The Cloud-Capped Star 1960


Drama / Musical

IMDb Rating 7.9


"Meghe Dhaka Tara" tells the tragic story of the beautiful daughter of a middle-class refugee family from East Pakistan, living in the outskirts of Calcutta under modest circumstances. Neeta sacrifices everything for her family, including her personal happiness, her money, and her health, while her achievements are hardly ever recognized by the people around her.

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by davidals 10 / 10

A sprawling Bengali masterpiece

The visionary Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak peers into the future, and sees nothing but disintegration - succeeding at multiple levels, CLOUD-CAPPED STAR humanizes this bleak vision, by locating the drama in a Bengali family, but everything occurring is something of a howl of outrage at what had become of his divided homeland.

The central figure in this sprawling melodrama (with some coincidental resemblances to European new wave and neo-realism) is Nita, the eldest daughter in a once-middle class, intellectual family, driven by partition into refugee status in the slums of Calcutta. Varied family members react in different opportunistic ways to their reduced status, and their need to survive, all of which takes an extreme toll on Nita, who ultimately becomes the family's sole breadwinner. The performances throughout are excellent - Supriya Choudhury as Nita is riveting, and Niranjan Roy is particularly strong as Sanat.

Throughout, Ghatak boils human nature and the survival instinct down to the most ruthless basics: this is a compelling and visionary film, but there is virtually no room for lofty ideals or sentimental altruism in the world created here - mourn what one must, and do what one must do to survive. Sentiment and ideals are - in this film - luxuries, and from the cruelty of such a truism, Ghatak has created one of cinema's great, vital tragedies.

Ghatak claimed few Western cinematic influences - like Jean-Luc Godard in France and Nagisa Oshima in Japan, his primary concerns were historical and political, and also technical - how to alter cinema to express those concerns in accessible language? For Ghatak the solution was found in using outdoor locations, natural sound, idiosyncratic editing, and a minimum of the flash seen in Bollywood or Hollywood - CLOUD-CAPPED STAR is bleak, absolutely gripping, tragic and infuriating. As drama, it would definitely rank as one of the more obscure global masterpieces out there (there has yet to be an official US release on VHS or DVD), rarely seen or commented upon. This is highly unfortunate - as a film of moral/social outrage, this rivals Bresson; its' overall feel for the everyday reminds one of Italian neo-realism; it's willingness to experiment boldly evokes Godard or Oshima; in it's concerns with the status of women (another of the many themes explored here), it evokes Naruse, Sirk or Mizoguchi.

Ghatak's own biography is one of great tragedy; one could possibly read the discretely enraged hopelessness of this film as an extension of his own, and see this as a drive that would have to produce at least one masterpiece (his later SUBARNA-REKHA is also very much worth a look), even as it brought him to a premature end. For all of its' bleakness, CLOUD-CAPPED STAR is absolutely compelling - any cinephile (or student of history) would do well to see it.

Reviewed by howard.schumann 8 / 10

Raw passion and compelling characters

The independence of India in August 1947 resulted in the partition of Bengal, a trauma etched in the minds of the people whose lives were changed forever. Nowhere is this upheaval better portrayed than in the films of Bengali director Ritwik Ghatak. An active Marxist who began his career in the Communist People's Theater, Ghatak's films never achieved widespread popularity but he is now considered to be one of the top Indian directors of the last half of the 20th century. His best known film, The Cloud-Capped Star, the first in a trilogy examining the economic effects of partition, is a powerful story about a young Indian women who sacrifices her education and marriage in order to hold her family together. Ghatak's inspiration for the character was a woman he saw at a bus stop whose beaten down appearance struck him as being typical of Bengali refugees.

Neeta (Supriya Choudhury) is the youngest daughter of a refugee family from East Pakistan who lives in a middle class home near Calcutta. Neeta is a college student whose brother Shankar (Anil Chaterjee) is a layabout, an aspiring singer who lives off the family while practicing his art and dreaming of a career on the concert stage. Neeta believes in her brother and loves him deeply but has to constantly fend off the complaints of both parents about his laziness. Neeta also has an attractive sister Gita (Gita Ghatak) and a brother Mantu (Dwiju Bhawal) who is also a promising student.

When her father (Bijon Battacharya) has a serious accident, Neeta is forced to give up her studies and find a job and Mantu gives up school to work in a factory. The father is dismayed by a world that no longer has a place for poetry or idealism and falls into a state of hopelessness. Neeta is a good-hearted young woman, but one who fails to consider her own needs and puts off plans for marriage with Sanat (Niranjan Ray), an intellectual studying for a Phd. Sanat, unwilling to wait for her, becomes infatuated with Neeta's sister Gita and they marry to Neeta's dismay. Even though Shankar eventually finds success in Bombay, Neeta's strain in having to hold the family together leads to serious illness and the family's burdens only increase.

The Cloud-Capped Star is an angry film and often bleak, but sudden bursts of sitar music and joyous singing by Shankar lighten the tone. Although the film can be overly melodramatic and unevenly acted, it contains an overriding humanism that is reminiscent of Satyajit Ray and the neo-realist films of the 40s and 50s. Ghatak's raw passion and compelling characters make it easy to overlook its flaws and the result is a tribute to the human spirit and a deeper understanding of the tragedy that partition brought to India.

Reviewed by sourish-chanda 10 / 10

Review #1

If I have to chose one movie in my life then it would be this. Ultimate cinematic experience would be an under statement as it is more than that. I can think of Ritwik as the Indian answer to Stanley Kubrick. Meghey Dhaka Tara is like Clockwork Orange made by an equally eccentric and obscure genius, whose impact is appreciated much after his death. The contrast is, unlike Kubrick, very few people know about him as the rating shows here where as, it should have been in the cannon of every cinephile around the world. It is the responsibility of those few of us who have watched it, to spread it. I would like to spend some time here discussing what is so special about the movie.

First of all it is a movie that celebrates beauty. The beauty of nature as captured by some of the breath taking shots of trees that I have ever seen in a movie, the beauty in the affection between the brother and sister eating together side by side, or the face of Neeta gleaming under the sun when Sanat arrives or the beauty captured in Neeta's sister in front of the mirror. It also portrays the beauty in people's mind through many side characters like the compassion of the strict shop keeper. Yet, this beauty both in natural and in human spirit is in sharp contrast with the abject poverty and the bleak refugee colony. Nature plays an intricate role in many of his cinemas like Ajantrik and it often highlights the character and gives it also a context, done in the most effective and subtle way.

The second quality of this movie is the usage of classical music so deliberately for mood change. It reminds me of Kubrick. But here it is done in an much more open fashion. It creates a sense of happiness (read beauty) and often there is a sudden inflection or a discontinuity as if to remind the audience the harsh reality. (there is also a piece of great folk song as well).

The third quality of the movie is it's simplicity and honesty to the subject. Here the movie almost attained the quality of a real documentary. The effect of partition on the Bengali people have never been captured so authentically as been done here, the characters so identifiable, the story so representative and the settings so familiar.

The fourth and true to the identity of the genre it belongs to, this movie is a cinematographic excellence. If Kubrick is fascinated with back-motion and checkered pattern, then Ritwik has his play with frames and off center photography. Here each frame tells more than one story and a face is never complete with the surroundings and is part of it, not the center of it. Also there are other aspects of it like there are meaning to be understood by relating the context and what been showed, something Satyajit is very good at, Ritwik great at and been taken to extreme by Mrinal Sen.

The fifth and most touching part of it is the storyline. It is at the end of the day a very human movie. It talks about individual family and individuals in normal relationship in normal acts of life and in normal background. In that way it touches your heart seeing the struggle and the suffering. It does so without being too apparent or getting too sentimental.

The greatness of this movie lies in achieving all the above qualities in one work of art. It appeals to all the senses and linger long in your mind. One viewing is not enough to comprehend it fully like all great movies as there are many things in it that get revealed only after repeated viewing

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