The Hero (1966)

The author of SoC’s Satyajit Ray profile seems to think Ray lost his way for a while after Charulata, saying the films he made in the few years after that “contain little of Ray’s personal touch”. Interesting, because Ray wrote this one himself (all but one of his preceding films having been adaptation), and I totally got the feeling from it that Ray was using it to work out a few frustrations with his chosen profession (well, one of his chosen professions at least), most obviously the gibe someone makes about the number of films the Indian film industry vomits forth (what would he have made of the 1000-plus it’s been turning out each year for some time now?)… Our hero is a major film star taking a train trip to Delhi to collect an award, but his latest film is threatening to flop and he’s also in the papers over a drunken brawl he got involved in (there’s a hint elsewhere that alcohol isn’t the only substance he may have issues with). On the train he meets various people, not all of whom are undying fans of his, including a female magazine editor who’s not terribly impressed by his “star quality” and even less so by the not exactly likeable front he puts on, but who winds up getting him to reveal more of his actual self than perhaps either of them had counted on as he recounts various episodes of his life. I rather doubt that this is the first time the “fame isn’t what it’s cracked up to be” story got told on film, but Ray tells it well, giving us a picture of a performer who’s not only a puppet for the people making the films he’s in (as someone warns him he will be), but perhaps for his public as well, and indeed his public image. After this I suspect I’m going to have to revisit Mahanagar one day, cos now the other two films in the set made a positive impression I feel I should give it another chance to do the same…

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