Rituparno Ghosh, one of India's best and versatile filmmakers in the post-Satyajit Ray generation, who started a new wave in Bengali cinema exploring human relationships with bold depictions of sexuality against social themes, died following cardiac arrest at his city residence Thursday.
Winner of 12 national and several international awards during a two-decade journey spanning 19 movies, Ghosh was suffering from pancreatitis and died following a heart attack at 7.30 a.m.
Ghosh, maker of acclaimed and award-winning Bengali films like "Bariwali", "Asukh", "Utsab", "Shubho Mahurat", "Chokher Bali", "Dosar", "Shob Charitro Kalponik" and "Abohoman", excelled in treating both contemporary issues and period pieces.
Born Aug 31, 1963, Ghosh time and again called Ray his mentor and inspiration. Just like the master, Ghosh shifted to filmmaking from advertisements. And both enviably picked up awards with almost every film they made.
Ghosh's death left people within and outside the film-world in shock and grief as rich tributes poured in from all across, while celebrities and commoners thronged his house to pay their last respects.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, one of the first to pay homage to him said: "The entire state is saddened at the lost of a golden artist of a golden era". She later garlanded Ghosh's photo at the state secretariat.
Kept in a glassed coffin, Ghosh's body was first taken in a convoy to a studio in the commercial film hub Tollygunge, and later kept for public viewing at the state-run film and cultural centre Nandan where film personalities and commoners paid their obeisance.
In the evening, his body was consigned to flames at a South Kolkata crematorium as police personnel reversed arms and gave a gun salute, with the bugle sounding the mourning post. Banerjee was present throughout the last rites.
In 1992, Ghosh made his first film -- "Hirer Angti" - a movie for children -- but it never got released.
However, he shot into prominence two years later with "Unishe April" that bagged the national award for best feature film.
Three years later came another award winning film "Dahan" showing the trials and tribulations of two contemporary women - one of them molested by goons, and another who had rushed to help her.
From then on, it was only a success story for the film-maker, known for his alternate sexuality, and one who enjoyed cross-dressing and had fascination for make-up.
Ghosh's last released film was "Chitrangada" (2012), while a few days before his death, he finished shooting a crime thriller "Satyanveshi".
In 2007, Ghosh made his only English movie "The Last Lear" starring Amitabh Bachchan.
He directed two Hindi movies - "Raincoat" (2004) - that got a National Award and "Sunglass" (2012).
Ghosh had a great ability to get the best out of matinee idols like Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, and Rakhee Gulzar, and helped commercial actresses like Raima Sena and Rituparna Sengupta to take their career to the next level through their sensitive works in his movies.
The unpretentious portrayal of physical relationships played a major role in Ghosh's films like "Chokher Bali", based on Tagore's novel, and "Antarmahal".
The genius film maker boldly portrayed women's desires in almost all his films, as he himself battled his sexuality and identity - somewhat of a woman wrapped in a man's body - through his life.
He also acted in queer characters in three movies - "Chitrangada", "Arekti Premer Golpo" and "Memories in March". Earlier, he acted in a Oriya film 'Katha Deithilli Ma Ku'.
Condoling the death, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said: "He was a creative genius who gave a new dimension to filmmaking with every film that he was associated with".
Famed actress Deepti Naval, who teamed up with Ghosh in "Memories in March", said: This was never expected. I can't believe this."
Raima, who worked with him for the first time in "Chokher Bali", said: "It was a shock for the entire film industry".
Several greats from the film fraternity took to micro-blogging site Twitter to express their grief.
Actor Ajay Devgn who had worked with Ghosh in the National Film award winner "Raincoat" tweeted, "It was grt wrking wit him in Raincoat & his way of looking at things was so different and unique."
Director Anurag Basu said: "He took our cinema to international audiences."