Thursday, December 2, 2010


Satyajit Ray, 1966, 100m

The film is set in sometime around the fifties as the wealthy and influential Indranath Chowdhary holidays in Darjeeling with his family. This comprises his wife Labanya, his married elder daughter Anima and her husband, and Manisha, the unmarried younger daughter. Also in the environs are Manisha's suitor Pranab, and Ashok, an unemployed young man. The film is in real time, in the sense that the length of the film (hundred minutes) is also the span over which the dramatic events take place. The camera flits between the three couples making a composition of three intertwining melodies culminating in the appearance of the peak of Kanchenjungha which remains elusively behind the clouds till the end.

Ray is a chronicler of his times and here we have yet another achingly authentic slice of Indian society. Ray is a universal genius and he encompasses a knowledge and understanding of the social spectrum. There is something almost Shakespearean in his range and scope of sympathies.Here he sketches the anglophile crust of haute society who even after independence flaunt their admiration of the departed British and cherish the titles conferred by the erstwhile rulers. Everybody is waiting for Manisha's future husband to propose to her. Anima is unsure about the match since her own marriage enforced by the domineering father is under great strain. Roy's own marriage is a fossilised relationship hiding much sadness on the part of Labanya, who has hidden depths of sensitivity beneath her submissive exterior.

The film is set in the misty Himalayan landscapes and a former retreat of the British. The drama which rises to a pitch of gentle and refined intensity is set on the walks of fir lined walks of this beautiful town. The figures move with a slow and even statuesque dignity and their characters are etched with marvellous authenticity of detail and subtle touches of humor as when a flock of passing sheep interrupts the long delayed marriage proposal.

The film is about three unhappy women living under the shadow of the smug patriarch. It is a musical composition with deep undercurrents of feeling which culminates in a triumphant and joyful resolution. The colourful unfolding Himalayan vistas infused with Ray's score (including a wondrous Tagore song pictured trough Labanya) make this a magical experience.

To quote Ray himself:

"The idea was to have the film starting with sunlight. Then clouds coming, then mist rising, and then mist disappearing, the cloud disappearing, and then the sun shining on the snow-peaks. There is an independent progression to Nature itself, and the story reflects this." 
Rabindrasangeet from the film

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