Obituary — Nabendu Ghosh

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 22, 2008 07:38 hrs

Novelist and scriptwriter Nabendu Ghosh passed away in Kolkata on December 15, 2007. He was 91. His wife having predeceased him some years ago, he leaves behind his three children of who, the elder son Shubhankar Ghosh, is a filmmaker and the only daughter Ratnottama Sengupta, is a noted journalist. But much more than his able children, Ghosh has left behind an entire heritage of beautiful scripts that will remain in the archival history of Indian cinema for all time to come. Dev Anand, who played hero in Phani Majumdar's Baadban (1952), based on a script penned by Ghosh says, "I came across Nabendu-da during the shooting of the film. He was highly imaginative and original. This was the only film in which I played the role of a fisherman. I was nervous because I was sandwiched between pillars like Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari and Sheikh Mukhtar. Nabendu-da maintained a professional outlook and distance.

His scripts made every actor realise that no one is greater than the script." He belonged to an age and era when film people hardly talked about themselves or their work. The long string of awards that attached to his name over the years stood lightly on his petite shoulders. Few are aware that he was a talented dancer and performed in the Uday Shankar style of Oriental dance, winning several awards between 1939 and 1945. During his years in Mumbai, he often performed comic cameos on the Bengali amateur stage during Durga Pooja and other festivals, taking the audience by pleasant surprise. He has won almost every single literary award bestowed on Bengali littérateurs in the country from the Bankim Puraskar through the Bimal Mitra Puraskar to the Amrita Puraskar. He was lucid and filled with pleasant anecdotes from his life with Bimal Roy and other luminaries till the last day of his life.

His passing away marks the end of an era when Indian cinema was deeply steeped in literature. His association with Bimal Roy that began in 1947, saw him shift to Mumbai with Roy in 1951, where under Bimal Roy Productions, Ghosh wrote some of the best scripts ever in the history of Indian cinema. He first began to assist Roy but shifted to script writing when Roy suggested he do scripts. His first screenplay was for Maa directed by Bimal Roy. But the credits did not mention him. He wrote the story and screenplay of Baap Beti, but still no name in the credits. When he wrote the screenplay of Parineeta , the credits continued to elude him. Then his name began to appear in the credits for the screenplays of Biraj Bahu, Naukri and Amanat, the last being directed by Roy's assistant Asit Sen who was a comedian of renown in those days. These films became a turning point for this great man who remained unassuming and modest till the end of his days, belying the history he carved for Indian cinema. He wrote the screenplays of Sujata, Devdas, Bandini and the documentary on Swami Vivekananda. When Roy gave him permission to work with other filmmakers, Ghosh wrote the screenplay for Guru Dutt's Aar Paar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Majhli Didi and Abhimaan. Ghosh wrote the screenplay of Raj Khosla's directorial debut film Milap, starring Geeta Bali and Dev Anand. Much later, Manoj Kumar's first film Kaanch Ki Gudiya , had its screenplay penned by Ghosh. Amitabh Bachchan came in contact with this modest talent while working on Do Anjaane scripted by Ghosh.

His earlier attempts to turn independent director fell through every time he put his act together for no fault of his. For his first directorial film, Ashok Kumar withdrew as producer after they had shot for two days. He then tried to direct a film based on Phanishwar Nath Renu's Maila Anchal. Success came with his third film Trishagni (1988) based on a tale of triangular love and desire set against the backdrop of Buddhist history in the 1st century B.C. with Pallavi Joshi, Nitish Bharadwaj, Alok Nath and Nana Patekar sharing the acting credits. The film fetched Nabendu Ghosh his first and last National Award. He made another film for the Children's Film Society of India called Netraheen Sakshi. It was about a visually challenged boy who could identify men from their voices. Ladkiyaan (1997) produced by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare was inspired by the true-life story of three sisters who committed suicide when they heard their father threatening their pregnant mother with dire consequences if she 'dared' to deliver a girl again. In 1995, he did a teleserials called Amol Ratan for Doordarshan on Ashok Kumar. Alas! They don't make them like him any more.