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Soumyabrata Choudhury

Death and the infant in Ritwik Ghatak’s Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (1974): two political ‘monstrations’[1]

--Soumyabrata Choudhury

In Ritwik Ghatak’s last film Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (Reason Argument and Story) made in 1974, the film- maker plays an artist, so plays himself who enters his last passion – which is not a work of art but an act of dying. Ghatak enters his own frame as an actor to profane, with a certain tragic joy, the pride of the great professional actor: the pride of possessing a ‘supernatural’ body that can absorb and re-manifest all events of life, including death. In contrast to the immortal body of the actor-sovereign Ghatak offers his mortal body to art. In the duration of his last film he ‘monstrates’ (from which we can oppose the joyous and profane ‘monster’ to the holy and monumental actor) his mortality. Ghatak makes a last journey with three fellow mortals – a young itinerant, a refugee girl from East Pakistan, an old man thrown out of his house – who are also ‘fellow monsters’. In the last sequence of the film Ghatak meets a group of young revolutionaries (naxalities) who want to destroy the present State or at least take over its power. It is here that a conversation ensues: Ghatak, part of the history of communist art, both utopic and interventionist, from the IPTA days, with drunken profane lucidity calls the young revolutionaries, victims of ``infantile disorder´´. At the end of life and art, Ghatak lectures the ``infants´´ on dialectical and historical wisdom. The ``infants´´ declare Ghatak to be a ``decadent petit bourgeois intellectual´´ not worth taking seriously. Interestingly, both parties share the same polemical and theoretical tradition. ``Infantile disorder´´ is a derisive quotation passed on from Engels to Lenin etc. and the petit bourgeois accusation really means that the artist is dying uselessly. So the two sides share a utilitarian anxiety: either the subject is politically ineffectual because he/she is infantile or because the subject is dying without reinvesting that death in the project of politics. What they equally share is a mutual ‘monstration’: Ghatak encounters the direct power of conviction and enthusiasm that the ``infants´´ affirm; while the revolutionaries cannot but feel the nearness of a life performing its most irreducible and singular gesture, the gesture of dying. Thus Ghatak encounters the new in history while the figures of the new, the ``ìnfants´´ come face to face with the very event of finitude.

The present paper is based on the rough hypothesis that the pre-occupation within revolutionary politics in the 1970’s has entered the contemporary Reason of the State which has internalized the above anxiety about a certain utilization of life. As two figures, events, ‘monstrations’, death and the infant, finitude and natality continue to befall our utilitarian political rationalities and to urge us to reconsider the limits of politics.

References for the project


  • Banerjee, Sumanta, (1980), “In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India,” Subarnarekha, Calcutta.
  • Damas, Marius, (1991), “Approaching Naxalbari”, Radical Impression, Calcutta.
  • Dasgupta, Biplab, (1974), “The Naxalite Movement” Allied Publishers.
  • Duyker, Edward, (1987), “Tribal Guerrillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement”, Oxford University Press.
  • Ghosh, Sankar (1975), “The Naxalite Movement: A Maoist Experiment, Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay.
  • Ghosh, Suniti Kr., (2009), “Naxalbari- Before and After: Reminiscences and Appraisals”, New Age Publishers (P) Ltd, Kolkata.
  • Jawaid, Sohail, (1979), “The Naxalite Movement in India: Origin and Failure of the Maoist Revolutionary Strategy in West Bengal, 1967-1971”, Associated Publishing House.
  • *Mukhopadhya, Ashoke Kr., (Etd.) (2006), “The Naxalites- Through the Eyes of the Police: Select notification s from the Calcutta Police Gazette: 1967-1975”, Dey’s Publishing, Kolkata.

*Can be used as a primary source as well.


  • Banerjee, Sumanta, “Naxalbari: Between Past and Future”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 22 (Jun. 1-7, 2002), pp. 2115-2116.
  • Dasgupta, Biplab, “Naxalite Armed Struggles and the Annihilation Campaign in Rural Areas”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 8, No. 4/6, Annual Number (Feb., 1973), pp. 173-188.
  • Dasgupta, Biplab, “The Naxalite Movement: An Epilogue”, Social Scientist, Vol. 6, No. 12 (Jul., 1978), pp. 3-24.
  • “The Guerrillas of Calcutta”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 5, No. 49 (Dec. 5, 1970), pp. 1953-1954.
  • “Urban Guerrillas in Calcutta,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 6, No. 28 (Jul. 10, 1971), pp. 1379-1382.

Play texts:

  • Utpal Dutta, “Teer” (Arrow)
  • Asit Bose, “Kolkata r Hamlet” (The Hamlet of Calcutta)
  • Mohit Choudhuri, “Rajrokto” (Royal Blood)
  • Badal Sircar, “Micchil” (Procession)
  • Bratya Basu, “Bhoye” (Fear), “Winkle Twinkle”, “Virus M”.


Ø Bengali:

§ Ritwik Ghatak, (1974), “Jukti Takko Aar Gappo” (Reason, Debate and a Story).

§ Mrinal Sen, (1972), “Calcutta 71”.

§ Mrinal Sen, (1973), “Padatik” (The Guerilla Fighter).

§ Suman Mukhopadhyay, (2006), “Herbert”.

§ Ashoke, Vishwanath, (1993), “Sunya Theke Suru

Ø Hindi:

§ Sudhir Mishra, (2005), “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” (A Thousand Desires).

§ Govind Nihalani,(1998), “Haazar chaurasi ki Maa” (The Mother of Corpse No. 1084) (based on the novel, Hazar Churashir Maa by Mahasweta Devi).

Ø Malyalam:

§ Madhupal, (2009), “Thalappavu” (The Headgear).

Ø Kannada:

§ Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, (2007), “Maathaad Maathaadu Mallige,” (Speak oh! Jasmine, speak).

§ S. Narayan, (1999), “Veerappa Nayaka

[1]A neologism borrowed from Jacques Lacan´s last seminars in 1970’s ``monstration´´ is a deliberate mutilation of de-monstration. In this mutilated form the word might evoke a direct effect of the letter of a discourse, the gesture of a body, the trace of a figure… such a direct effect or attribution arises from the showing of a material or a life in all their immanent passion without referring to any transcendental meaning outside