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Distant Thunder (1973)
"Ashani Sanket" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  26 October 1975 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 623 users  
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Gangacharan is the new Brahmin of a village, where he assumes various duties: teaching, organizing religious events, and trying to prevent epidemics. But in that year 1943, war is raging (... See full summary »



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Title: Distant Thunder (1973)

Distant Thunder (1973) on IMDb 7.9/10

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Complete credited cast:
Soumitra Chatterjee ...
Gangacharan Chakravarti (as Soumitra Chattopadhyay)
Babita Kapoor ...
Ananga, Gangacharan's wife (as Babita)
Sandhya Roy ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Chitra Banerjee ...
Paritosh Banerjee
Sachin Chakraborty
Govinda Chakravarti ...
Shrikumar Dutta
Subal Dutta
Tapan Dutta
Anil Ganguly ...
Noni Ganguly ...
'Scarface' Jadu
Debatosh Ghosh ...
Gobardhan Ghosh
Dalim Guha


Gangacharan is the new Brahmin of a village, where he assumes various duties: teaching, organizing religious events, and trying to prevent epidemics. But in that year 1943, war is raging (as reminded by the planes occasionally heard flying over the countryside), and a major famine is under way. As food shortages reach catastrophic proportions, Gangacharan attempts to preserve his privileged situation, while his generous wife, Ananga, conversely tries to help and support the community. Written by Eduardo Casais <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

india | disaster




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Release Date:

26 October 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Distant Thunder  »

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Famine Holocaust
13 January 2009 | by (Fraggle Rock) – See all my reviews

The legendary Ray tackles what is known as The Great Bengal Famine in 1943 when India was still under the British Raj. Food was becoming scarcer as the price skyrocketed far beyond what was affordable and in the end, there just wasn't any left. With the attempt to help England during WWI, Churchill used the help of India and exported the majority of food that was so badly needed by the local Indians. As someone had stated, he also forbade other countries from offering any aid to India. The starvation resulted in more than 5,000 000 deaths.

'Ashani Sanket' takes place in a poor rural Bengali village where most people are illiterate and even unaware of the war going on in the other side of the world. In a beautiful scene Ananga and her friend Chutki are fascinated by the flying jets which hardly means anything more to them than a distant thunder. They aren't even aware that those jets are flying to war. Gangacharan and Ananga are the newer inhabitants of the village and are of a 'sophisticated' Brahmin class. The villagers look up to them.

However, as hunger strikes an become more severe, it gradually strips the villagers off their humanity (the fight over the rice) and integrity (Chutki offering herself in exchange of rice) but at the same time it also brings a more positive change in Gangacharan and Ananga. Gangacharan, who was arrogant and pompous, learns that he had lived his affluent life at the cost of the villagers. He becomes aware of the sacrifices others have made for him and that in this tragic ordeal there are no inequalities. Class does not matter for everyone is suffering equally. Consequently, he offers to give the the 'untouchable girl' a proper death ritual. The always compassionate Ananga grows from the naive housewife to a stronger woman.

Ray's treatment is simple and this makes the portrayed village life look very authentic. At the same time he brings depth and there is plenty of detail and metaphor like the two butterflies that intrigue Ananga. Ray has always been known to be one of the greatest storytellers and 'Ashani Sanket' is no different. He gradually unfolds the story as he reveals how powerless hunger can cause humans to become and yet how these people fight to survive. On the technical front, background music is effectively minimalized and the cinematography is stupendous.

Soumitra Chatterjee is marvelous. Obviously, there's a reason why Ray has repeatedly cast him in so many of his films. Thanks to Ray for discovering Babita's talent because this is one of the very very few movies in which she is given a role that does full justice to her acting abilities. Sandhya Roy too delivers a noteworthy performance as Chutki.

'Ashani Sanket' is an astounding film that I found to be very enlightening. Many have claimed for it not to be their favourite Ray film but to me it's a remarkable film, another gem from the legend.

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