Wednesday 16 February 2011

Seemabaddha (Company Limited) [1971]

Satyajit Ray painted a dark and searing examination of urban life in his masterful Calcutta Trilogy; Seemabaddha was the second installment of the trilogy. While Pratidwandi examined the left-wing affiliations of the city’s educated youth, and Jana Aranya portrayed the dark underbelly of the city, in Seemabaddha Ray focused on the corporate side of 1970s Calcutta. The protagonist here is Shyamalendu Chatterjee, a smart, intelligent, ambitious and upwardly mobile young man, who is just a step away from a grand promotion. Around the same time he gets an extended visit by Sudarsana (Tutul), his pretty sister-in-law, he discovers a problem with what ought to have been the company’s latest shipment, which in turn could seriously jeopardize his corporate ambitions. Based on a cue that Tutul gave in jest, he hatches a secret, sinister plan to set things right. The film, straightforward narrative-wise, is in essence a subtle and fascinating character study, as also a probing look into the socio-political commentary. Barun Chanda, as the likeable Sales Manager in a big British firm, is excellent, but the cake is taken by Sharmila Tagore as the enigmatic young lady, whose penetrative mind manages to see beyond the artificiality of Shyamal’s existence. The expertly photographed, marvelously written and crisply paced film, with a terrific finale, leaves its viewers with uncomfortable questions rather than just easy answers.

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


Sam Juliano said...

I am saddened to report that I have not yet watched the Calcutta Trilogy, which is unforgivable with my long preofessed admiration for one of teh cinema's most profound and moving humanists. I am a HUGE fan of:

The Apu Trilogy
Days and Nights in the Forest
The Music Room
Two Daughters

and several others. I always was under teh impression that "The Adversary) was the best of this trilogy,though you don't pass any comparative judgement here. Outstanding work as always!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Well, you'd be surprised to know how many good movies I haven't seen - movies which any cinephile should watch. So this is a minor blemish in comparison.

Ray's Calcutta Trilogy is very apart from Apu trilogy which shot him to fame. While Ray is principally known as a humanist & his films are called lyrical, a lot of his later films are quite different. Calcutta Trilogy is, in keeping with that, dark, gritty and quietly disturbing.

Yeah, I didn't do a comparative study of the 3 films belonging to Calcutta Trilogy. All are brilliant films, but yes, Pratidwandi (The Adversary) might just be the best among equals. However, having said that, my response might easily be different if you'd brought up this discussion some other day, as Jana Aranya (The Middleman) too was no less a work.

Shubhajit said...

And by the way, what you referred to as Two Daughters, was actually Three Daughters (Teen Kanya). A lot of versions of that film available in the West have 2 episodes, so do try & get hold of the one which has 3.

Unknown said...