Charulata (1964)

 ●  Bengali ● Running Time: TBA

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Ray considered this film, structured like a musical rondo, to be his best work. Set in 1879 during the social reform movement in Calcutta, it tells of Charulata (M. Mukherjee), the bored and neglected upper-class wife of the reformer Bhupati Dutta (S. Mukherjee) who pursues a political career while editing a progressive English weekly newspaper, The Sentinel. He invites her older brother Umapada (Ghosal) and his wife Manda (Roy) to move in to provide company for Charulata. Bhupati’s cousin, the literary-minded Amal (Chatterjee) also moves in. Charulata and Amal become increasingly intimate, but their acquaintance is abruptly terminated when Umapada embezzles money and disappears. Amal too leaves, guilty about Bhupati’s increasing dependence on him, given his relationship with Charulata. The married couple try to reunite at the end, after she overcomes her loss and he overcomes his feeling of betrayal. The ending, which departs from Tagore’s, freezes their gesture as they reach out to one another. From the opening, as Charulata observes a series of Bengali stereotypes with her opera-glasses through the shutters of her windows, the film boasts some of Ray’s most cinematic sequences: the card game with an incantatory voice-over keeping score; Amal serenading Charulata with the famous Tagore song Ami chini-go-chini, and Charulata daydreaming in the garden. Except for the garden sequence, the film refers to the outside world only via the dialogue, with references to the novelist Bankimchandra, to Gladstone, Disraeli and the dominant political issues of the 1880s which preoccupy Bhupati. The freeze-frames at the end, showing the couple uniting again, were inspired by the ending of Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959). The French New Wave apparently also influenced the extensive use of the tracking camera, sometimes across rooms (ironically Ray was to attack Mrinal Sen the following year, and New Indian Cinema directors in 1972, for being influenced by French cinema). Charulata also has the finest film work of several Ray regulars, including designer Bansi Chandragupta, cameraman Mitra and actors S. Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee.
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Film Type:
Feature Film
Language:
Bengali
Colour Info:
Black & White