Ritwik Ghatak – Meghe Dhaka Tara AKA The Cloud-Caped Star (1960)

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In an impoverished refugee village in Calcutta, an attractive and industrious young woman, Nita (Supriya Choudhury), breaks a sandal while passing through the market square, and without complaining, continues barefoot on the graveled street, unable to buy a replacement pair of sandals for the walk home. Patently aware that Nita has received her monthly salary, her talented, but indolent older brother Shankar (Anil Chatterjee) pays an unexpected visit, and encountering Nita absorbed in reading a personal letter from a suitor named Sanat (Niranjan Ray), playfully snatches the note and reads aloud its affectionate contents, before asking her for spending money. Meanwhile her younger sister, Gita (Gita Ghatak) and brother Mantu (Dwiju Bhawal) brazenly plead with their desperate and resourceless mother (Gita De) for new articles of clothing, before re-directing their vain and selfish entreaties to Nita. Having spent her entire salary on her burdensome, coddled siblings, her embittered and insecure mother then vociferously complains to her father (Bijon Bhattacharya), an underemployed school teacher, that Nita has squandered the monthly household budget. Bound by a selfless sense of familial duty, Nita has decided to postpone her marriage to Sanat until Shankar realizes his ambition to become a classical singer. However, as Nita perseveres in her sacrifice for her ungrateful and demanding family, her own prospects for happiness proves ever increasingly bleak. Continue reading

Govindan Aravindan – Kummatty AKA The Bogeyman (1979)

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Kummatty is adapted from a Central Kerala folk tale about a partly mythic and partly real magician called Kummatty. Kummatty travels from place to place and entertain children with dancing, singing and performing magic. At one such performance at a village, Kummatty turns a group of children into animals. But one boy, who was changed into a dog, is chased away and misses the moment Kummatty changed the children back to their human form. The dog-boy has to wait a year until Kummatty returns to the village to get back his human form. Aravindan claimed Kummatty to be his personal favourite film. Kummatty won the State award for best children’s film. Continue reading

Govindan Aravindan – Uttarayanam (1974)

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Aravindan’s debut extended a 60s Calicut modernism into cinema, drawing on the work of the writer Pattathiruvila Karunakaran, who produced the film, and the satirical playwright Thikkodiyan, who co-scripted it. The plot is about a disabused young man, Ravi, who has a series of ironic encounters while looking for a job. One of his mentors, Kumaran Master, and his now critically ill friend Setu had participated in the 1942 Quit India agitations with Ravi’s father (shown in flashback). The lawyer Gopalan Muthalaly, also a participant in those events, has become a rich contractor and an example of the corrupt post-Independence bourgeoisie. Ravi abandons the city and, in a mystical ending, is initiated into ‘eternal truths’ by a godman meditating on a mountain. The figures of the father and the ailing friend form a composite portrait of Sanjayan, a political activist, spiritualist and satirist, and major influence on the Calicut artists who participated in the film. Aravindan’s approach to his lead characters and his framing evoke the cartoon characters Ramu and Guruji from his Small Man and Big World series Continue reading

Satyajit Ray – Ghare-Baire aka The Home and the World (1984)

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Both a romantic-triangle tale and a philosophical take on violence in times of revolution, The Home and the World, set in early twentieth-century Bengal, concerns an aristocratic but progressive man who, in insisting on broadening his more traditional wife’s political horizons, drives her into the arms of his radical school chum. Satyajit Ray had wanted to adapt Rabindranath Tagore’s classic novel to the screen for decades. When he finally did in 1984, he fashioned a personal, exquisite film that stands as a testament to his lifelong love for the great writer. Continue reading

Satyajit Ray – Pather Panchali (1955)

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A boy named Apu is born to a poor but proud Brahmin family. His loving older sister, Durga, is a sweet girl, but has formed the bad habit of stealing fruit from an aunt’s orchard, much to her mother’s dismay. Their father Harihar, a poet and lay priest, finds a treasury job that will bring the family steady income for the first time in a while. For a brief period afterwards, their mother Sarbajaya manages to make ends meet, and the children are left to their own devices and run freely. But when Harihar loses his position, he leaves his family with depleted resources to search elsewhere for work. In his absence, their condition deteriorates. Months later, Harihar returns to face the tragedy that forces them to leave their ancestral home. This acclaimed debut by Satyajit Ray is the first part of a trilogy of poetic, lyrical works. Continue reading

Mira Nair – Monsoon Wedding (2001) (HD)

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From Criterion

Cultures and families clash in Mira Nair’s exuberant Monsoon Wedding, a mix of comedy and chaotic melodrama concerning the preparations for the arranged marriage of a modern upper-middle-class Indian family’s only daughter, Aditi. Of course there are hitches—Aditi has been having an affair with a married TV host; she’s never met her husband to be, who lives in Houston; the wedding has worsened her father’s hidden financial troubles; even the wedding planner has become a nervous wreck—as well as buried family secrets. But Nair’s celebration is ultimately joyful and cathartic: a love song to her home city of Delhi and her own Punjabi family. Continue reading

Ritwik Ghatak – Ajantrik aka Pathetic Fallacy (1958)

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Synopsis

The plot of Ajantrik (Pathetic Fallacy) revolves around Bimal and his battered taxi, an old Chevrolet, he calls Jagaddal. Because he treats his car as a living being, many consider Bimal to be mad.

Said Ritwik about the film: “You can call my protagonist, Bimal, a lunatic, a child, or a tribal. At one level they are all the same. They react to lifeless things almost passionately. This is an ancient, archetypal reaction….The tribal songs and dances in Ajantrik describe the whole cycle of life – birth, hunting, marriage, death, ancestor worship, and rebirth. This is the main theme of Ajantrik, this law of life.”

Music by Ali Akbar Khan.
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