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The Third Sex in Indian Cinema

Anticipation, adulation and celebration—this was how Kolkata responded to Rituparno Ghosh’s films. But, this time when his new movie is released, there will be anticipation and adulation, but no more celebration. The reason—Ghosh is no more.

He never beat a new path for himself in filmdom. Nor did he try any extraordinarily brilliant technical experiments in his forte, like Satyajith Ray, his creative mentor. Yet, he hogged the headlines and caused furor in the society he lived in.  How? He had a special eye for the lives of the marginalized, and a creative fond for the underbellies of Indian society. When Ghosh set his foot on filmdom, Bengali cinema was a barren land. He turned it into a fertile soil by exploring the sentiments of the urban middle class to which he, too, belonged.

By all means, he was like a truant child; curious, creative and forever unafraid to chuck stones into the placid pool that sometimes society is. Born and brought up in Kolkata, Ghosh made friends with movie-making through his father who was a documentary film maker. Starting his career with Hirer Angti, a film for children, he later made a seismic shift to movies of great intensity, the first in the list being Unish April. It explored a mother-daughter relationship and won him the national award for best feature film in 1994. He made 19 movies of which 12 won national awards.  In the mean time, he gave a go at Hindi cinema too, with movies like Chokher Bali and Rain Coat.

In 2008, Ghosh became a hot topic when he declared that he belonged to the third sex, and appeared his head being shaved off and sporting salwars, dupattas, bindis and ornaments. Unabashed to go public on his fluid sexuality, he perfected the role of a transgender in Arekti Premer Golpo, and that of a homosexual in Chitrangada. In the history of India cinema, Ghosh will be best remembered as a film-maker who spoke for subaltern. Yes, truly he is a subaltern-film maker.


Sreenath V S, 
Research Scholar, Indian Institute of Technology, 

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