Aug 18, 2008

24th August ; Screening Of Satyajit Ray's MAHANAGAR

A Film by Stayajit Ray
Year : 1963
Bengali with English sub titles
Run time : 122 minutes
24th August 2008; 5.45pm Ashwin Hospital Auditorium
Call : 94430 39630

The power of this extraordinary film seems to come in equal parts from the serene narrative style of director Satyajit Ray and the sensitive performances of the cast members.

A young girl named Bani (Jaya Bhaduri) diligently studies for her exams. Her father, Subrata (Anil Chatterjee) asks, "Is it worth it? You'll end up in the kitchen, like your mother." The words are intended to be a playful tease, but they speak volumes about the role of women in society. It is the early 1960s, and the concept of dual-income families is still alien to most households, even in the big city of Calcutta. But Subrata's income as a bank accountant is not enough to support his extended family. His father (Haren Chatterjee), no longer able to earn a living as a teacher, spends his days working on crossword puzzles, hoping to win the prize money awarded for its successful completion. He needs a new pair of eyeglasses, and keeps reminding Subrata to call on an old pupil who is now a successful optometrist in the hopes of obtaining his services for free.

Beautiful and restrained, Madhabi Mukherjee powerfully highlights Mahanagar (The Big City) as a traditional Bengali housewife who transforms into a modern working woman in 1960's Calcutta. She is an incredible actress, who effectively communicates through her eyes, facial expressions, and pitch perfect body language.

Mahanagar is a deceptively lyrical, yet profoundly insightful examination of modern society: the obsolescence of cultural tradition, the financial instability of an emerging economy, the changing role of women. Using narrative perspective and graceful close-ups, Satyajit Ray portrays the gradual, often turbulent path taken by women on the road to independence and personal identity. It is a universal portrait of a contemporary family.

Ray's people have genuine emotions and ambitions, like the people next door and the people in Peoria and the people in Kansas City. There is not a person who would not identify and deeply with the characters in "The Big City."

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta into an exceptionally talented family who were prominent in Bengali arts and letters. His father died when he was an infant and his mother and her younger brother's family brought him up. After graduating from Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1940, he studied art at Rabindranath Tagore's University in Shantiniketan, West Bengal. He took up commercial advertising and he also designed covers and illustrated books brought out by Signet Press. One of these books was an edition of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhya's novel, Pather Panchali, which was to become his first film. In 1947 Ray established the Calcutta Film Society. During a six month trip to Europe in 1950, he managed to see 100 films, including Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di Biciclette (1948), which greatly inspired him. He returned convinced that it was possible to make realist cinema and with an amateur crew he endeavoured to prove this to the world.

In 1955, after incredible financial hardship (shooting on the film stopped for over a year) his adaptation of Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) was completed. Prior to the 1956 Cannes Festival, Indian Cinema was relatively unknown in the West, just as Japanese cinema had been prior to Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950). However, with Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray suddenly assumed great importance. The film went on to win numerous awards abroad including Best Human Document at Cannes. Pather Panchali's success launched an extraordinary international film career for Ray.

A prolific filmmaker, during his lifetime Ray directed 36 films, comprising of features, documentaries and short stories. These include the renowned Apu trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito [1956] and Apur Sansar [1959]), Jalsaghar (1958), Postmaster (1961), Charulata (1964), Days and Nights in the Forest (1969) and Pikoo (1980) along with a host of his lesser known works which themselves stand up as fine examples of story telling. His films encompass a diversity of moods, techniques, and genres: comedy, satire, fantasy and tragedy. Usually he made films in a realist mode, but he also experimented with surrealism and fantasy.

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Prashanth said...

a very nice, informative blog on India's own Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray.. Also can we have some blogs on Alfred Hitchcock and his movies?

Konangal - Phone: 9443039630 said...

Thank you Prasanth , please browse through our archives and you will find our blog update on Alfred Hitchcock retrospective we had to full house on 15th April 2007. Our next screening will be Hitchcock's 'Notorius' on 7th September.