Sunday 21 December 2008

Mahanagar (The Big City) [1963]

Satyajit Ray’s first of many intensely personal tributes to his beloved city of Calcutta, Mahanagar often gets lost among his more renowned works, especially Apu Trilogy, despite this being a very honest film filled with dollops of hope and humanism. Through the educated but conservative lower middle-class Mazumdar family, Ray has painted a rich vignette of a microcosm of the city they live in. Subrata, a bank employee with a meager salary, decides in conjunction with his wife Arati that it would be prudent of her to take up a job. However when the wife reaps success as a saleswoman, a strongly palpable wall starts developing between the couple, not just because of jealousy but also due to the innate conservative in him finding his wife’s emancipation a hard pill to swallow. Filled with dense characterizations, heartfelt performances and subtle social observations, this movie was far ahead of its time in its sensitive portrayal of the counterpoint between modernization vis-à-vis traditions. Madhabi Mukherjee, who would earn international acclaim in Ray’s next feature Charulata, has gave a remarkable performance as an impulsive and free-spirited Bengali housewife of 50’s Calcutta who undergoes a profound transformation into a successful but conscientious career woman; Anil Chatterjee’s restrained enacting of the complex inner conflicts of her husband, too, was excellent.

Director: Satyajit Ray
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Psychological Drama
Language: Bengali
Country: India

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