Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Jalsaghar
India, 1958. Arora. Screenplay by Satyajit Ray, assistant screenplay writer Santi P. Choudhury, based on the story by Tarashankar Banerjee. Cinematography by Subrata Mitra. Produced by Satyajit Ray. Music by Ustad Vilayat Khan, Robin Majumdar. Production Design by Bansi Chandragupta. Film Editing by Dulal Dutta.
An overextended aristocrat tries to hold on to the old ways by taking on whatever debt necessary to keep up his lavish palace, its central focus a gorgeous music room where he hosts parties including the maturation celebration of his young son. Years later, aged and broken by tragedy, he hears a nearby, wealthy merchant preparing a similar feast for his own son and is taken back to the earlier years of his life that led him to his current place. Satyajit Ray’s meditation on the clash between old and new worlds was actually inspired by the box office failure of Aparajito, which is why this film includes such an emphasis on hallmarks of popular Indian culture including extended musical performances. Not one to just give into market forces, however, the film has a surprising amount of haunted reflection for a story made by a man still in the early throes of his wondrous career, and the imagery is, as always, perpetually beautiful.