Friday, December 17, 2010

Company Limited (Seemabaddha)

Satyajit Ray, 108m, 1971

This is Part 2 of the Calcutta trilogy. Stepping forward from the unemployed rebel of The Adversary, we have a view of the workaday life of a rising executive Shyamal Chatterjee in a British owned fan manufacturing company (Peter Fans) in Calcutta. He has climbed rapidly to become the sales manager and is eying a directorship.Their son is schooling in a boarding in Darjeeling. There seems hardly any cloud of discontent in their monotonously blissful routine of office politics and evenings spent at clubs and restaurants.A sister-in law (Tutul by name) visits from Patna and we see the routine of innocuous flirting. The sister is only mildly impressed by the prosperity and adroit social climbing of her brother-in-law.

We get a nostalgic and somewhat drab recap of that period when there were only two brands of cars made in India, fans were more ubiquitous and airconditioning a rarity, television were still a decade ahead, and the villainies were also on a humbler scale, even in Bollywood. The world population was half the current figure. The wheel of life ambulated at a more leisurely pace. The ceiling fan and bicycle are appropriate symbols of this fleeting era..

And then there is real big trouble when a costly consignment of fans meant for Iraq is found liable for rejection on account of faulty painting. Shyamal's future is in jeopardy because the sales agreement includes a haevy penalty clause for late delivery. He has come a long way from the clever student and humble schoolteacher that he was as he conspires with the personnel manager to brew up labor trouble culminating in a temporary lockout and an explosion in the factory which leaves the guard badly, but not fatally, wounded. So what if he had died, joke the conspirators complacently, so many die in Calcutta every day, and the company would have sent a wreath. Both achieve their coveted career advancements, thus cashing in on an adverse situation.

The movie ends as Tutul returns the watch lent to her by Shyamal, indicating her own disillusionment with the adored brother-in law..

Not a masterpiece but certainly a vignette and a memorable slice of real life. No character is wasted and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, as the worldly wise wog director of the company is particularly amusing as he gives a trade-mark performance. Ray is incapable of dishonesty or exaggeration for the sake of popularity and he paints the era as drab as it was. His hold on our mind is derived from authenticity, familiarity and recognizability of the situations, people and objects he shares.

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