The location is Calcutta, around 1880. Bhupati, who edits and publishes in his home a political newspaper called The Sentinel, is persuaded that his wife Charulata has special gifts as a writer. When his young cousin (the relationship is considered to be equivalent to Charu’s brother-in-law) Amal, comes to live with them, Bhupati asks him to encourage her cultural interests, but in such a way that she remains unaware of her husband’s intervention in setting up their encounter. An increasingly intimate relationship develops between Charulata and Amal: one based on complicity, friendship, writing, and eventually love. Meanwhile, the bookkeeper of The Sentinel, another family member, embezzles the funds supporting the paper and destroys Bhupati’s hopes for his enterprise. All he has left is the trust he has placed in Charulata and Amal, which has been compromised by their feelings for each other.
In this film, as well as in Devi (The Goddess, 1960) and Ghare Baire (The Home and the World, 1984), Ray explores the cultural emergence of the idea of the “modern woman” in the upper class of colonial India, showing with striking sensitivity the pressures this new ideal placed on individual women whose self-identities were also molded by traditional expectations. —Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center
Satyajit Ray is one of cinema’s truest Renaissance men. In addition to his films, he is a reputed writer of short stories, a music composer (scores for his own films and other film-makers, notably Merchant-Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah) and a painter and graphic designer of considerable skill. Appropriately enough, Ray derived from a background of great culture, the son of poet Sukumar Ray who died when he was three years old. His interest in fine arts, literature and painting led him to reside at Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan (an intellectual retreat for artists and thinkers) for a significant period of time. Ray’s true love however was the cinema. The cinema of 30s Hollywood, which included Fred Astaire musicals and comedies by Ernst Lubitsch; Russian films he devoured in repeated viewings at the Calcutta Film Society (which he co-founded in 1947) and later the Italian neorealist films which he discovered in London.
At the time of the Second World War, and the final period of… read more
Satyajit Ray’s pure cinema, the Coen Bros. half-hearted Llewyn Davis, and van Warmerdam’s oddball Borgman.