The Big City
Dir. Satyajit Ray
India 1963 | Black & White | 135 mins | Cert PG | Drama | Family
Cast: Anil Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Haren Chatterjee, Jaya Bhaduri.
Wonderfully enjoyable, with the scope and density of a richly
absorbing novel, Satyajit Ray's tale of family and city life is set in
mid-50s Calcutta, a society still adjusting to Independence.
Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee), a young bank clerk struggling to support his entire extended family on a meagre salary, is horrified when his wife Arati (a ravishing, spirited performance from Madhabi Mukherjee)
dares to challenge his cherished belief that 'a woman's place is with
her cooking pots'. She not only takes a job but proves a huge success in
the workplace, relishing her new-found independence and thoroughly
upsetting the family dynamic. Bengali star Mukherjee, here working with
Ray for the first time, confessed herself 'stunned' by his extraordinary
'woman-centred' screenplay, so different from anything she had
previously encountered. Yet, for all his focus on Arati, Ray - who is
renowned for his breadth of sympathy - also deploys warmth, humour and
acute psychological insight in his depiction of Arati's conservative old
father-in-law, her studious teenage sister-in-law and her benevolently
despotic boss. Now newly restored and re-released to mark its fiftieth
anniversary, The Big City with its emphasis on conflicting social values - and most particularly the role of women - still feels sharply relevant. Margaret Deriaz
Available on: DCP
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