Part of Ghatak’s ‘Partition’ trilogy, this rarely-seen film is a strong melodrama about suffering, loss and psychological turmoil as a man, his younger sister and an adopted orphan navigate the harsh socio-economic realities in postwar India.
Dir. Ritwik Ghatak
1965 | India | Drama | 121 mins | 1.33:1 | Bengali
Not rated – likely to be PG13
Cast: Madhabi Mukherjee, Bijon Bhattacharya, Abhi Bhattacharya
Plot: A man opposes the love between his sister and the orphan they adopted years earlier.
Source: National Development Film Corporation
Subject Matter: Moderate – Class, Caste, Love, Poverty
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
There’s a serious need to restore this rare film that I managed to catch on MUBI, not just because it is by Ritwik Ghatak, one of Indian cinema’s unsung heroes, but there is a segment with missing visuals, with only the sound intact.
Despite the ‘defect’, The Golden Thread is a riveting look at the harsh socio-economic realities in postwar India. It’s my second Ghatak, and no doubt a more compelling film than A River Called Titas (1973), which is more epic in scope but also more meandering.
Part of Ghatak’s ‘Partition’ trilogy, which includes The Cloud-Capped Star (1960) and E-Flat (1962), The Golden Thread is a strong melodrama about suffering, loss and psychological turmoil as a man (who assumes a pseudo-father figure), his younger sister and an adopted orphan try to escape the ever-tightening noose of poverty.
“The sages didn’t know war, they didn’t know famine, neither did they know riots nor the partition of the country. They just kept chanting their ancient hymns to the Sun.”
Told over the course of what seems like around 15 years, we see the young kids grow up and become lovers, and their father figure doing moderately well working for a friend’s thriving business. But of course, as it appears with much of Ghatak’s cinema, life is no bed of roses but a yard full of thorns.
Issues related to caste and class rear their ugly head at certain milestones of the characters’ lives, yet through the main cast’s involving performances, we bear witness to their optimism, particularly the sister’s beautiful voice as she sings, often solitarily, about the poetic strength that nature gives her.
Still, the fear of leading a ruinous life or having one’s dignity shattered persists. We may experience the stories of these individuals, but Ghatak’s ‘golden thread’ here is a connective one—that all stories of human suffering are one and the same, a universal quilt of suffering, if you will.