Sunday, December 12, 2010
The Home and the World (Ghare Baire)
The story is set in the first decade of the previous century. Bengal is to be partitioned into two states, a Hindu Bengal and a Muslim Bengal. Lord Curzon is the current Viceroy.The freedom movement is in it's nascent state and is being spearheaded by the upper class intelligentsia. British goods flood the market. There is a move on the part of the rebels to boycott imported goods.This on the other hand is likely to hit the poor since imported goods are cheaper and of better quality.
The complex social and political situation is narrated by Ray through the medium of a bold and torrid love triangle triangle, bold for the year when the movie was released, bolder for the milieu in which the film is set and even by present standards of Indian cinema. The level of intimacy depicted is perhaps unusual in Indian cinema, since kissing on-screen still is likely to shock sections of the audience. And nor is Ray the kind of guy given to shock tactics.
India is a confluence of civilizations and Ray is an individual who embraces contradictory multiplicities. One of the opening images is of Bimala (played by Swatilekha Chatterjee), traditionally cloistered wife of the aristocrat Nikhil (Victor Banerjee), as she is tutored in Western vocal music by her teacher (Jennifer Kendall). Nikhil decides to liberate her from the traditional role of housewife and introduces her to ex college mate and firebrand freedom fighter Sandip (Soumitra Chatterjee), who is currently campaigning for Swadeshi, or the boycott of foreign manufactured goods. Ray clearly aims to portray the shallownes which underlies much revolutionary fervor. This is particularly evident in the ritualistic greeting of the Swadeshi-ists, which is artificial and comic. Bimala is completely infatuated with Sandip, till events disclose the duplicity and self serving motives which underlie his chest thumping patriotism.
The film is not up to Ray's best. This is perhaps due to it's complexity and scope of ambition. Ray is not one to distort for the sake of simplification. He seeks here to portray some still continuing realities of India's multi religious and multi cultural society through the microcosm of a family living through a turbulent period of nascent nationalism. This is just before the appearance of Gandhi, when the serious business of confronting colonialism really started. Certainly cannot be missed.