Tag Archives: Satyajit Ray


Satyajit Ray’s haunting portrayal of the Calcutta of the 70s, of the period of unemployment, naxalite movement, frustration of the youth, family expectations beautifully set out in Pratidwandi, the first of his Calcutta trilogy.

Siddhartha Choudhary (Dhritiman Chatterjee) is an unemployed youth having to abruptly terminate his medical studies due to the untimely death of his father. Being the eldest son, there are family expectations on him to step into his father’s shoes and provide for the family.

He has a sister who is employed and quite ambitious as well. She knows what it takes to get ahead in her career and is quite determined. His younger brother is into the political movement of that time and is quite sure of where his path lays. He even asks Siddhartha to join him so that he might get some job in the party office. Siddhartha declines.

Siddhartha is the idealistic son who smokes, has his first drink with a friend well past the legal drinking age and repulses when his friend takes him to a sex place. He gives interviews after interviews but at every interview there are hundreds of candidates waiting for that one job.

He accidently meets up with a girl Keya whom he has known fleetingly when she calls him home to fix up the light fuse which had broken. They develop a platonic relationship from there on. She is a single child of her father, her mother had died when she was young, but she does not like her aunt, whom her dad is proposing to marry soon. She has an adversary there.

He is offered a job as a medical representative but for that he has to leave Calcutta and go to a small town far away. He is averse to leaving his beloved city, though it has nothing to offer him. Siddhartha goes to a job interview that drags on and on in sultry conditions in a room packed with people with no fan whatsoever. He rebels against the indifference shown by employers in not providing even basic human facilities to people.

The film title’s English meaning is adversary. Siddhartha’s adversary is everything that Calcutta throws up to him – the unemployment, the frustration, angst at having to terminate his medical studies, the burden of shouldering the family responsibility, the idiotic employers who keep asking him stupid questions and not giving him a job. All characters in the movie have an adversary in some form or another. The sister at the boss’s wife who keeps doubting her integrity and for the younger brother of course, the entire egalitarian society is his adversary.

Ray opens the scene with a funeral shot in photo negative flashback and ends the movie with another funeral scene but in a normal shot. Siddhartha settles down in his rented room at the new town and starts reading the letter written by Keya when he hears the sound of the bird which he had heard in his youth with his siblings and was looking for it all along, but could not find in the busy noisy city of Calcutta. Is Calcutta his adversary, that’s the question that Ray ponders.

Dhritiman Chatterjee has done a brilliant job as the single most important protagonist in the movie. Camera work, lighting and photography are excellent and of course the masterful screenplay and direction of Ray. Timeless classic this from the master director. Proud to have watched it on his 100th birth anniversary today, 2nd May, 2021.

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Apur Sansar

Satyajit Ray’s magnum opus The Apu Trilogy of which Apur Sansar is the final part.

The movie starts with Apu (Soumitra Chatterjee) an unemployed youth having studied upto intermediate, does not find a job anywhere in Calcutta. He gets by giving private tuitions. One day his friend Pulu (Swapan Mukherjee) lands up at his house and asks him to accompany him to his cousin’s wedding in Khulna.

Out there tragedy occurs when the bridegroom turns out to a mad person and as per tradition if the bride Aparna (Sharmila Tagore) does not marry within the auspicious hour, then she has to remain unmarried her whole life. Apu comes to the rescue and marries her.

They have nice love life going on, when she has to return to her village for her delivery. She dies giving birth to a boy which shatters the life of Apu. It is from here that Satyajit Ray degrades the character from a happy go lucky loving smiling young man to a melancholy, depressed, anguished person ready to throw away all advantages. Its so brilliantly done which is the hallmark of Ray in most of his movies. He did that in Mahanagar and Nayak also.

Soumitra Chatterjee has given the performance of his lifetime, probably one of his best ever. I am surprised that he did not win any award for this movie. Its an extraordinary acting performance by Soumitra. Sharmila looks stunningly beautiful as the young bride with her dimpled smile, she is gorgeous in the movie.

The movie had to take an unnatural end with her premature death in the movie. In Pather Panchali also, young Durga dies leaving her parents disconsolate and here the same happens to Apu. Music by Ravi Shankar is very good as is the camera work, cinematography, direction by Satyajit Ray. Brilliant series. I am yet to watch the middle movie in the series, though.

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Pather Panchali

Finally managed to watch the cult classic of Satyajit Ray “Pather Panchali” his first film and the first of the Apu trilogy made in 1955. This has been digitally restored in colour and has English sub titles.

Haunting story of Sarabajaya Roy (Karuna Banerjee), story of Durga Roy (Runki Banerjee/ Uma Dasgupta) – story of their plight and suffering in a rural Bengal mileau in the 1920s. Sarabajaya’s husband Haraihar Roy (Kanu Banerjee) is a priest but has to take up odd jobs in order to survive with his family. They stay with an old aunt Indir Thakrun (Chunibala Devi) and Apu (Subir Banerjee) is yet to be born. Chunibala Devi has done a delightful role as the old tootless bent but caring aunt.

Apu gets born and there is joy in the family due to birth of a son, and subtle degradation of Durga starts from that point. Anything Apu asks for or does is doted upon anything Durga asks or does is frowned upon. They don’t go to school, girls are married of at 14 itself.

The family has to suffer the taunts of their better off neighbours but some of them do help and commiserate with their plight. Harihar gets a job in town so leaves the family with hopes, but nary a letter from him for months reduces Sarabajaya to an abject despair. Meanwhile, the money starts running out so do the grains.

Heavy rain storms bring more misery to the family as their humble abode is completely wrecked while Durga and Apu enjoy the rains, being kids, Durga later on falls sick and there is an old wizened man to give his doctor’s verdict. Apply more wet cloth as the fever raises. Devastating scene when Harihar returns home and realises his darling Durga is no more. That scene when the father gives a sari which he bought as a gift for Durga to her mother and the mother crumbling down helplessly gutted me.

The silent suffering Sarabajaya magnificently played by Karuna Banerjee is the highlight of the movie. I am surprised she did not win any acting accolades for her role in the movie. It is absolutely one of the most beautiful roles played by any lady in any film in India. She is breathtaking. She makes the movie come alive with her raw emotions of suffering, despair, happiness, pain, anguish, worry, and love.

Uma Dasgupta playing the role of teenage Durga is the next best thing to happen in the movie. With her twinkling eyes, she enraptures the audience and behind that naughtiness is an emotion of understanding, of responsibility of caring for her little brother.

Apu played by Subir Banerjee with his naughty eyes, disheveled hair, sprightly running holds a mirror to what young kids be like irrespective of the cultures they are brought up in. There is a haunting scene, when immediately after Durga’s death the young Apu, comes out of the ramshackle house, neatly dressed, takes a comb and burnishes his hair properly, looks up at the sky to see if the rain beckons, goes inside the house to pick up an umbrella, tucks it under his armpits and goes out seriously. That is the scene when boy become man in the movie.

The movies is neo realist in the sense that locations are actual villages with farms, ponds, trees, etc. Music by Ravi Shankar is haunting, while cinematography and photography are breathtaking to say the least. Satyajit Ray has run a nice tight script and being his debut film which won the National film award and also the Cannes, it is highly commendable.

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Kapurush O Mahapurush

Satyajit Ray’s double story movie “Kapurush O Mahapurush” (1965). Its basically two stories in one movie, but not a deep connection between the two. In the first Kapurush (meaning Coward), starring Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee in the main roles, Amit Roy (Soumitra) is on the way somewhere when his car breaks down in a small village and the repairs will take a couple of days at least next day being Sunday. In the same workshop Bimal Gupta (Haradhan Banerjee) overhears the conversation and offers to take him to his bungalow for the night. He is a tea plantation owner. Amit gets the shock of his life when he reaches Gupta’s house to discover his wife Karuna (Madhabi Mukherjee) was the one whom he had loved when he was young and that did not fructify, because he did not get the guts to take action at the appropriate time, when Karuna’s family was taking her to Patna. Bimal Gupta leads a lonely life of work, and drinks at home with nobody to socialise with for miles around. Strict heirarchical rules of plantation life established by the British but still being followed to the present day, ensures that he cannot mingle with his employees who are lower to him in rank. Amit asks for sleeping pills for the night to stay and he gets it from Karuna. Amit probably thinks that Karuna does not love her husband and asks her to leave him and come along with him. He says your husband is a drunkard, he must be beating you also. Amit asks her to meet him at the railway station where he is now taking a train to depart. Karuna does come to the railway station, but only to ask for the sleeping pills which Amit had mistakenly taken along with him. But she goes back. That says a lot. Soumitra Chatterjee has done a brilliant role as the tortured young man who has lost his love due to his cowardice and is desperate to win it back. Madhabi Mukherjee is beautiful and dignified in her role as Karuna.

The second story Mahapurush (the Holy Man) starts in a railway station. The last scene of Kapurush is in the railway station and the first scene of Mahapurush is in the railway station. A holy man is throwing flowers at his devotees while the railway inspector is desperate to start the train. The holy man Birinchi Baba (Charuprakash Ghosh) then settles down inside the compartment only for an old man to fall at his feet and narrate his woes to the baba. The baba does some fraudulent miracles like making the sun rise and thus plonks himself and his assistant to the old man’s house. The old man has a daughter Gitali Roy who he is desperate to get married off. Meanwhile scene shifts to a room where a young man Satya (Satindra Bhattacharya) rushes in complaining of the holy baba and his love for Buchki (Gitali Roy) who it seems is going to go the saintly way. The holy baba in the meanwhile cooks up a nice cock and bull story about him meeting with Jesus Christ, Buddha, Manu, Shiva, Vishnu etc. and the gullible devotees including some rich ones and learned ones. The four of them cook up a plot to expose the baba and drive them away for Satya to win his love by rescuing Buchki from the clutches of the baba.

The central theme in both the movies is the young man – one is a coward, the other one daring to go for the jugular. In Kapurush, Gupta is intoxicated literally after work hours, in Mahapurush, gullible people are intoxicated by religion. In Kapurush, the last scene is that of the train entering the railway station. In Mahapurush, the first scene is that of the train about to leave the station. Mahapurush is a parody on the holy men fooling innocent people through their bullshit talk. In Kapurush, Karuna asks to be led which Amit refuses. In Mahapurush, Buchki is sceptical but Satya just grabs her while the fire breaks out in their house. So there you are, master director Satyajit Ray at work with his brilliant direction. Not much acting worth talking about in Mahapurush whilst Kapurush sees some splendid acting by Soumitra and Madhabi. The script that i saw was of poor quality in youtube.

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Brilliant noir film by Satyajit Ray, “Nayak” (1966) explores the dark underbelly of a film star’s imperfections. Made in black and white and starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore as the central protagonists, the film is shot entirely inside a moving train except the opening shot and few sequences in his dreams/ recollections. Arindam (Uttam Kumar) is a huge film star going to New Delhi to receive an award in a second class train from Calcutta of those days. His arrival at the train station and inside the train creates a buzz amongst the passengers. Aditi (Sharmila Tagore) is a journalist writing for a women’s magazine and wants to interview him. Over the course of the interview which takes three to four sittings, Arindam degenerates his personality from a confident movie star into a insecure, distressed, unsure, nervous person due to ephemeral nature of his profession. All along his biggest fear is that three flops will take him down to the gutter. Satyajit Ray has interspersed the narration with three to four episodes from Arindam’s past such as his first ever day in the films, his betrayal of his friend who becomes a union leader, his inability to help a lady who wants a career out in the movies. In one scene he is seen desperately clutching bank notes as he is sinking deeper and deeper into a morass from which even his mentor Shankarda is unable to help him. Satyajit Ray has also added minor sub plots in the movie in the train itself with one lady wanting to act in the movies but whose husband wants her to inveigle herself to a potential client who is enamoured of her. That man’s wife and children are in the same coupe as Arindam and the daughter who is sick from the beginning of the train journey recovers towards the end. There is a Hitchockian touch to the movie. The to and fro between Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore is brilliantly done and Uttam Kumar’s character from a confident assured movie star to a distressed despairing insecure individual is brilliantly done by Uttam Kumar. Sharmila Tagore looks glamorous and alluring when she removes her thick glasses.  

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Classic Satyajit Ray movie “Mahanagar” made in 1963 in black and white once again a woman centric movie by the master, after “Kanchenjunga” which was made in 1962 also a woman oriented movie. Quite a genius to make a woman centric movie in the 60s, advanced thinking for the ages. This one is a beautiful film with traces of psychological drama in it, but Ray brilliantly picks it up towards the end. Brilliant performance by Madhabi Mukherjee in the main role of Arati the demure wife of Subrata Mazumdar, the banker who is just making by with his salary with old parents to take care of plus his kid and a sister as well. They live in a old ramshackle house with no fans and no cooking gas. His father is a retired teacher and likes to play the crossword in order to win some prize money. Then they decide that Arati can work to supplement the income of the family. She applies and secures a job as well and becomes quite a star performer in her company. Then all hell breaks loose because it is a patriarchal family system, how can a women go out and work, a silent war rages on between the elderly in laws and the woman. But pangs of jealousy and guilt start hurting the husband, this is where Anil Chatterjee as the husband has performed a bravura role. The wife starts earning more, starts wearing lipstick, sun glasses, appoints maid for the house, meets other gentleman in a cafe, all of which troubles the husband. The husband also loses his job because of a run in his bank. There is one shot in the movie, when Arati is eating and leaves the plate on the floor and asks her husband to do something in a subtly higher voice.  The transformation of Arati as demure, house bound, insecure woman to a confident, courageous, bold woman is quite brilliant and subtle and Madhabi has done her part quite brilliantly in that. At this juncture, Ray takes the script down to show the decay in the husband and when i think he would go for the complete melt down of the husband, but that does not happen. There is one instance in the end, when the husband says to the wife “if you succumb what will happen to us”. Ray has controlled the pace in the movie quite brilliantly. The final shot is fitting in that he pans over a city with tall buildings, the only time, the movie refers to its title “Mahanagar” meaning big city.  Beautifully made movie which has the master’s stamp all over it. 

Picture taken from the internet and not with an intention to violate the copyright. 

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Brilliant 1965 film from the Merchant Ivory stable “Shakespearewallah” – a story of a touring theatre company in India, staging Shakespeare plays all over India. These are British actors who chose to stay behind after India’s independence. Much as things start to change for them in terms of revenue, declining attendance, interest etc. Tony Buckingham (Geoffrey Kendall in a masterful performance) and his wife are the theatre company along with their daughter Lizzie (Felicity Kendall). Sanju (Shashi Kapoor) comes in as the love interest who discovers and is enthralled by the theatre much to the annoyance of his girlfriend Manjula (Madhur Jaffrey). Shashi Kapur and Felicity Kendall deliver solid performances. Shashi Kapoor in fact was much better at doing such roles rather than the dancing and singing roles in commercial cinema. The beauty of the movie is the brilliant virtuoso music delivered by none other than Satyajit Ray. Some of the scenes like the kissing scenes between Sanju and Lizzie would have been taboo way back in 1965 in Hindi commercial cinema.

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A brilliant film made in 1962 by Satyajit Ray, that very subtly conveys lot of messages. The languid pace of this movie is absolutely brilliant. Its about a Bengali family on the last day of their holiday in Darjeeling hoping for a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga peak, but still not able to do so, because of cloud cover. In the meanwhile there is a lot of cloud in his family, his elder daughter is unhappy in her marriage and is seeing her old lover. Her husband knows it. Meanwhile the younger daughter is being primed for marriage with an arranged rendezvous with a young suitor. The younger daughter is not very sure of the institution of marriage especially arranged marriage because she is aware of her elder sister’s miseries. The old man is meanwhile in a world of his own, he has fond respects for the British and contempt for the nationalists and freedom fighters. He meets a young man who wants a job but the young guy is not very impressed with his pro Britishness and pro rich mentality. There is a lot of slow walk in the movie between the protagonists. The movie moves on several parallels with each slowly moving to a conclusion with the Kanchanjunga ranges showing itself majestically at the end. That Satyajit Ray can write such a script and make a movie in 1962 with subtle woman power at its theme is a tribute to the master. Its an absolutely masterful movie by the great man.

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Satyajit Ray’s last film (1991) and it is a classic. Anila Bose (Mamta Shankar in a superb riveting performance) receives a letter from her long lost relative, that he is coming to visit them. He had been gone for 35 years since he left immediately after his college and Anila was only 2 years then and has no recollection of him. None of her other relatives are alive to corroborate him, so his arriving brings in an element of suspense and intrigue to their lives. Who is he – is he an imposter, is he after her husband’s rich collection of paintings and sculptures or is he coming back to claim his share of his late father’s will. All these questions nag Anila and her husband Sudhindra Bose (Deepankar De) and they bring in an element of drama in the form of their friends to prise open this stranger Manomohan Mitra (Utpal Dutt). Satyajit Ray has kept the enduring undercurrent of suspense and intrigue throughout the film. Camera work from the master is as usual astounding as he manages to capture the varied emotions on the faces of the actors.

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