh, Maverick Indian Director, Dies at 49

Disciple of Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray found success on international film fest circuit

Rituparno Ghosh

Maverick Indian helmer Rituparno Ghosh, who had success on the international festival circuit with such pics as “Chokher bali” (A Passion Play), died May 30 in Kolkata of a heart attack. He was 49.

Ghosh drew attention with his Bengali-language films such as 1994’s “Unishe April,” 1997’s “Dahan,” “Bariwali” and “Asukh.” His stories centered on India’s urban middle class in realistic fashion.

His Aishwarya Rai starrer “Chokher bali,” based on a Rabindranath Tagore story, won acclaim in Locarno and the Chicago film festivals in 2003.

By 2004 he was making films in Hindi. Reuniting with Rai he made “Raincoat,” which was based on O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.”

Starting out in the ad biz, Ghosh made his debut with 1992’s kid pic “Hirer angti” (The Diamond Ring). A fan of another Bengali filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, he based his stories on novels from Indian and western writers. Many of his films had strong femme leads but he also worked with Bollywood stars such as Ajay Devgn and Amitabh Bachchan, who starred in “The Last Lear,” which premiered in Toronto in September.

According to a tweet he sent on May 28, he had just finished production on “Satyanweshi” (The Truth Seeker), centered around a popular Bengali fictional detective Byomkesh Bakshi.

Ghosh also acted in some of his films, such as “Chitrangada” and sometimes played a gay character. In conservative India he stood out with his cross-dressing ways, but many actresses said they felt safe with him.

Tributes poured in via Twitter on news of his death. Fellow Bengali helmer Mrinal Sen wrote, “He was truly a director with a vision. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw his first film. Even back then I knew his potential. Some of his films are just so lyrical. His creativity and contribution to cinema will be remembered forever.”

Thesp Soha Ali, who starred in his “Antarmahal,” tweeted, “He has been the vanguard for good cinema in Bengal, the link between Ray and a new school.”