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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MAHANAGAR / THE BIG CITY (1963)

Perfectly poised, deceptively simple, deeply felt film from Satyajit Ray about family fissures in an over-crowded tenement apartment in Calcutta. The husband (Anil Chatterje), a bank clerk, is sole supporter for wife, child, parents & sister. A grim financial picture until his wife (Madhabi Mukherjee) decides to go job hunting. Landing the job, a tough door-to-door gig selling an automated knitting machine, turns out to be easy compared to keeping the peace at home with her new schedule & priorities. But real trouble only begins when she comes to realize that she’s good at her job, enjoys the experiences and feels quietly empowered by it. Ray keeps all the family members in motion with dramas of their own, showing how they impact on each other. The continual adjustments to changing situations keeps things from feeling either dated or dogmatic. The ending, which involves a confrontation & a reconciliation between the almost painfully reticent Mukherjee, her not quite unflappable boss and her husband's wounded pride is simply extraordinary. Calmly transcendent, and very Bengali.

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