A River Called Titas (1973) Poster

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Beautiful melodrama
gbill-7487717 February 2021
"I miss my daughter. She left yesterday. My last dear one. She was all I had. My only daughter. That's the way it happens. It all comes and then disappears again. There's a spark of life. And suddenly it's not there. It all becomes untraceable. You were a child yesterday. Today you're a woman. This ever-flowing river Titas may become bone dry tomorrow. It may not even have the last drop without which our soul cannot depart. Yet these flocks of sails move on and on and on..."

Taken at face value, this film comes across as a long melodrama, and a pretty damn contrived one at that. A couple of young men go out fishing with their uncle, and in a chance encounter with a young woman in another village, one of them gets married. It's pretty odd, as they don't know each other's names, barely speak, and yet consummate what amounts to an agreement for an actual ceremony back in his village. On their way back home, however, they're set upon by bandits and she ends up overboard.

It's interesting (and a little depressing) to see how women are treated early on here - when they discover the woman gone, the reaction of the men is to shot they've been robbed, as if she's a material possession. Meanwhile, back at home the groom had a young girl waiting for him - and I do mean young; she's told by her uncle that she's a "woman now" but looks about 10. However, there is a strong woman character who emerges later in the film, one who stands up for herself and amidst great hardship says that there is only one true thing in life, and that's motherhood.

Back to the story. The man goes crazy literally that night for fear his wife has drowned - even though he was just telling his buddy he didn't even know what she looked like, and certainly hasn't formed deep feelings for her. And it turns out the woman survives and is picked up by benevolent strangers, but the next we see of her we've fast forwarded ten years. The only thing she knew about her husband was the name of his village, and she has a child, having conceived on her "wedding night." She makes her way to this village (why only now, we don't know), and throws herself on the mercy of the villagers. The woman who takes her in is the one who had loved her husband. She got married to his buddy instead, but the buddy died, so she's a young, childless widow herself.

Now how the villagers aren't able to connect the dots and realize that this new arrival and the "crazy man" living among them were the ones who had married years ago is a mystery, and it's also odd that the woman doesn't recognize the man, even though he's all disheveled and years have passed. She's attracted to him nonetheless but tragedy strikes in a way I won't describe, leaving their son an orphan. He's cared for by the same family that took them in, but the woman's mother looks at him as her mortal enemy since he's not kin and consumes food. He has visions of his dead mother as a goddess, but his real life is very sad. The plot follows the boy and his adoptive mother (or "auntie") from there and continues its quick pace for dramatic turns of events in the second half (yes all of what I described happens in the just the first half).

While the plot is sprawling and a bit of a mess, the film is undoubtedly a parable for something higher. At its heart it seemed to be about loss, forms of which happen to many characters through fate, or man's cruelty to man. Just as the rain pours down on this river (it's a very wet film!), life pours down on people, if I can use such a cliché analogy. In our better natures, we help others and are compassionate, and in our worse natures, we're selfish and unkind. The film is about life and carrying on despite the struggle, even though ultimately everything we cherish will eventually pass away - even big things that seem so permanent, like rivers. That's alluded to in the first ten minutes with the quote at the top of this review, and there's something deep at the film's center that I appreciated. I only wish it worked as well on a literal level.

The caliber of filmmaking is high, with beautiful black and white cinematography that transported me to this time and place. Attention is paid to sound, such as the heavy breathing of anxiety from the young woman before being taken to bed by her husband on their wedding night. The performance from Rosy Afsari stands out in a pretty solid cast. All of the ingredients are there, and with the deeper meaning it was a near miss for a higher rating.
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Well made Indian drama with unusual structure
Andy-2967 August 2008
This film by somewhat neglected Indian director Ritwik Ghatak is one of the most unusual I have ever seen. The stories are set among the harsh life around the banks of Bangladesh's rivers (one of the poorest regions of the world). It tells several gruesome tales: abductions, escapes, living among strangers, death, though the characters go through this with the resignation of someone who knows that life is hard and always have been. Now, having seen this film more than a decade ago, I cannot recall all the details. But the unusual part is the way this story is told. It puts a character at the center of the story for, say, twenty minutes, and then it moves to another character, who was playing a minor role in the first story. And then to another character, and so on. It is a collection of stories, but loosely (or not so loosely interconnected). Overall, a fine tapestry of life in one of the poorest parts of the world.
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Underrated Epic By Rediscovered Ghatak Deserves To Be As Well Known As Satyajit Ray
lchadbou-326-2659213 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A River Called Titas (also known as Time And The River) is a somewhat more sprawling later melodrama of Bengal poverty, compared to director Ritwik Ghatak's more famous earlier The Cloud-Capped Star, but just as interesting. The stories it weaves together are set in the Malo fishing community of East Bengal, now Bangladesh, the area where the director grew up. Kishore, a young fisherman who we saw as a boy in the opening, is hastily married to a young woman from a neighborhood he is visiting, so the two communities can seal a friendship. He hardly comes to know his new bride or get a good look at her when, in a scene reminiscent of the melodramatic character separations in Mizoguchi, bandits capture her at night while they are still on the water, and sleeping apart.When she gets away and floats to shore this kidnapped girl, who never even knew her husband's name, gives birth to a son, Ananta, and goes to work in the home of a more well off woman, where they process hemp to be used by the fishermen.That lady is Mungli, one of the two little girls we had seen with the young Kishore in the beginning. Ironically Kishore is in the same village but has gone crazy and keeps to himself. The wife feels a strange bond with this man, as she is somewhat estranged from the community herself. She offers to bathe him in the river. Basanti, the other girl who had befriended the wife and had lost her own husband in a fishing accident, takes care of the boy after the parents, briefly reunited, are set upon by ruffians and killed (another scene reminiscent of Mizoguchi)The boy imagines he sees his mother, brilliantly attired in the forest, as the goddess of motherhood. The son is then thrown out of Basanti's home and goes to live with others. The film climaxes with the struggle between rich creditors and the fishermen who owe them money. At one point in an inspiring Marxist moment two women hurl one of the creditors into the water. Another debtor talks back to a creditor, who then kills himself. But the rich conspire to break up the fishermen and even use theater to distract them-ironic as Ghatak's background was in left wing drama. The feisty Basanti fights with a rich man, and they then set fire to the poor people's huts. Toward the end of the film, in anticipation of a later era's environmentalism, we see the river drying up, as the women of the village gather by its banks like a Greek chorus.Basanti walks across what has become a desert,she is wrapped in a blanket and carries an empty bowl as she begs for food. She sees a little boy running through the grass (probably a rice field, the rich had bought their land to convert from fishing to farming)The boy has a toy whistle made of leaf and reminds her of the child she never had herself, but wished for. Despite all the suffering we have seen in this incredibly melodramatic series of events, this ending seems to show hope for the future. Ghatak's style here shows his previous richly textured images,with characters often looming in closeup in the foreground; creative use of sound and music; and feeling for local customs and details, though there are also some more modern touches like zooms. The way he shows the changes over time for a poor community and its kind of life makes an interesting comparison with Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons, which did the same for a well off bourgeois family The movie also reminds one, in its sometimes strident class struggle of the fisherfolk, of Visconti's La Terra Trema. Last, the lyrical images of the river delta/swamp terrain bring to mind Flaherty's documentary The Louisiana Story.Yet Ghatak, despite all these references, is in a realm by himself as an Indian auteur.
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Interesting, but...
hemisphere65-117 September 2020
The storytelling here is segmented and leans heavily on symbolism, but the acting is distractingly poor. It is difficult to stomach the dialogue, but that may be a translation/captioning issue.
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Life flowing with the river
Atavisten18 October 2010
Typically for Indian movies this has it all, evil capitalists that destroy the property of the poor peasants, a man struck insane by the abduction of his newly-wed wife from arranged marriage, compassionate families that end up turning against the one they help and a lot of smoking from water pipes and chewing of betel nut.

The film starts by announcing that not many people know about and much less care about the people living in this region which is one of the world's poorest places. And by the end of it most things look very unfortunate for them still. It is realistically made, shot on location so that doesn't feel contrived. That being said, some of the acting looks funny and artificial by our standards. As we move focal points also it can be a little difficult to follow the numerous plots.

Antropologically interesting too.
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".. this epic saga.. Ghatak's El Dorado"
smkbsws19 February 2021
When anybody (even I used to say the same) tells you more money leads to lesser art, this epic saga can be a staple example to prove them wrong. This is based on a semi autobiographical novella by Adwaita Mallabarman, depicting the life and times of a fishing society by the bank of a River, called Titas, over a period of time. I can say that this has more distinguishable cast than "Sholay". Or till some extend, this has the range, both chronological and geographical, this even tops "Gangs Of Wasseypur" or "The Godfather" series. There are many features and documentaries on this film and I remember someone telling this was Ghatak's El Dorado (Note that the kid in "Bari Theke Paliye" started his journey by inspired of the stories of El Dorado). One of the major positive change was in editing, and the uber famous Bashir Hossain did show his fresh take on cutting and transitions to both Bangladeshi and West Bengal audience. His technique was so liked that Ghatak hired him again for his own semi autobiographical "Jukti Takko Aar Gappo". Another thing is heavily layered and beautifully set up blocking, which we have been seeing from "Ajantrik" till his latest series, and kudos to Baby Islam's camerawork to take it to the next level. One of my friend told that Ghatak loved the relationship between a boat and camera, which was incepted in "Bari Theke Paliye", shown accordingly in the trilogy and blooms to its full potential in this film. Also, have to mention the plot explicitly as it shows the microcosm of a society of people who belong to the lower caste of a minority section and all the hierarchy was used for plots.
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Ghatak Took His Experimental Film Making To Next Level
rupak_speaking25 July 2020
Warning: Spoilers
There have been few notable movies made in Bengali on the lives of fishermen community like Ganga in 1960, Dwiper Naam Tiya Rang in 1963 before Titas Ekti Nadir Naam in 1973. Incidentally Ritwik Ghatak who is the director of Titas Ekti Nadir Naam was also the scriptwriter for Dwiper Naam Tiya Rang. Ghatak took his experimentation of film making to next level in this direction of his, which is described as hyperlink cinema with multiple narratives, characters and plots and subplots intertwined with each other to present a holistic picture of the lives of the community living by the riverside. Based on the novel by Adwaita Mallabarman, the first half is distinctly different from the second. While there seemed to be a story being built in the initial half came to a sudden halt to intermission. For regular movie watchers, it would seem to take the natural transition to beyond intermission and good enough to cover the whole length of a film, but what we see are different characters and incidents taking place in latter half with the one central character in Basanti and the boy Ananta to a minor extent maintaining continuity. Such experimental story telling with minimalistic movement of camera angles and many close up shots would either have takers or no takers. One particular portion towards the end struck me where after the river Titas died down and the fishermen community was denied their right to the land even, an old village woman talked of only one profession left, that is of begging and the younger woman talked of her old age being an advantage to that end unlike hers. The film ends with Basanti digging through the sand with her hands for some water in starvation baring the start realities of the hand to mouth poor of our country who know not of many other than a singular livelihood. 6.5-7/10
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Instructive how not to make films
Tarsitius31 March 2018
Again an uneatable work by Ghatak.At least for the Westerner, who does not have much of a clue about Hindouistic mythology and the life style of the Bengali people. Confusing. Contains scenes where someone tells short stories. Deterrent for good film making. Hitchcock would have not liked.

I tried to remember pieces of seeming senseless conversation parts. I could for one: "I knew a man who could recite the whole Mahabharata ..." Would you embrace and be impressed by a Western film wherein you hear someone stating: "I know a man who knows the whole Bible by heart"?

These may be cultural relativity. But filmmaking should not be dependent so much on it, especially its technical aspects. I have hardly ever seen a worse photography, a worse soundtrack. When the scenery consists of a talking group of people, we see them occupying the lower third of the frame, the lower limb cut off. About half of the frame is filled by the sky! No sort of surrealism or experimentation or exxageration.

The sound in the mostly open air, natural village background sounds shouting like if recorded in a narrow hall.
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Life of Bangladesh , peoples of Bangladesh for long times with their culture that is related to their life
asifami25 January 2017
1. River and River and life related to that clearly depicted in the film Titas( Name of a river and peoples around it ) Ekti Nodir Naam ( Name ).

2. Clearly depicts how peoples of different religion lives side by side without effecting their livelihood. and still role is being played by the peoples who are rich and who are poor . In the name of religion , they created sect , actually which represents the privileged peoples and peoples who lives on fishing, farming and united . But some how money divides them actually rich uses it as a tool to destroy the unity and peace of a community.

3. River scenes, Boats and Rain greatly depicted in the film, excellent cinematography
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A Little on the Technical aspects of Ghatak's 'Titas'.
shahriar_xclusive22 March 2011
I am just trying to justify my rating of the film (9 out of 10) which demands a perusal of its technical excellence.

This film is an adaptation of Adwita Malla Burman's Bengali literary classic under the same title. It is tale of those marginal people belonging to a poorer fishing community who live from hand to mouth. Exploring different sectors of life is one of the most amazing aspects of both the film and the novel.

The film sequences are maintained in parallel to the novel. The film has brilliant editing and that makes it very dynamic and fluent. Fade-ins and fade-outs for transition are used in many cases. The film seems to be gradually acquiring technical sophistry. Fixed frame is used in many cases and the camera movement is kept at a minimal level at the beginning of the film. Panning, tilt-ups and tilt-downs are countable. But this 'apparently' mediocre camera usage could not amputate Ghatak's craftsmanship. Some continuity cuts during the long duration shot of 'Dourer Naw' (Boat for Running Races) certainly deserve positive appraisal. The film has some stunning close ups. They really deserve applause. The close ups are symbolic and very well-articulated.

Negative aspects are minimum but they cannot be overlooked as they have an effect on the film. Sometimes the characters deliver speeches in a word or two in urban Bengali which betray the realism their acting. The film has got only two framing errors. It is the disadvantage of using fixed frame. Moreover the spectators are captured who came to watch the shooting for once (while Basanti was engaged in a fight with her mother) in the film. In another case, probably the prompter is captured or the person may be another spectator while Kader Mian was arguing with his daughter-in-law. The sequences sometimes seem to be incredulously positioned. Moreover, they seem to be hastily pushed towards their respective ends. But Ritwik's crave for stark realism is praiseworthy. Other than these, this film is technically perfect.

The film is a must watch for having a better exposure of the lives of marginal people of a third world country. Technical excellence is another reason to watch this film.
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