The family of Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak on Tuesday objected to the use of clippings from his films in a six-minute propaganda video clip of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act. Twenty-four members of Ghatak’s family described the party’s use of the filmmaker’s work as “unacceptable”, and said that it “violates the fundamental principles he stood for”.
“To use any part of his filmography — divorced from context – to justify laws that will make every citizen of the country pass through an ordeal to re-establish their citizenship and might render millions from one particular community, Muslims, stateless is deemed unacceptable by us,” the statement said. They called for the content to be taken down immediately.
The family said that Ghatak’s cinema portrayed his deep empathy for the underprivileged sections of the society, especially those who had been displaced and marginalised due to socio-political upheavals. They strongly criticised the party’s actions that they said were “misappropriation and misuse of his politics and his cinema”. “He was secular to the bone, as everyone who knew him can attest, and his writings and cinema are proof of this,” the statement read.
Ghatak, who was a member of the Communist Party of India till he was expelled in 1955, was one of the main leaders behind the party’s cultural wing, the Indian People’s Theatre Association. Ghatak, along with Bengali filmmaker Mrinal Sen portrayed the distress of people forced to migrate to India after the Partition in 1947.
The Bengali director is renowned for his partition trilogy Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-capped Star), 1960; Komal Gandhar (E Flat), 1961; and Subarnarekha (The Golden Thread), 1962.
BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said that the video begins from the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946 – about the communal riots in West Bengal – and then comes to the present time when the Citizenship Amendment Act was enforced. “There is a concerted effort to erase the history of partition, and some people are supporting a divisive brand of politics that seeks to keep the present generation in the dark through a misinformation campaign,” he told IANS on Sunday. “These films are very relevant in the present situation.”