Calcutta in the early 1960's. Bhambal supports his wife Arati, his parents, and two children. Money is tight, so Arati goes to work. She's successful and enjoys it, but this untraditional step throws the household into chaos: her in-laws initiate a "cold war" of silence and disapproval. When Bhambal loses his job, her working is essential; he loses self respect, and the gulf between them widens. Arati questions whether to keep her daughter in school. At work, her friendship with Edith, a Euro-Indian who smokes, swears, and uses lipstick, brings Arati close to impertinence with her genial boss. Her job is imperiled, she acts impulsively, and who will understand her actions? Written by
How does Satyajit Ray manage to evoke such a set of complex emotions with such simplicity? Madhabi Mukherjee delivers a amazingly nuanced, sensitive performance in this tale of personal empowerment. In an odd way, the story of personal triumph reminds me a bit of American films in the 1930s, when the hero struggled against odds and won; this time its 1960's India, at a time when women began to assert themselves simply because men failed to move with the times. I can just imagine a modern Hollywood remake of this film, with sex situations aplenty, lots of screaming and perhaps a stabbing or two! This worthy film about a struggling family attempting to maintain tradition in the face of modernity is subtle, and if you stick with it, involving. That said, this two different DVD versions I could find were hard to stick with, -the subtitles often did not match the picture, were often poorly translated, and the print itself, like so many Satyajit Ray films available in the U.S., looks like an old television print, grainy and too often dark, missing the subtle shades that typify his work. Whoever is in charge of this important film legacy needs to get on the stick and provide the clarity Ray deserves. Invest in the future of this important world filmmaker!
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