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When a corrupt cop takes away Narsingh's taxi license after an illegal car race, Narsingh finds himself reduced to poverty living in the outskirts of Kolkata. A practicing Sihk, he finds himself having to accept work from a dubious business man, Sukhanram, who employs Narsingh in dope smuggling. Given his reduced circumstances, Narsingh finds welcome assistance from a fellow villager, Josef, and his Christian schoolteacher sister, Neeli. Narsingh finds himself attracted to Neeli's altruism, but mistakes it for true love - when Neeli's love is for an untouchable cripple. Meanwhile, Sukhamran's prostitute, Gulabi, sees Narsingh's attempts to right the wrongs around him, and she sees through Sukhanram's duplicity when Sukhanram tries to convince Narsingh to sell his beloved taxi in exchange for a share of the profits in his next enterprise. With difficulty and the assistance of Narsingh's taxi partner Rama, Gulabi convinces Narsingh to break off the deal, but then Sukhanram takes his ...Written by
Needs a little indulgence, but Ray never disappoints
Ray is the western face of Indian film-making. He also has a personal talent that is reminiscent of David Lean - intelligent, sophisticated, impeccable - that shows you exactly the right things, exactly what you felt you wanted to see. The story is of a taxi driver who sets himself up in a village with the help of a drug baron. Moral anguish ensues.
It's a long film and gives itself plenty of time to tackle a host of ethnic, social and personal issues: love, envy, pride, impetuosity, lust, hope, despair, corruption - too many to heap onto one man really - and we get a bit tired of 'Singhji' after an hour or so. It's odd because he is bad-tempered for a lead character whereas the 'bad guy', the corrupt businessman, is extremely good natured and likable.
The theme is the struggle to get ahead, embodied in the taxi driver's efforts to get past the cars ahead of him, or beat a train to its destination. The scenes on the dusty roads are among the most interesting as villagers and cows hurl themselves out of his way. Any intelligent film automatically contains humour, but the little chap playing the mechanic - familiar from other Ray films - is there for good measure.
Everything is in conflict here: caste against caste, boss against employee, business against business, woman against man - it's a tough old world. Ray put famed Bollywood goddess Waheeda Rehman among the low-life and the effect is startling. She takes a long time to make an appearance, but towards the end she spices up the film like a hot curry and it's worth the wait because you can't take your eyes off her.
Something of an Indian classic.
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