Mumbai: Rituparno Ghosh was paranoid about his sexuality. Through experience he had learnt to be cautious about sending out the wrong signals to actors. He was often afraid of reaching out to actors, specially in Bollywood who, he felt, would read a wrong signal.
Ritu and I would often laugh over Bollywood's homophobia. Once he went to meet this iconic superstar at his iconic residence where his bratty son came right up to Ritu, and within superstar-dad's hearing, smirked: "Should I call you Ritu uncle or Ritu aunty?"
Such incidents used to hurt Ritu not because he was embarrassed by his sexuality but because he was afraid that his acceptance of his own sexuality had not got a similar acceptance from the Indian film industry. While shooting with male stars from Bollywood, Ritu would quickly withdraw from the studios in the evening and refuse to see his actors in their hotel rooms.
You never know.
In the past few years, Ritu suffered a double blow. First, his mother passed away and a few years later his father followed, leaving Ritu alone in their ancestral home.
His only brother Indranil, happily married and with children, had distanced himself from Ritu, leaving the filmmaker alone to grapple with his changing personality and the ensuing truma.
A very close friend of Ritu told me recently, "I am not able to reach to him. He is undergoing these life-threatening surgeries and they are distancing him from everyone around him."
In the last few years, Ritu became increasingly isolated from all his close friends as he sought to get himself a feminie physique to match his sexuality. In one of my last conversations with him, Ritu sounded terribly unhappy.
Among his many achievements, Ritu must be credited with being the first filmmaker to come out of the closet. The process of coming out started years ago.
Ritu was very fond of dressing up. During one of the innumerable film festivals that Ritu religiously attended year after year, he startled his heroine by attending a party in salwar-kameez and dupatta. This was years ago. In his closing years, the woman within Ritu had become far more assertive than just the clothes.
The Rituparno Ghosh who passed away suddenly on Thursday morning was a very different entity from the Ritu that I came to know very closely in 12 years ago when he was shooting for 'Shubo Mahurat' at a Kolkata studio. We would spend hours fighting, arguing and bickering over the merits of new films.
When I'd write something and he didn't like, Ritu would sulk for months. We would then be back at it, mulling dissecting. Of late, our conversations has ceased. Ritu had become progressively reclusive. All his recent films as director and/or actor were defiantly homosexual in theme.
Ritu had taken his personal life to work. But he had no life to return to when he packed up his shooting.