Meghe dhaka tara
IF asked to choose a single film which captures the trauma and tragedy of the Bengal partition most will choose, without question, Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-capped Star, 1960). This classic is built on a simple storyline – how the eldest daughter of an uprooted family turns into the breadwinner in a stifling environment and ultimately sacrifices her life. In fact, Nita, the protagonist in the film, has become a deathless symbol of Partition and the uprooted woman’s tragic struggle against it. We present here the last part of the screenplay where Nita, after fulfilling her mission, succumbs to tuberculosis. Her piercing cry, ‘I want to live’, sums up the essence of all displacements, forced immigrations and partitions.
Father (Taran Master) – Bijan Bhattacharjee
Mother – Geeta Dey
Shankar – eldest son – Anil Chatterjee
Nita (Khuku) – eldest daughter – Supriya Chaudhuri
Montu – younger son – Dwiju Bhawal
Gita – younger daughter – Geeta Ghatak
Sanat – Geeta’s husband, Nita’s former friend – Niranjan Roy
Bansi – a grocer in the refugee settlement – Gyanesh Mukherjee
SCENE 88, Day time, Father’s room. Shankar and mother enter father’s room. Father is sitting in a chair, in a reclining position.
Mother: We’ll never get over the problem of eviction. In the middle of all this, people take courage, think of building homes – forget their sorrow. (Shankar touches his father’s feet.) Tell him, how long we have wanted a two-storey house. Why not break the house and build a two-storey one. Let the kitchen remain as it is. It will be enough, if it’s repaired.
Raising his head, putting his head on his breast, leaning forward.
Will you be able to repair my heart – will you?
So that I can enjoy reading Wordsworth again? That Swan and Shadows float double!
(The reflection of Shankar in the wall mirror. Mother waves her hand and says to Shankar)
Mother: He’s quite mad.
Shankar: Eh! Where’s Khuki?
Mother standing beside father.
Khuki or Nita’s room. She goes out to work, then stays put in that room. She eats there. She has no connection with anyone else. She hides everything. She has fever, she’s ill and tells no one. She even washes her own utensils.
Tabla is added to the background music
Father leans forward a little. Mother is standing on one side, Shankar goes out with his bag.
SCENE 89, Day time, Nita’s room.
The background music continues
Nita is sitting on the bed and coughing. Shankar comes in, puts down the bag and looks at Nita. Nita lies on her stomach and tries to hide something beneath the pillow. Shankar sees it.
Shankar: What’s it Khuki? Getting love letters in your old age, eh? Let me see.
(Pulls out the hidden object from underneath Nita’s pillow.)
Nita: Let go, let go dada.
Nita tries to stop him. Shankar pulls out the hidden handkerchief. Then starts and drops it to the ground.
Shankar stares in amazement at the handkerchief which has fallen on the ground. Stunned.
The sound of the bhairon raga in the background.
Shankar stares at the handkerchief, paralyzed with fear.
The playing of the beena.
Nita’s profile. Nita lying beside the window.
Nita raises her head and sits up, coughs.
Nita: I was just looking at you all. How nice, that you are all on your feet now. (Shankar, nervous, looks at her in amazement.)
Music in the background – sarod and tabla
Nita: (tries to smile): It’s like childhood. I don’t have any responsibility any more.
Shankar stands for a while, then goes out.
End of background music.
SCENE 90, Day time, The dawa (verandah) and courtyard outside Nita’s room.
Shankar comes out of Nita’s room, into the courtyard. Gita is in the front. Father and mother at one end of the dawa.
Gita: What’s the matter, dada?
Shankar looks at the sky and walks about in a restless manner. (Thunderclap)
Shankar: Khuki has got T.B. A very advanced stage.
Gita and Shankar. In the courtyard.
Gita: How sad. Poor didi!
Father, standing in the dawa raises his finger and points forward, saying –
Father: I accuse.
Shankar and Gita. Shankar turns to father, saying –
Father lowers his finger.
Montu standing on the dawa of the house, his back turned.
Shankar: I will make arrangements for her treatment and return, no matter how late in the night it is. I’ll stay here today.
Shankar goes out, carrying an umbrella.
Background music – sarod and tabla (raga – mian ki malhar).
Montu lowers his head in a helpless manner.
SCENE 91, Night, father’s room.
The background music continues.
Father sitting on a chair with a worried look on his face. Mother is standing. Lightning flashes outside the window.
SCENE 92, Night, Nita’s room.
The background music continues.
The iron bars of the window. Heavy rain. The camera pans to show Nita lying with her eyes closed. Father silently strokes her head.
The shadow of the tree, half dark, half light on Nita’s face. Father points with his finger towards the back of the room and remarks –
Father: I have packed your clothes!
(He then slowly moves towards the door. He turns a round once and looks at Nita, who sits up.)
Father speaks, (waving his hand):
Go away, go away. They are dreaming of a two-storey house. You are successful. You have put them all on their feet.
Nita stands up.
Father: (his voice is heard but he is not seen) Don’t stay here any more. They pity you now.
(Nita stands up, bending her body, the bundle close to her throat.)
You were unable to bear a burden, my dear, yet you had to do it.
Now you yourself have become a burden. Your breath is poisonous.
(Nita lowers her eyes.
Father says (raising his head):
A mother and a new born baby are coming to this room.
The childhood photo on the table, Nita takes it up.
Nita clutches the photo to her bosom.
Father says, waving his hand –
Go away, go away, go away.
End of the background music
Nita clutches the picture to her bosom. Exit father. Nita stands up, carrying the bundle and the picture. She advances towards the door and opens it. It is raining heavily outside.
(Song in the background)
Come Uma, let me take you in my arms.
Putting on your neck a garland of
Juin flowers. I know, my daughter,
The sadness of your heart,
Go my girl, to your husband’s home.
SCENE 93, Night, The dawa and the courtyard.
Rain. The face of Nita seen in half light, half darkness. She comes into the courtyard and covers her head with the edge of her sari. She is smiling. Flash of lighting.
Sadness (Song in the background – Go my daughter, to your husband’s home...)
Father is weeping. (Song in the background – leaving my home empty...)
Nita is smiling. Her head is covered. Seeing the rain, she turns and goes down into the courtyard.
(Song in the background – How can I live, my unhappy daughter, Having said farewell to you.)
SCENE 94, Night, The outside room.
Heavy rain can be seen through the door of the room. Nita runs out.
SCENE 95, Night, In front of the house.
From outside the house. Nita can be seen running out. Shankar lowers his umbrella.
Shankar and Nita face each other in front of the gate. Shankar stops Nita.
(Theme music – sarod, flute)
Shankar: Where are you off to?
(As Nita tries to back away, the photo falls from her hand.
Nita stoops, picks up the rain-washed picture and looks at it.
Shankar holds up the umbrella. Nita is beside him. Heavy rain.)
Idiot. I’ve just arranged your stay in a sanatorium in the Shillong mountains. Yes – mountains. After all this time you will finally see the mountains.
Nita listens, looking at the face of Shankar.
Nita turns from Shankar’s side and appears in front of the camera. The rain washes her face and eyes.
End of theme music.
SCENE 96, Day, The Shillong mountains.
Different parts of the mountain and the street can be seen.
The mountainous road below.
Background music – sarod, flute, pakhoaj, tabla
The steep mountain to the left.
The mountain slopes towards the right. As the camera pans towards the left, extensive mountainous areas, veiled by the clouds, can be seen.
Cloud-veiled mountains. Mountain stream.
Pine forests. The valley can be seen.
Rows of trees, human settlements, the sky etc. can be seen.
End of background music fade in fade out.
SCENE 97, Day, The local market.
Background music – a tune of the mountain.
Shankar is standing, holding a basket of fruit. By going around, it is possible to see the bazar area.
SCENE 98, Day, In the middle of a field.
The background music continues.
Shankar comes with the basket of fruit from the left to the right. The mountain in the distance. The mountain people, human settlements, trees can be seen. Children are playing.
Shankar with the basket of fruit in his hand. Nearby the mountain. The camera pans towards the right showing the board, ‘Chest Hospital’, on the side of the road. The road beside it goes on straight.
End of background music.
Shankar gives the basket of fruit to a sister in the hospital, who gives it to another employee. The latter takes it away.
Sister: Come with me.
Sister speaks, while moving away –
Sister: She likes hill?
Shankar: Oh very much, very much... right from her childhood...
(While speaking, they are going inside the sanatorium. Two sisters and an employee pass by them.) Shankar says – Hello!
The employees: Hello!
They pass various parts of the hospital while talking.
Sister: We make her sit there. She is better now.
Shankar: Oh yes, I am happy, I am... happy sister.
Sister: But remember; don’t excite her. She may have a relapse... Her sickness might increase ... which is dangerous. Keep her happy...
Shankar: Yes sister, yes.
Sister takes Shankar up to a house, towards the left of the hospital. Says –
Sister: She is there.
Shankar: Thank you... sister... thank you.
Sister: Need not mention.
End of background music
Nita sitting on a stone, far away. The sky in the background. The mountains (Mountain songs in the background.)
Shankar sees Nita.
The camera pans rightward from a pine tree. Showing the mountain, sky and Nita. Nita has a shawl wrapped around her and a letter in her hand. She looks up.
Shankar looks at Nita from the back.
Shankar enters the frame from the left. Nita sits with her back to him, absorbed in her own thoughts. As Shankar clears his throat, Nita turns and looks at her brother. Shankar comes and sits beside Nita.
Shankar and Nita sit, with their backs turned. The mountain, trees in the distance. (The sound of bells)
Nita: That star veiled by clouds... yes... Sanat’s letter.
(Nita drops the letter, smooths her hair with her hand.
Shankar and Nita. Nita straightens her hair. She rests her cheek on her hand, leans forward and says)
I don’t know why I preserved it so long.
(Shankar looks at Nita, then laughs suddenly and says)
Shankar: Do you know, our house has two storeys now. And Gita’s son – he has learnt to walk now...
Nita turns her face, looks at her brother and says –
Nita: He plays a lot doesn’t he?
Shankar: (smiling) Yes.
Nita turns her face.
Nita: He romps and plays a lot, doesn’t he?
Shankar: He has turned father’s life into hell.
Shankar, while speaking, goes out of the frame. A hill boy is seen passing by. Shankar enters, talking.
Shankar: He is always climbing up the stairs, alone. (smiling). The child is so lively, always making a racket. How he enjoys going up the stairs!
End of theme music
Nita suddenly lifts her face, saying –
Nita: Dada, but I wanted to live!
The Bhairon raga being played
The mountain – forest – sky move away. Shankar is in the front, looking at Nita.
Shankar (in the background) Khuku?
(Nita, with her face raised, is looking at her brother. She lowers her face.
Shankar nods twice, smiles and says)
Shankar: Yes! Idiot.
Nita sobs aloud,
Nita: Dada I...
Nita with her back turned. Shankar in the front. At the back, mountains – sky.
Nita: ...really wanted to live.
Background music – sarod.
Shankar appears helpless.
Nita: Dada, I love living.
Nita: Dada, I will live, Dada, I will live.
Shankar: What are you doing, Khuki.
Nita: Dada, tell me once, I am going to live.
Nita leaves her brother’s hand and lowers her head.
Shankar straightens up and calls loudly –
End of background music.
Nita suddenly raises her face and stands up.
Nita stands up, facing Shankar.
Nita flings herself on her brother’s bosom, puts her head on his shoulder and utters a shattering scream –
Nita: Dada, I will live – Dada, I will live.
Nita’s desperate cry is echoed in the sky and the mountains. The camera pans to the left, over the mountains and forest. Nita continues to say, ‘Dada, I am going to live.’
Shankar: Khuki – I,
Nita: Dada, I am going to live.
Nita, resting her head on her brother’s shoulder, continues to cry and weep.
Dada, I am going to live...
Shankar: Khuki, have you gone mad?
A mountain river. Nita from outside the scene, keeps on saying, ‘Dada, I am going to live.’
Pine trees. Human settlements to the right.
Nita (in the background) Dada, I am going to live... Dada I... Dada...
Shankar: Why are you shouting like a mad woman. Khuki... Khuki...
Nita: I am going to live.
The camera leaves the mountain and pans over the sky, to the right.
In the background, Nita breaks into wild weeping.
I will live... I will live... I will live.
Shankar: (in a low voice) Khuku.
Nita: I will live... I will live... I will live
The pine forests, human settlements, the mountainous road, the sky.
SCENE 99, Day, Bansi’s grocery store.
Bansi is weighing the goods. He looks up as he sees Shankar and says –
Basni: Hello... Shankar, old pal, you’ve come back after visiting your sister? How is she?
Shankar comes and stands in front of Bansi’s shop.
Bansi: Why don’t you speak? Say something...
Shankar comes and stands in front of the shop. He is shattered. He listens...
Bansi: No one even remembers now that such a person existed. That she went out in the morning, with the slapping sound of her chappals and came back in the evening. Such a quiet young girl... she didn’t deserve such suffering. What do you say, old pal?
Background music – flute, sitar.
Shankar does not answer, Manages to control himself somehow.
Shankar with a bag on his shoulder, in front of Bansi’s shop. A girl from the colony is seen coming with a bag on her shoulder. A shop on the left side of the road. Shankar notices the girl. The girl comes forward. Suddenly bends down and looks at her feet.
The girl’s feet. Her slipper is torn. She bends and sees that the strap is indeed torn.
Shankar is looking at the girl. The girl looks at Shankar in an embarrassed way and lowers her eyes. In the background, song starts: Come Uma, let me take you in my arms.
End of background music.
The girl looks at Shankar, smiles in an embarrassed way and looks at Shankar. (The song continues in the background, the sound of crickets.)
The girl goes forward, wearing her slippers and dragging along her feet. (The chirping of crickets in the background... You belong to a sorrowful woman...)
Shankar stands looking at the sky. (‘Come Uma, let me take you in my arms’.)
From the back, the girl with the torn slipper can be seen dragging her feet along the road of the colony. (The song can be heard in the background.)
Background music – sarod, sitar.
Shankar covers his face with his hands –
Shankar: Oh God!
He lowers his head. (The song and the chirping of crickets.)
The screen darkens. Only the song can be heard –
Go, my girl, to your husband’s home,
Leaving my home empty
How can I live, my unhappy daughter,
Having said farewell to you.
(Translated by Sudeshna Chakravarti)
* We are grateful to Ritwik Memorial Trust for permission to publish extracts from the film script.