বা ঙা ল না মা

Subarnarekha – A Review.

Posted by bangalnama on October 25, 2008

The trauma of refugee life and its piercing political cry forms the basis of Ritwik Ghatak’s sixth feature film— Subarnarekha (The Golden Line). The film seeks a further understanding of the semi-colonial Indian society after the transfer of power in 1947. Released in 1965, Subarnarekha is the last and the most complex of the trilogy that examines the socio-economic crisis of refugee life.

The narrative revolves around Ishwar Chakraborty, a refugee who stays in a refugee colony with his younger sister Sita. There he discovers an abducted boy Abhiram and takes him under his wing. An old friend of Ishwar offers him a cashier’s job in an iron foundry at Chhatimpur near the bank of Subarnarekha. He accepts it and goes there with Sita and his new family member Abhiram. At Chhatimpur, across their house, the children discover an abandoned airstrip and find it the most attractive playground. The childhood intimacy between Abhiram and Sita blossoms into mutual love, but keeping in mind Abhiram’s low caste origin, Ishwar turns down the marriage proposal. On her wedding night Sita deserts her brother and runs away with Abhiram, who takes bus driver’s job in Calcutta. They settle down in the city with their only son Binu. But tragedy comes to stalk their lives when Abhiram involves in an accident and gets killed by an irate mob. For the sake of her only son, Sita sinks into harlotry and out of utter shock discovers her brother, the drunken Ishwar as her first customer. The shock becomes unbearable and Sita kills herself. Frustrated Ishwar accepts Binu, his only relation, and starts off the journey to future.

Unlike Ray or others, Ghatak had always practiced complexity in his presentation pattern. The juxtaposition of the Jungian archetype of ‘Kalika‘ with melodramatic realism depicts diabolic terribleness of the degenerated society. The act of confrontation between young Sita and the travelling performer (bahurupi), made-up in the terrible image of the great-mother (Kali), gives an indication of the oncoming tempest on the civilisation. Subarnarekha ruthlessly exposes the philosophical waste of the post-independent Indian society. It chronicles the emptiness of mainstream politics where the communist party, congress party and other so-called political parties are united in minting. Ghatak suggests that the socio-political degeneration due to the Mountbatten Award is responsible for creating spiritual confusions among the people. A crude yet aesthetic dissection of the social broke makes Subarnarekha an unbearable statement against the worshipers of elitist aesthetics.

Subarnarekha is the only Indian film that aesthetically executes the genre of melodrama by joining different episodes into a story of coincidences. In Ritwik Ghatak’s own words – “I agree that coincidences virtually overflow in Subarnarekha. And yet the logic of the biggest coincidence, the brother arriving at his sister’s house provoked me to orchestrate coincidence per se in the very structuring of the film. It is a tricky but fascinating form verging on the epic. This coincidence is forceful in its logic as the brother going to any woman amounts to his going to somebody else’s sister.” The entire film propels forward through historical and mythical overtones, taking melodrama as its foundation.

Subarnarekha bestows Ghatak’s tremendous technical genius, aided with Bahadur Khan Sahib’s evocative compositions. The powerful montage of sight and sound that Ghatak constructs in Sita’s suicide scene is one of cinema’s phenomenal creations. Sound of Sita’s exaggerated breathing with the image of a kitchen knife juxtaposed with a big close-up of her painful unblinking eyes establishes a new dimension in Indian cinematography and montage.

Though Subarnarekha delineates extreme trauma and shattered passions of its characters, it never abandons the philosophy of striving forward. Guided by little Binu, Ishwar moves towards the horizon with the conviction of continuing the struggle against suffering.

Charana Vai Madhuvindute, Charana Hrimadhuswaram.
Suryasya Pashya Premanam Yotendrayete Charana.
Charaiveti Charaiveti.

– Upanishad

[Mobility is immortality, mobility is religion. Just look at the treasures (light) of the sun, they have never slept (cessation of work) since the inception of creation. So strive forward, strive forward.]

Article by – Basu Acharya


5 Responses to “Subarnarekha – A Review.”

  1. Saurav said

    Beautifully done blog…thoroughly absorbing stuff and a great way for every outside/detached bengali to live their glorious culture!

    Keep blogging!

  2. bangalnama said


    Thanks for the kind words! We are very glad to have you as reader. 🙂

  3. yves said

    Thanks for this nice review of a well beloved movie. I was interested to read what Ghatak says about the coincidence, and the philosophy of moving forward – even if, in Ghtak’s art, there seems to be such a heavy weight on childhood nostalgia.

  4. Shri. Sushil Ansal serves as the Chairman of the Board and Whole Time Director of
    Ansal Properties & Infrastructure Ltd. (also known as Ansal Properties & Industries Ltd.

  5. A very delineated review of one of the greatest movies ever made in our country.

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