The Photojaanic Photobook Grant this year was awarded to the project – Life after Ritwik Ghatak – by the grandaunt-grandniece duo Surama Ghatak and Nabarupa Bhattacharjee. This self-published photobook shall explore the memories of 90-year old Surama Ghatak, wife of filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak. The Bengali filmmaker and scriptwriter is known for his contribution to independent cinema in India, and is considered a legend in the Indian film industry.
Nabarupa chronicles the experience of her grandaunt through old photographs and anecdotes. For her, Surama is the unsung hero, whose story she finds inspiration in. While a lot has been written on the life and work of the filmmaker (including two books by Ms. Ghatak), this photobook will be a first to present a photo based narrative about Ghatak.
As we prepare to launch the book next month, Nabarupa shares her work process and sneak peek into the project. Life after Ritwik Ghatak will be released during the International Film Festival of India (2016) in Goa.
For those who missed it earlier, read this detailed interview with the author.
Text and Images courtesy Nabarupa Bhattacharjee
In the first month we started working on the project, I moved in with Ms. Surama Ghatak or thamma (as i call her). I wanted to spend time with her in her environment. This not only gave me the opportunity to observe and photograph her life but also gave way to several amazing conversations. We spoke about life, love, marriage, society, women power and courage. Staying with her also gave me a chance to be a silent observer as I saw her go about her daily routine.
Thamma starts her day with Surya Namaskar. Her age and health are a worry for me. She is on heavy medication and requires assistance in most chores. On a regular day thamma watches television, reads several newspapers and magazine and spends time arranging files and documents of the Ritwik Memorial Trust. She generously shares old photographs, memories, anecdotes with me, that shape this book. She speaks of her late husband Ritwik Ghatak and her relationship with him, sharing insights about his thoughts and personality.
Memories are very important. They make you the person you are. My relationship with Surama Devi and her memories helped me understand Ritwik Ghatak, who i have never met. To understand Ritwik is to understand Surama, you need time and observation and a deeper understanding of human troubles.
Currently, I am spending my time scanning old photos and organizing the ones I have shot of her. She helps me decide what we should use in the book. I am surprised by how vividly she remembers things from the past, both good and difficult. I ask her so many questions that she answers with grace. I am awe-inspired by her strength and courage.
As the book nears completion we hope to present the story of a woman as commendable as her celebrated artist husband. In a way, our book narrates the story of our family as it does, of an icon of Indian cinema.