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Bollywood family drama directed by Satyajit Ray. Set in Calcutta at the end of the 19th century when India was under British rule, the film follows Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee), the intelligent and childless wife of politically active publisher Bhupati (Shailen Mukherjee). Aware of his wife's ever-growing boredom due to his own absence, Bhupati asks his younger cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee) to stay in their house and encourage his wife's literary ambitions. As Amal and Charulata get to know one another a relationship grows between the pair, but will either go beyond their loyalty to Bhupati and act upon it?
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Charu is adored by her husband who is one of the most respectable aristocrats in the higher social echelons in colonial Calcutta,their political intellectual discussions are just as enthusiastic as their exploration of the intricacies of mozart,ibsen ,literature ,piano and music ,this is a private sacred intimate milieu where a virtuous woman finds herself heeding thoughts which are ambivalent to her breeding ,she spurns herself and almost becomes a stranger to herself ,as if in self-loathing .
The internal psychological strife is beautifully depicted through the reactions of other characters surrounding her ,the daily domestic chores and her observaviotions of the street life from her balcony,which is almost a voyeuristic pleasure .
The Edwardian decor of the town house and the cloistered garden are the backdrop to this shy and mellow drama,it is too quaint to call it a romance and it is too bold in it's conclusion to be labelled as anything but a ground-breaking drama .
It finally is a profoundly poetic look at the attitudes to matrimony and the development of a relation between a man and woman ,Ray is neither preacing nor sermonising ,he observes a slice of a domestic event and very naturally translates it upon the screen.
The performances by Soumitra Chatterjee as the young man who escapes from the house to get away from his feelings and Mahdabi Mukherjee as Charulata are poetically realised against a desperate passion ,which is all consuming but still very potent ,the scene stealer is the husband who walks away with all the plaudits in the shocking yet liberating finale .
The trivia here are more important then the most crucial details and the culture is explored with a sensitivity yet sophistication which makes this one of the greatest comments on human relationships in cinema ,that the fragility of this exquisite piece is streamlined to the very end in a perfect balance is to the credit of a ray of genius called SaTyajit Ray.
I own the Artificial Eye DVD version and have also seen this film on at the BFI screens; I must say that the Blu-Ray version presented here is superb. The picture quality, subtitling and sound are a significant improvement on previous versions. Perhaps this version is from the key works of Satayjit Ray being restored over in the US.
Well done to Artificial Eye and great value for money too!
Having said that, it is possible to follow the story very easily as it is straightfoward.
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