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Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud Capped Star, 1960) is a cult film among serious film buffs, and some film lovers and critics praise it so highly so as to put it among the ‘top 10 films in World Cinema.’ Do I agree? At the outset let me state that I think I haven’t ever seen a film as bleak as this. Based on a story by Shaktipada Rajguru, the film traces the post-partition plight on a family and the exploitation of Nita, an earning woman with a large number of dependent family members. Her sacrifices eventually lead to a tragic ending. I am eschewing a detailed storyline which can be found in several reviews on the film.

Technically, the film is rich and uses interesting interplay of light and shadow, innovative sound (especially ‘when Nita descends the staircase’ sequence), symbolism (the last shot where a girl similar to Nita fixes her broken slippers and walks away, the recurring motif of a passing train signifying the division between the two Bengals), inventive shots (Nita’s face appearing in a latticed window, Nita viewing through the window when her lover comes to their house etc.) and quite a few others.  There is plentiful of music as well, Rabindrasangeet and Indian Classical music, used to good effect.

I have some issues with the storyline as well. How come Nita’s elder brother Sankar (Anil Chaterji), penniless when he left the house, suddenly become financially stable, so as to be able to sponsor a trip to the hill station for both of them. The time span appeared to be short between the two events. We have heard countless stories of how hard it is to make one successful in a big, mean city like Mumbai from where Sankar returns.
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The actors perform credibly. Supriya Choudhury as Nita gives a soul stirring performance. Anil Chaterji as Sankar is terrific. Others in the cast viz., Niranjan Roy, Gita Dey, Bijon Bhattacharyya, Gyanesh Mukherjee and others are competent. The film does exhibit flashes of a genius at work, but for his pessimism and overt melodrama, Ghatak never figured in my favorite’s list.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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