| 1969, India.
115 min, B/W, In Bengali with subtitles
||Priya Films (Asim Dutta and
|Screenplay & Direction:
||Satyajit Ray, based on the
novel: 'Aranyer Din Ratri' by Sunil Ganguly
||Soumendu Roy, Purnendu Bose
|Hari's former lover, Atasi:
Four friends from Calcutta city venture out to the forests of
Palmau for a holiday excursion in car. They arrive at a little
village in the state of Bihar. Not having made any arrangements
for their stay, they come across a rest house. As they have not
made reservations, they bribe the caretaker, who risks his job,
as he needs the money for his wife’s illness.
The four young men are full of the over-confidence of the big city
and scant respect for the rural villagers. The group is led by
Asim (Soumitra Chatterjee
the richest of the four. Sanjoy (Subhendu Chatterjee) is a timid
person who always plays it safe. The sportsman, non-intellectual
Hari (Samit Bhanja) wants to forget a girl who recently rejected
him. Sekhar (Robi Ghosh) is self-confident and comical. The journey
into the forest turns out to be a journey of self-discovery.
They spend their first night getting drunk at a local liquor shop.
Hari is drawn towards one of tribal women, Duli (Simi Garewal),
whose untamed quality enhances her appeal.
The following morning, while debating whether to shave or not,
they spot some other women from Calcutta, they locate the women’s
cottage and introduce themselves to the family. Asim is interested
in Aparna (Sharmila Tagore
a cool, self-confident young woman whose widowed father jokes that
he never knows what she is thinking. Sanjoy is attracted to her
widowed sister-in-law, Jaya (Kaveri Bose).
A series of episodes reveal the characters. Drunken sprees, social
embarrassments, adventures with servants, officials, romance. The
four friends’ youthful arrogance gets them into a series
of disastrous and often hilarious adventures.
Hari makes love with Duli, the servant Lakha ambushes him in revenge.
The inhibited Sanjoy does not dare to respond to Jaya's bold seduction
while Aparna leaves Asim after giving him her address - perhaps
a promise of love. The friends depart again for the city, each
with a better appreciation of life.
It is a familiar premise - men in unfamiliar situation discover
themselves as they interact with others - but what makes it compelling
is the volatility of the narrative and characters, masterly juxtaposition
of urban and tribal, and brilliant performances. Look out for the
picnic scene, a complex and engrossing interplay of the characters – pure
cinema. On surface they play a simple game, but it explores psychological
probing through use of acting, dialogue and editing.
Ray described the film to Marie Seton in a letter, “The first
half has the appearance of a light comedy but there’s a steady
modulation to a serious key.” It starts as a spree and ends
up changing lives of three of the men.
What others say
"On the surface, this Satyajit Ray film is a lyrical romantic
comedy about four educated young men from Calcutta, driving together
for a few days in the country, and the women they meet. The subtext
is perhaps the subtlest, most plangent study of the cultural tragedy
of imperialism; the young men are self-parodies--clowns who ape
the worst snobberies of the British. A major film by one of the
great film artists, starring Soumitra Chatterjee and the incomparably
graceful Sharmila Tagore.
- Pauline Kael in Reeling
"... every word and gesture is recognizable, comprehensible, true ... Ray's
work at its best, like this, has an extraordinary rightness in every aspect of
its selection and presentation - the timing, performance, cutting, music - which
seem to place it beyond discussion."
- David Robinson, Financial Times, 15 October 1971
Other Online Reviews
Aparna and Asim ©Nemai Ghosh
Sekhar and Duli ©Nemai Ghosh
Duli (Simi Garewal) ©Nemai Ghosh
Asim, Hari, Sekhar, Jaya, Aparna and Sanjoy ©Nemai Ghosh
Aparna (Sharmila Tagore), Sekhar (Rabi Ghosh) and Asim (Soumitra
Chatterjee) ©Nemai Ghosh
on location ©Nemai Ghosh