Video: The Big City trailer

The trailer for Satyajit Ray’s wonderful portrait of mid-50s Calcutta.

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Mahanagar

A woman’s place is with her cooking pots: that is the firmly articulated belief of Subrata Mazumdar, a young bank clerk struggling to support his entire extended family on a meagre salary, and he is duly horrified when his wife Arati (a ravishing, spirited performance from Madhabi Mukherjee) offers to help by going out to work as a ‘salesgirl’.

Satyajit Ray’s wonderfully enjoyable portrait of mid-50s Calcutta, a society still adjusting to Independence, displays warmth, wit and genuine insight into its large, multi-generational cast of characters, including Arati’s conservative old father-in-law, her studious teenage sister-in-law, and her benevolently despotic boss.

For this new restoration of The Big City, undertaken in India, the original negative was scanned at a high resolution (2K), enabling the film’s epic scale and intimate detail – from the portrayal of bustling urban life to the exquisite play of emotions on Arati’s face – to emerge in greater beauty and clarity. Now re-released by the BFI to mark its fiftieth anniversary, The Big City, with its emphasis on conflicting social values – and most particularly on the role of women – feels as fresh and relevant as ever.

Margaret Deriaz

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