And now for a different sort of Indian epic… Satyajit Ray is yet another one of those Great Directors of whom I have minimal experience, in this case only being familiar with The Music Room (which I liked) and Pather Panchali (which I did not. Yes, I know, bad cinephile). So, not unlike the Malle collection, I found the first of Artificial Eye’s Ray collections at reasonable price recently and am now turning to them to try and get a bit more of a handle on Bengal’s finest. And, well, we are not off to the most flying of starts. In Mahanagar, we’ re taken back to mid-50s Calcutta and into the fairly humble home of a young family in poor financial straits. Basically, Subrata isn’t making enough money to support himself, his wife Arati, her little sister, their child and his parents, so Arati decides the only thing to do is get a job as well. Being that we’re talking about 1950s India, this move is not welcomed by anyone, least of all Subrata; the fact that her job will increase the family’s limited means and that she proves to be good at it and enjoys it counts for nothing compared to the horror of a woman leaving her place in the home. Trouble will only escalate when he loses his own job and she becomes friendly with an Anglo-Indian girl her boss hates because, well, she’s Anglo-Indian. And I totally appreciate what Ray was evidently trying to do, I totally understand what a progressive statement it was making at the time about what women should be allowed to do in Indian society. I don’t understand why he needed 140 minutes to actually tell this story; it moves at a pace snails would outrun and OH MY GOD IT’S SO FUCKING BORING. It lost me quite early on and to be honest I don’t know how I made it all the way to the end.
The Big City (1963)