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Charulata (1964)

 -  Drama | Romance  -  17 April 1964 (India)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 2,278 users  
Reviews: 20 user | 60 critic

The lonely wife of a newspaper editor falls in love with her visiting cousin-in-law, who shares her love for literature.

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(from the story "Nastaneer"), (scenario), 1 more credit »
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Title: Charulata (1964)

Charulata (1964) on IMDb 8.1/10

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Amal
Madhabi Mukherjee ...
Charulata
Shailen Mukherjee ...
Bhupati Dutta (as Sailen Mukherjee)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tarapada Basu
Gopaldas Bhattacharya
Dilip Bose ...
Shashanka
Ramesh Chandra Chandra
Sunilkanta Dasgupta
Nilotpal Dey ...
Joydeb
Bankim Ghosh ...
Jagannath
Shyamal Ghoshal ...
Umapada
Ajit Gupta
Bholanath Koyal ...
Braja
Kamu Mukherjee
Suku Mukherjee ...
Nishikanta
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Storyline

Charu lives a lonely and idle life in 1870s India. Although her husband Bhupati devotes more time to his newspaper than to their marriage, he sees her loneliness and asks his brother-in-law,Umapada to keep her company. At the same time Bhupati's own brother, Amal, a would-be writer comes home finishing his college education. However, after several months, Charu and Amal's feelings for each other move beyond literary friendship. Written by Erik Gregersen <erik@astro.asutexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

17 April 1964 (India)  »

Also Known As:

Charulata  »

Box Office

Gross:

$77,820 (USA)
 »

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Referenced in The Darjeeling Limited (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

It's all there
5 May 2003 | by (Canberra, Australia) – See all my reviews

I remember reading through Satyajit Ray's list of things that people from outside India would fail to get in "Charulata" – of all his films (up to 1980, anyway) the one he thought was most "superficially" accessible to Westerners – and thinking to myself: "But I DID get all this... at least, more or less."

In Bengal society (Ray writes) a woman's brother-in-law holds a privileged position; the two are EXPECTED to form a special friendship, and she is allowed to be more intimate with him than with anyone else to whom she's not related by blood (apart, of course, from her husband). Ray is right. Most Westerners don't know this. I certainly didn't. But we're able to infer as much of it as matters from the film itself: we can tell that Amal and Charulata expect, before they fall properly in love, a fair degree of freedom in negotiating their friendship; that this is okay by Bhupati; that this isn't considered odd by any of the participants; that it (probably) WOULD be considered odd were Amal an outsider... and we can tell a good deal more besides; this is, as everyone acknowledges, a film of exceedingly rich characterisations. What we CAN'T tell from the film alone is the extent to which the expectations and roles of the three central characters are duplicated in other marriages across India. But this doesn't matter. This is a chamber drama, not an allegory.

Ray also lists some literary allusions which Westerners are almost certain to be blind to, but again, I think he's underestimated the extent to which he gets across, in the film alone, all he needs to get across. We can tell, from the way the characters react, what the allusions mean; just as an allusion to Achilles' heel, if properly used, will make sense to (and add depth for) an audience entirely unfamiliar with Greek legend. Even the film's makes sense to outsiders in a way Ray thinks it won't. It's a Scottish tune (I know this because I recognised it, but you can tell it's Scottish even if you don't) with Bengali lyrics; we can tell it's a Western song, from (more or less) the land which currently rules over India, which at least some Indians have adopted as their own, which is popular enough for Amal to expect others to be familiar with it, etc. (I have to admit, though, that something was being conveyed by the lyrics that wasn't being adequately conveyed by the subtitles.)

It's a tribute to Ray's skill that even he doesn't realise just how much context he's managed to import into "Charulata". Of course, he's right in that nobody will get everything; Ray himself admits to not understanding the meaning of his own (hopeful? cautious? distancing?) final freeze frame ("I only knew that it was the right way to end the film"), and, I need hardly add, I don't either.

Ray was wrong to think that the allusions fall flat on Western ears or that some of the necessary social context is impenetrable, but the film would still have something to offer even if he weren't: the characters would still be as alive and real, the respect with which they're treated would be just as apparent; the film would still, in short, be a beautiful one.


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