The Coward (1965)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.

Original Title: Kapurush

, 1965Screenplay by , based on the story Cinematography by .   Produced by .   Music by Satyajit Ray.  Production Design by .   Film Editing by .

Amitabha (), a screenwriter in the early years of his career, has driven out of Calcutta on his way to visit a small town and do some research for a script.  His car breaks down en route and he finds himself stranded in a village that has no taxi service, but he learns he can take a train to his destination the next day.  Bimal (), a tea planter at a nearby plantation, takes pity on the young man and offers to put him up for the night, which he is happy to accept until going to Bimal’s home and confronting a mistake from his past:  Bimal’s wife is Karuna (, two years after starring in Ray’s The Big City), with whom Amitabha had a passionate love affair in college that ended because he was afraid to commit.  Now while having to play nice so as to not make Bimal suspicious, Amitabha tries to bring up the past but Karuna plays the proper housewife, hosting him with elegance and generosity and refusing to acknowledge the memories that our hero flashes back to in his lonelier moments.  It’s just over an hour long, but Ray’s examination of youthful fully giving way to later regrets is one of his sharpest and most generous offerings, freely taking his main character to task for his foolishness while also cutting him a break because who gets it right in love the first time around.  Delicate humour abounds and then, once we reach the end and Karuna confronts her old love on a train platform and finally lets her barrier down, the effect is devastating.

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