Monday, 11 November 2013

Mahanagar (The Big City)

Rated by the British film critic Phillip French as Satyajit Ray best work Mahanagar (1963) is set in Calcutta and tells the story of a lower middle class family who fall on hard times. The main breadwinner is Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee), a well educated but poorly paid bank clerk. Married to Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee) they have a small son, and share a cramped apartment with Subrata's teenage sister Bani (played by Jaya Bhaduri in her debut film and who went on to become one of India's leading actresses) and his mother and father. Because of the increasing financial pressure on the family Arati takes a job of selling knitting machines door to door. This as you would imagine in such a traditional country is not accepted by all the members of the family and begins to course conflict between them. Even her husband is not keen on his wife working but when he looses his job with the bank it becomes even more imperative that Arati takes on the role of the family's sole breadwinner.

Adapted by Ray from the short story Abataranika by the renowned Bengali writer Narendranath Mitra this award winning film was re-released as part of a BFI retrospective of Rays work and for the first time, in September 2013, was released on Blu-Ray which manages to accentuates the beautiful black and white photography of Ray's regular cinematographer Sabrata Mitra. Totally believable and superbly acted this is an engrossing study of India just 20 years after its independence and shows the changing mood of the countries urban middle class along with its social dynamics, which is a constant theme found in Satyajit Ray's body of work. Although not as successful in his native country, which preferred the crowd-pleasing Bollywood movies, it was this type of film that helped establish what we now know as world cinema.

Husband and wife don't always see eye to eye in Ray's social realist Indian movie.

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