^Nagarik": Ritwik Ghatak's First Film
THE story of salvaging Nagarik (The City Dweller), the first film made by Ritwik Ghatak, is a story of the triumph of a group of technicians dedicated to the medium. The film had never been released in Ghatak's lifetime and was given up for lost. Following the discovery (after his death) of a weather-worn "positive" print, this group of technicians pieced together from it a new negative, and the film was finally released for the first time in Calcutta in August, 1977. The film seemed to have taken the Calcutta audience by surprise and it had only a week's run. This does not imply the dullness of the audience, which, after all, had set the seal of its appreciation, more than 20 years ago, on a revolutionary departure in the history of Indian film-making like Satyajit Ray's Father Panchali; it rather points to the time lag of 25 years and the difficulty of looking, with eyes trained to the sleekness of the modern film, at the technical shortcomings of an earlier film, for Nagarik was made in 1952, and thus precedes even Father Panchali. Yet, ever since its release, the film has generated a lot of discussion among film-goer^—discussion which, in its turn, might be the prelude to a better understanding of Nagarik and a correct historical assessment of its importance. One cannot rule out the possibility that, if released at an appropriate time, this film would have broken new ground in the history of Indian films. At a closer glance, one finds how Ritwik, like the great artist that he was, wielded complete control over his chosen medium in this film, and turned the existing limitations of it into a source of strength.
The film centres round a middle class family and its gradual impoverishment; they move house to a less respectable locality, and in the end, to a slum. Their sole income is the father's pension; the eldest son continues to look for a job with dogged optimism, while the daughter, who has not been trained for any vocation, languishes at home. The plight of the family to which