A film by Satyajit Ray
1962/ 150 mins / Bengali with English subtitles
18th May 2014; 5.45 pm; Perks Mini Theater
Abhijan was one of the most popular films (in Bengal) Ray has produced: a "conscious" effort to communicate with a wider audience. The project was originally one that his friends had conceived. Ray stepped in when his friends panicked at the prospect of directing. It was Ray's mastery that turned this "conventional" plot to a subtly nuanced story. The theme of the film is the attempt to "buy" over an honest but impoverished young man by a financially successful middle-aged businessman.
Set on the Bihar-Bengal border, where Marwari businessmen — a powerful Hindi-dialect community of entrepreneurs — and Rajputs of warrior caste (from Rajasthan) have both settled. The central character of Narsingh (Soumitra Chatterjee), is a disillusioned, frequently drunken Rajput reduced in status to an ill-educated taxi driver.
Proud and hot-tempered, with a passion for his 1930s Chrysler, Narsingh is offered work for Sukhanram, a shady merchant, and finds himself drawn against his better judgment into trafficking opium. Having failed in everything honest, he has to decide whether or not he will engage in criminal activity to make money.
The two main female characters Neeli and Gulabi form a contrast. Narasingh has a soft spot for Neeli who is a strong, reserved Catholic schoolmistress, and has no interest in him. The other female character is beautiful Gulabi who has been forced into prostitution by circumstances. Narasingh falls in love with Gulabi for her basic values. In the end he redeems himself and proves that every rule has an exception.
Starring Waheeda Rehman as Gulabi, a prostitute; Rabi Ghosh as Rama, Narsingh's right-hand man; and Ruma Guha Thakurata as Neeli, Abhijan was honoured with the National Award of India in 1962.
Satyajit Ray was born on May 2, 1921 in Calcutta into a Bengali family of a distinguished cultural lineage. After graduating from the famous Presidency College of Calcutta, Ray enrolled in the Visva-Bharati University founded by noted poet Rabindranath Tagore. During his stint in the Visva-Bharati, Ray's creative faculties were enriched by the exposure to different nuances of fine arts.
Consequent to the course completion, Satyajit Ray joined advertising agency D.J. Keymer as a visualiser. After a couple of award-winning assignments, he joined publishing house Signet Press with the responsibility of designing cover jackets for books. While the job itself was an exercise in creativity, more importantly it led to Ray's first brush with the cream of Bengali literature. He gradually developed a passion for films and with a few friends founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947.
In 1949 Satyajit Ray married his distant cousin Bijoya Das. The same year French director Jean Renoir came to Calcutta and the great filmmaker's encouraging words motivated Ray to tread the path of filmmaking. Next year Ray went to London as D.J. Keymer's art director and there he got an opportunity to watch Vittorio de Sica's film 'Bicycle Thief.' The film, a neorealist classic, kindled the filmmaker in Satyajit Ray.
He returned home determined to realize the dream of a film portrayal of Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay's novel Pather Panchali. Despite being dogged by financial hassles, Ray and his ensemble of amateur crews finally completed the film and released it in 1955. The film won rave reviews all over the globe and heralded the arrival of a master filmmaker. Satyajit Ray made two more films Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) based on the life cycle of central protagonist Apu. Riding on the crest massive success and adoration, Ray unleashed a slew of memorable films such as Jalsagar (1958), Devi (1960), Teen Kanya (1961), Abhijan (1962), Kanchenjunga (1962), Mahanagar (1963)) and Charulata (1964).
His credentials firmly established now, Satyajit Ray opted for creative liberty in his later films and dabbled in themes as diverse as fantasy and historical drama. Some of his prominent films during this period are Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969), Pratiwandi (1970), Jana Aranya (1975), crime fiction Sonar Kella (1974), Jai Baba Felunath (1978) and Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977), his first film in Hindi.
In 1983 a severe heart attack crippled Ray's mobility and his last three films, Ganashatru, Shakha Proshakha and Agantuk couldn't create the magic of his earlier films. Satyajit Ray breathed his last on April 23, 1992.