Born as a Hindu in the predominantly Muslim East Bengal, he fled in 1947 to the Indian city of West Bengal. There Ghatak joined the Communist Party (CPI ) and wrote plays for the theater.
His first feature film was Nagarik 1952/53, rotated, but published posthumously in 1977. His second was the comedy Ajantrik. After that Ghatak employed repeated with the tragedy of the Indian, especially the Bengali division in the wake of Indian independence and the concomitant loss of their homeland. His resulting 1960 to 1962 refugee trilogy comprises three of his most famous films. Of these, only Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960 ) was commercially successful. In the following decade Ghatak was no producer on his film ideas and he moved to documentaries. During this period of artistic Ritwik Ghatak offside drifted more and more into despair and alcohol abuse.
After independence, the state of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1972 at the invitation Ghatak went to his old home and turned there Titash Ekti nadir nam after the eponymous story of Adwaita Mallabarman about life in a fishing village. It is a reflection on the Bengali river landscape and culture. The film is the clearest Ghataks resist style. In 1974 appeared, autobiographical film Jukti takko ar Gappo he plays the alcoholic refugee in the Revolutionary War, is wrong with two DC affected by West Bengal.
Ritwik Ghatak died in 1976 of tuberculosis and alcohol abuse. His film work has found the gebührliche attention until after his death. He is today, as well as his fellow Bengali Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, the most important Indian directors of auteur cinema.