The opening shots of Satyajit Ray’s Charulata bypass melodrama for the feel of a fairy tale, with bored housewife Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) flitting about her spacious Victorian home like Rapunzel amusing herself in her tower. Even shots that stay still for less than a second frame Charu behind bars, be it bedposts or the wooden blinds she jerks open in order to peer at the bustling city life below. Never again does the camera move as swiftly nor as giddily as it does when Charu, armed with a pair of binoculars, hustles along each window to follow the movement of a man she finds interesting. The scene ends as quickly as it came to life, nothing more than a fleeting distraction from the tedium of her sheltered existence. Continue reading
Widely regarded as one of Satyajit Ray’s most magnificent films, “Days and Nights in the Forest” is a beautiful and touching story about four young middle class men who leave Calcutta to spend some time in an empty bungalow in the forests of Palmau.
Full of the confidence of the big city, and with little respect for the rural villagers, the boys learn several lessons about life and love as their conceited worldview is challenged by their experiences with the local girls of Palmau. Continue reading
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
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
This is the best-known biography of the film giant, based on extensive interviews with Ray himself, his actors, collaborators, and a deep knowledge of Bengali culture. This second edition contains extensive new material covering Ray’s final three films made in 1989-1991, a discussion of his artistic legacy, and the most comprehensive bibliography of Ray’s own writings.
Andrew Robinson, who had been a friend of Ray’s, spent a number of years working on this, and his account of Ray’s family and childhood draws upon interviews and conversations, supplemented with material from Ray’s own CHILDHOOD DAYS, MY YEARS WITH APU, and other sources. Robinson paints a portrait of a Calcutta overflowing with creative potential – Ray’s family connections to Tagore are also detailed, as are the accomplishments of his father and grandfather, and the intellectual independence of his mother, who seemed to strongly influence at least a few of his cinematic characters. Continue reading
The documentary details the life and work of the celebrated Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.” Rabindranath Tagore was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, born in Calcutta. He was educated at home. At seventeen he was sent to England for formal schooling, which he did not complete. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years he resigned the honor as a protest against British policies in India. Continue reading
Calcutta 1879. Bhupati Dutta (Sailen Mukherjee), a wealthy intellectual edits and publishes a political weekly in English called ‘The Sentinel.’ His sensitive and beautiful, young wife Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) spends her time doing needlework and reading Bengali novels. Sensing her loneliness, Bhupati invites her older brother Umapada and his wife Mandakini to live with them. Umapada becomes the manager of the magazine but Mandakini, a rustic and unlettered woman is no companion for Charu. Bhupati’s cousin Amal (Soumitra Chaterjee) arrives to spend his vacation with Bhupati. At Bhupati’s suggestion, the literary minded Amal helps and encourages Charu with her writing. The two get more and more drawn to each other. Bhupati, busy with the magazine as usual, is unaware of this development… Continue reading