Indian Filmmaker and Gay Icon Rituparno Ghosh's Death Stuns Fans

Gifted Indian film director, Rituparno Ghosh, winner of many national as well as international awards, died in his sleep due to a massive cardiac arrest on Thursday morning, May 30, 2013.

Known for his masterly storytelling and sensitive portrayal of human relationships, Rituparno was equally known for the bold flamboyance with which he celebrated his alternate sexuality and gender choice, be it in the way he dressed, or, of late, the stories he told in his films and even the characters he portrayed in a handful of films in which he appeared as an actor.

His sudden death has shocked not only the Indian film fraternity but also cinema enthusiasts as well as members of the LGBT community who saw in Ghosh an activist/icon championing their cause. Later in the day, Ghosh was cremated with full state honors in his home city, Kolkata.

Rituparno Ghosh (August 31, 1963 – May 30, 2013) Image by CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The suddenness of his death hit hard. Just two days prior to his death, the 49-year-old director (@rituparnoghosh) had tweeted that he had wrapped up the shooting of his much-awaited, latest Bangla film, a crime thriller based on a popular Bengali detective series. He wrote:

@rituparnoghosh: Wrapped up the shoot of Satyanewshi, a crime thriller in the molten glow of the pensive falling afternoon.

Social media was abuzz with feelings of sadness and disbelief at Rituparno's death, with people discussing his life and works and also ruing the fact that many stories would now remain untold because of his untimely death.

A self-confessed “cinemaniac’, blogger twopull penned a detailed, reflective post on the filmmaker and his art on his blog Breathe – Ramblings of a Lazy Bong. Describing the impact Ghosh's cinema has had on him, twopull wrote:

 I am not a film director, or an actor or a cinema worker. I never knew him personally.  I cannot feel him as a co-director as a teacher or an object of criticism. I cannot remember him with the intimacy of a friend… I feel him through his cinema. His cinema which has been talking to me for the last two decades of my growing up and growing old to this threshold of middle age.  Educating me and reminding me of the human condition. Not through complex pedagogy. But simple straight forward yet touching, subtle and intimate vignettes.

Film critic and columnist Raja Sen, blogged about his recent meeting with the film maker and his impressions of the craftsman that Ghosh was. On his personal blog, Sen City, he wrote:

Over the last twenty years, Ghosh has been an incredibly important Indian filmmaker, a sensitive craftsman who did not allow his perfectionism to stand in the way of his dizzyingly prolific output. There are many films  — and we all have our favourites — but what characterises Ghosh’s filmography, in my opinion, is a certain tenderness to the whole. It was as if he genuinely loved the characters he peopled his films with, and dealt with them fraternally, maternally, and like close friends. Just because a minor character was a plot contrivance doesn’t mean they could be brushed aside. They mattered to RituDa, and especially in several silent bits of his films, this fondness clearly shows.

And when not silent, the words crackled.

Blogger Debolina Raja Gupta felt that Ghosh's untimely death was “a sad day not only for Indian cinema, but for the entire cinema loving world”. She blogged:

He has always been and shall remain my favourite director, and yes, I was one among those many who would be looking forward to what's coming new from his magical vision. Rest In Peace.

Popular quiz master Derek O'Brien, who is also a member of parliament from Bengal, recalled how Rituparno had started his career in advertising before moving on to pursue his passion – film making. Describing the person himself, Derek wrote on his personal blog:

A brave, courageous man, willing to defy orthodoxy, Rituparno was comfortable with his personal choices and his sexuality. He grew particularly close to my wife and camaraderie blossomed. Many evenings were spent discussing movies, advertising, the Bengali milieu, the gay movement, the economics of culture. Every time, Rituparno was the life of the adda.

Comments and condolences also poured in from the LGBT community. On Gaysi, the Gay Desi Blog, blogger Chicklet reminisced how Rituparno influenced the dialogue on homosexuality through his portrayals of gender fluidity in his films. Chicklet wrote:

His works have made people think anew about homosexuality. They haven’t been about sex, but the heart & the mind.

Rituparno’s reputation among his peers was ironclad. He was not only sensitive, liberal, fluid, and well respected, but mysterious. He loved wearing kajal in his eyes. He could adorn jewellery over a kurta, & attend a social do better than anyone I know. He was a true hero. He was out there. He accepted his femininity with grace. He considered himself privileged because of his gender fluidity; the fact that he was in between. He didn’t associate himself with any gender. I think he left us all with a voice!

He shall remain in our memories forever; his masterpieces a reminder of what we had or what we lost.

Twitter was flooded with messages. making Bengal trend through the day. Some of the Bengali cinegoers confessed that at a time when they had lost interest in Bangla cinema, given it's eroding quality and sensibilities, Rituparno came as a breath of fresh air and brought back cinema lovers to the movie halls:

@oindrila_007 (Oindrila Nag): His films were the reasons I started watching Bangla films all over again.Can't get over the fact that he is no more. R.I.P Rituparno Ghosh.

Tweets also showed that Rituparno's appeal, though a large number of his films were made in Bangla (only a few were made in Hindi/English), was not limited to regional Bangla cinema goers but that his stories had a pan-India appeal.

@devrup16das (Devrup Das): 12 NATIONAL AWARDS at just an age of 49!NOT a JOKE!!what a genius…R.I.P RITUPARNO GHOSH

@PKambey (Pratap Kambey): Rituparno Ghosh was one of greatest director in our country,not only Bengal.We miss him so so much…

@shaneem (M Shaneem): Raincoat remains the only film of Rituparno Gosh I've seen..And what a soulful experience it was..

RIP Rituparno Ghosh. You died too young, leaving so many stories untold.

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