I enjoyed a ringside view of Rituparno's eventful life right from 1985 when he started his 10-year stint at our just-born advertising agency- Response. We stayed connected forever, two decades after his move to full-time film-making - calls, mails, texts, tweets - till 29 May when he last tweeted me. 20-something Ritu debuted as a trainee writer in Bengali after doing his master's in economics! A crazy decision - a wild experiment for both of us - based entirely on reams of unpublished writings he shared with us. A decision we both came to value deeply.
We had a small but formidable team - much talent, rich experience - right from the inception. Ritu turned from tyro to pro almost instantly and became a shining star among our all-star cast. We caught on to his phenomenal worth quickly, backed his development fully, encouraged his ever-diversifying cerebrations and profited from them. At first he was a writer, then a maker of commercials and documentaries but, like the rest of us, participated irrepressibly in anything and everything creative, always reinventing.
An erstwhile colleague wrote: "Ritu churned out rhymes in Bengali at the drop of a hat for paints and soaps and creams and what not. Won us top prizes for our Bengali work year after year - with his left hand as it were, as the Bengali saying goes! Other agencies scoured libraries to hunt out suitable quotes from ancient texts to beat his Puja ads, little knowing that Ritu was adept at simulating many styles and a variety of authors without any reference whatsoever. His facile pen was ready with creative solutions almost minutes after getting a brief." Never repeated himself. The same pen that gave Boroline its timeless signature, Bango Jiboner Ango (Inseparable from life) also gave Margo Soap its unbeatable promise, Dekhte Khaaraap Maakhte Bhaalo (Looks bad, does good) and helped re-charge the ageing market leaders.
I chose to not get into his films for most readers know a lot about them and will surely hear more in the coming days. His films are obviously his most important and visible public work which won him applause from millions and accolades around India and the world. During his last two years at Response he finished Hirer Aangti (The diamond ring), his first feature film and started working on his second, Unishe April (The Nineteenth of April). At this point we mutually decided it would be best for him to move out of advertising and into whole-time film-making. The rest is history. Ritu's work as an editor and TV presenter, too, is widely known. But these belong to the last two decades of his work. What is not so well-known is the outstanding work he did as an advertising professional. Work that set benchmarks for many later-day first-timers, even veterans. Especially in original Bengali advertising. In this space he was a game-changer.
Here's yet another anecdote. One that speaks volumes about the kind of person he was. Once, while in Response, where both of us worked, he came to our house armed with his script-khata and narrated a portion of his script of a film on Radha and Krishna. I will never forget that winter afternoon in our balcony where the slanted rays fell on Rituparno’s face and I realised that he was crying as he read out how Radha was crying.
It is impossible at this time to write a full story of Rituparno's life and work outside cinema - maybe some other time. Allow me to close now with some online-type tags which, when combined, depict an improbable but actual individual - Rituparno - someone without parallel in modern times. Insatiable curiosity. Constant learning. Great taste. Tireless application. Endless energy. Childlike simplicity. Ability to connect with, engage, get under the skin of and bond with virtually anybody. To emote effortlessly. Write not just imaginatively but correctly, too. Without errors in spelling or syntax. With rhetoric and prosody intact...
Our biggest loss is Ritu's demise at a time when he was at the peak of his incredible creativity leaving us merely guessing what he might have added to the wealth of his creations till now if fate did not fell him so untimely.