Renoir, son of the impressionist artist, creator of the extraordinary portrait of upper class French society on the eve of WW2, Rules of the Game, is also one of the important influences on Satyajit Ray, The two came in contact during the filming of The River, and this was the reason Ray turned from advertising to cinema, and that is a good enough reason for watching this film, apart from the fact that it is about India and by an acclaimed film-maker. But it was hard to believe that this is the director who made the masterly Rules of the Game, and whether Ray was actually influenced by him (friendship apart).
This is yet another example of a Western director’s impressions of the East, obviously targeted at a Western audience. Imagine Ray making a film based in LA or Chicago, pretending to knowledgeably expound the “mysteries’ thereof for the Indian audience. For a “native” this is about as digestible as David Lean’s A Passage to India. It is the land of snake charmers and mendicants, of people immersed in mystical mumbo-jumbo, somehow immune to the problems and issues people face elsewhere, and offering solutions to life’s problems through esoteric secrets jealously preserved. What characterizes
is poverty and lack of education more than the profundities of religious and cultural differences. This is yet another condescending picture of the colonial period, sentimental and poorly informed, demeaning in it’s shades of mysticism, magic, and superstition. India
The core story is of a British jute trader’s family of five daughters (including one from a deceased Indian wife), three of whom become romantically entangled with a visiting handsome one legged cousin from the
. Here, the director is in his element more than his Victorian tourist brochure picture of the country, and we have a touching, engrossing and rounded human tale. US
This is not a film Ray could have liked or identified with, except perhaps out of politeness or obligation. Ray’s picture of
Roger Ebert review