The master of screen writing remained faceless to the film-going public for decades, and yet – here was the silent pen, the facile mind who had written unforgettable scripts like Sujata, Bandini and Parineeta, writes Uma Nair

Flashback to 1951: A group of young men have just moved from Calcutta to Bombay with filmmaker Bimal Roy. Among them is Nabendu Ghosh who would become his screen writer.
And They Made Classics – a 59 minute film on the master of screen writing, Nabendu Ghosh and his association with legendary filmmaker Bimal Roy, was screened at India international Centre on December 16.
"Nabendu Ghosh shared a unique bond with his "film guru" Bimal Roy," says Ratnottama Sengupta, the Director of the film, And They Made Classics. "In 1951, when the celluloid master left Kolkata to make Maa for Bombay Talkies, he took the literatteur with him. And his last film Bandini, awarded at Karlovy Vary in 1964, was scripted by Ghosh." "He kept the tradition of middle-class social realism going, only it became more light-hearted. His later films did not quite touch upon the bigger social issues like Sujata or Bandini did, but this film on Nabendu Roy culled through a set of interviews gives us a double dip in nostalgia as we glimpse potent scenes and parts of famed cinematic exotica through the eyes of Nabendu Ghosh, a genius in his own right.
As the film progresses we have Nabendu himself talking about the timeless classics he created with Bimal Roy like Baap Beti, Parineeta, Naukri, Biraj Bahu, Devdas, Yahudi and Sujata. Its legendary stuff in small details that play out to classify the leanings and secrets between a distinguished Director and a naturally intuitive, sensitive script writer. Questions and musings run through our minds when we wonder about the power and thrust of such an association even as it must portray one of sustaining trust and aesthetics.
Through the documentary, what perhaps strikes the viewers the most is the pleasant, as well as passionately unassuming charm of a script writer so immensely talented — a genius who was more keen on talking about the people he had worked with than about himself. Nabendu the writer remained quite faceless to the film-going public for decades, and yet – here was the silent pen, the facile mind who had written these unforgettable scripts like Sujata, Bandini and Parineeta for the screen.
While he talks about the nitty gritties of the choice of heroine, and supporting characters for Madhumati, we are drawn into the casting possibilities and dialogues of the brilliant Dilip Kumar with his soft subtle intonations.
We can glimpse the charm of the young Vijayantimala, and go back to the enchanting time of the black and white aura, the magical tenor of the songs and the entire gamut of classical renditions of lyrics, music and scenes that will never happen again. If Nutan is the everlasting charmer, Nargis is the animated femme, if Meena Kumari is the epitome of an eternal mystique, Sharmila Tagore in Anupama is out of a vintage novel. That is the secret of this documentary –it laid out gems of yesteryear's eloquence and made us realize why the past of vital and vivacious as a relic of cinematic history.
Nabendu Ghosh unveils as a man of courage, valour and integrity, who at the height of the freedom movement, had not cowered down from writing a novel in the backdrop of the Quit India movement, even if it meant losing his job with the Accounts Department of Patna Police. And a man who knew his place in the world, made it to that place with vigour, passion and hard work, but chose never to boast about it.
Dressed in his pristine white dhoti and kurta, he becomes the man who had more than mere stories –it was an unraveling of Indian history. The film is replete with several quotes by eminent people such as Dilip Kumar, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Nutan, Nargis, Shammi Kapoor, Gulzar, Subhash Ghai, Jaya Bachchan and many others appeared — all speaking fondly of his humility and rare talent not only as a writer, but as one who truly understood the medium of film and one who was a great teacher at the Film Intsitute. This makes the film a storehouse of anecdotes and information of archival value, giving a sketch of Indian films/Bombay cinema through the 50s, 60s up to 70s.
While Nabendu's writing looked at a creation of realism, his narrative is deeply autobiographical. It is the little clips and anecdotes and fragments of songs that made this telling emotionally rich and crisp. The handling of this straightforward story cuts right to the heart of what the character and script writer Nabendu Ghosh was feeling and experiencing. We see the world of classics in a world that exists beyond mundane reality. And for this critic, I went back to my childhood recalling that every lullaby sung to me by my mother were all songs that belonged to the films of Nabendu Ghosh. Indeed, Ratnottama Sengupta's next exercise should be to translate his novels into English to capture another realm of his ingenuous mind. Nabendu Ghosh, through his reflections taught us that good films help us forget our troubles but great films help us to face our troubles.
Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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