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This is one of Satyajit Ray's movies shot and released just before he
died. Starring Ray regulars who I can say are the Brandos and Pacinos
of Bengali cinema this film is one of a kind Deep and intellectual.
It is a story of a family who was hastily assembled together in a
colonial mansion by the deathbed of its patriarch who has suffered from
a heart attack. The father is an idealist who was a freedom fighter and
still is active in politics hoping that something could be done to
correct the path the country (India) has taken (post independence) and
stem the rot that had set in society. Gathered by his side are his sons
who have all carved a distinct path through the maze we call society.
Yes! They are successful. But his sense of failure comes from the fact
his ideals and values have not seeped into the conscience of his off
springs. The film shows the audience why and how that happened.
Ultimately it's all about the rot that has set in the moral fabric of
his family and his feeling how can he correct the society if he can't
instill the same values in his family? This ultimately contributes to
his sorrow, frustration and finally his death.
Had this film been a Hollywood project helmed by a A listed director and starring A listed actors this surely would have dominated the Oscars that year. The development of the story is brilliant and so is the direction (its Ray for crissakes) but people who don't like slow moving artsy movies won't share my sentiments. That's for sure. But for connoisseurs of Ray it's a classy picture. Do yourself a favor. Watch it!
This is Ray's second last film made when he was just short of seventy.
The tree is Ananda Mazumdar, a retired industrialist famed for his
honesty and philanthropy, to the extent of having his town named after
him. The branches are the four sons and two spouses. Mazumdar suffers a
heart attack and as he hovers in the danger zone, the progeny converges
around him. Ray is a good spinner of yarns and he knows how to play the
heartstrings. Here he gives us a taut drama about old age and family
relations with the background of Bengali society of the eighties (there
is a family picnic and one of the cars is a Maruti 800).
Unlike some of his more acclaimed films which are about youth and childhood, this one is about aging with which comes cynicism and tolerance. He is able to turn an eye more understanding than indignant towards the corruption and rot in society. This somewhat lame anger is voiced through the youngest of the four sons, who chooses to opt out from the bribe driven business world. Ray was often accused of not being sufficiently concerned about the ills of society. He is after all no activist or reformer: he is a mere genius, an artist and a truthful mirror of the society to which he belongs.
Ray's women are more the expression of his ideals of humanity. The men are more often pathetic shadows, as in this one. Lily Chakravati as one of the wives gives a bold and charismatic portrayal of a woman disappointed in her marriage, with a mind and strength of self acceptance beyond her era and milieu.
This is a more complex film which expands the canvas to depict an era and a society. It achieves a high level of dramatic tension, even though it lacks the compassion and innocence of some earlier movies. It definitely limps at many places, as Ray is affecting a piety not his own. It is not his nature to judge people, as if to say, that might have been me. On the whole, a gripping film for all it's negligible weaknesses, easy and enjoyable to watch.
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