Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kapurush (The Coward)

Satyajit Ray, 66m, 1965

This is a profound , minutely etched and exquisitely delicate character study. Amit (Soumitra, Ray's favorite), a writer, has a car breakdown in a sparsely inhabited region of tea gardens in Eastern India. He is offered shelter by a wealthy estate manager Bimal Gupta, and it turns out that his wife Karuna (Madhabi) is the woman Amit wooed in college but was not courageous enough to marry. The story flashes between past and present. Amit proves unequal to the hour of crisis when Karuna visits him in his hostel. She asks him for immediate marriage or else she would be cast into a bleak future planned out by her well meaning but orthodox foster parents, alarmed as they are by the ongoing affair. Satyajit Ray is a great admirer of the fortitude of Indian women and Karuna, in this marvelous portrayal, takes a place in his gallery. Her inner strength and anger is tightly leashed, and pride prevents her from expressing the pain of her dilemma in words. But her eyes and expressions are communicate all.  Bimal (Haradhan Banerjee), as the loud, good natured, anglicized husband gives an equally riveting performance.

Ray's treatment of the Amit character is contemptuous and unsympathetic. This is a story about how we write out the scripts of our lives and the way a crisis lays bare human character as if in a stroke of lightening. Ray's greatness lies in his sensitivity to the human heart, his attunement to the subtlest strains of feeling, and the ability to put the drama of the dignity of life (the feminine viewpoint particularly) on the screen, with refinement and delicacy.

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