Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Original title: Mahanagar
India, 1963. R.D.Banshal & Co.. Screenplay by Satyajit Ray, based on a story by Narendranath Mitra. Cinematography by Subrata Mitra. Produced by R.D. Bansal. Music by Satyajit Ray. Production Design by Bansi Chandragupta. Film Editing by Dulal Dutta.
The pleasure of watching Satyajit Ray’s films about women coming into their own sense of determination is one that hits you deep in the soul. His perfectly calibrated sense of tender observation mixed with the light comedic realities of everyday living is showed off brilliantly in this film, about Arati, a young married woman in Calcutta. Her family, which includes her son and husband, his parents and sister, are not desperately poor but money is tight around the house, and she doesn’t feel right that her loving partner supports five people and so decides to look for a job. Her father-in-law is not in tune with the modern era and objects because it is not the thing for a woman to do, while her husband encourages her but is concerned about the changes it will mean for her and her identity as his wife and the mother of his child. When she takes up work selling sewing machines to the city’s upper class housewives, Arati finds that her sharp mind and confident modesty make her a huge success, which only brings more trouble at home. Ray never rushes the story for a millisecond but it also moves with the smooth pace of a sailboat on still waters, and Madhabi Mukherjee’s delicately nuanced performance is part of what makes it a wonder to behold.