Somewhere in the fifties or sixties, four Bengali young men in their twenties, seek respite from the daily grind, as they journey in an Ambassador car to spend a week in the tribal belt of Bihar or Jharkhand. They manage to lodge themselves in a government rest-house by bribing and brow-beating the care-taker, whose wife is ailing. And then they encounter an elderly gentleman , his daughter and widowed daughter-in-law, and romance, sadness, along with rumbling of bygone tragedies, blossom in this wilderness.
These are middle class people, government officials or employees in the jute industry, with anglo-bengali thinking, speech and ways--in fact an authentic portrait of Indians not very different than in the present racier times. Ray's characters are a cross section of ordinary people of a time and place, and through meticulously chiseled cinema he creates a world and an era, which evokes gratitude ( because you see yourself there all the time ) and admiration for the apparent ease and effortlessness. There is the sound and rhythm of the village fair, with it's roulettes, a very ricketty dwarf of a giant wheel, and pakoras served on pieces of newspaper, and the dark and flirtatious santhal beauties. It's the period when one and two rupee notes were still respectworthy.
Not much happens in this movie. It's made of ordinary, everyday things, like people bathing, conversing inconsequentially, mutual fun poking, male camaraderie, getting drunk and dancing on the road at night, always remaining within while nudging at the limits of accepted social norms. Yet for all it's apparent lack of mind or earth shaking events, it grips one's attention and interest till the curtain credits at the end disappear. Because this is a world and these are people one can immediately identify with.
Each of the director's movies is fresh as though his wellsprings of creation are inexhaustible. Each is a discovery.
This gentle and melodious film is as unputdownable as any. Another from the master's vineyard
*Sharmila Tagore, Soumitra Chatterjee, Simi Garewal*.