Matinee idol Arindam (Uttam Kumar) is travelling from Calcutta to Delhi by train to receive an award. His life and personality is revealed in a series of encounters, dreams and flashbacks. The swift moving train is a metaphor for the passage of time in an event crowded life and the film concludes with the train's arrival at the destination. We meet a series of exquisitely etched characters representing the social pageant, lensed with love, humor and refinement. Sharmila Tagore is a journalist not particularly keen to encounter him but, as things turn out, is drawn into a close interaction. The dreams probe the morbidity of the subconscious, depicting drowning, death, betrayal, desire and decay. The world of the stage and cinema is brilliantly surveyed with great realism and of course the knowledge and involvement one would expect. The world of a celebrity with it's intoxication , power and loneliness is shared with us. There are tinges of Sunset Boulevard and the dreams have the flavor of both Bergman and old Bollywood.
Having seen most of Ray's films, this is easily one of the best. It has the delicacy and lightness of touch that is Ray's distinction and moves as relentlessly as the train, hardly pausing for breath till it's heart warming finale. This is great cinema. He is arguably the most humanistic among great film makers.