Monday, 19 March 2012
Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder) 
Made during the time Ray composed his acclaimed “Calcutta Trilogy”, comprising of three of the darkest and edgiest movies belonging to his vaunted filmography, it is no wonder Ashani Sanket too turned out to be one of his harshest and most disturbing films to watch. Though based in rural Bengal like his celebrated debut film Pather Panchali, as also adapted from a book by the same author, viz. Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, it is completely bereft of the latter’s lyrical beauty and quiet pathos – instead it is prosaic, curt and at times in-your-face. Set against the backdrop of World War II (though offscreen, it forms a vital point of reference), the movie chronicled the arrival and setting in of the devastating, man-made Bengal Famine of 1943 which engulfed nearly 4 million people. Gangacharan (played quite effectively by Ray regular Saumitra Chatterjee), an upright and educated man, and his demure wife Ananga (Bobita) have settled in a small village comprising mostly of poor folks in order to take advantage of the fact that he’d be the sole Brahmin there. He quickly becomes the most respected person in the village as he goes about donning three roles there – doctor, teacher and priest. However, the raging war starts taking a toll on the village dwellers when food crisis sets in – initially the prices soar, but soon enough it becomes impossible to lay one’s hand on rice. The fast growing cataclysm has numerous effects on the couple and the villagers in general as hunger and starvation make otherwise decent people turn vicious, hostile and self-centered, while forcing others to make extremely difficult and compromising moral choices.
Director: Satyajit Ray
Genre: Drama/Rural Drama/Social Drama