Sanjeev Verma

Film Critic

Voted for

Charulata1964Satyajit Ray
The Godfather1972Francis Ford Coppola
Pather Panchali1955Satyajit Ray
Brief Encounter1945David Lean
Bicycle Thieves1948Vittorio De Sica
Tokyo Story1953Yasujirō Ozu
Dama s sobachkoy1960Iosif Heifitz
Rear Window1954Alfred Hitchcock
Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli1960Luchino Visconti
Boyhood2014Richard Linklater



1964 India

Always the first film on my list of best films in history. Always.

For a director known for "Pather Panchali" (also on my list), his debut film, and the trilogy that it eventually became, "Charulata" is perhaps his most personal film. Ray himself called it his own favourite among his 29 or so films.

Adapted from a novella by Rabindranath Tagore, India's greatest writer, it is set in late-19th century colonial India. It is rhapsodic and lyrical in the manner it tells the story of a repressed, and lonely, married woman in an upper-class Calcutta home, whose literary instincts are stoked with the arrival of her husband's erudite cousin.

For me the opening ten minutes of "Charulata" constitute a cinematic triumph. It is a passage of unparalleled beauty and minimalistic style. Charulata moves about the halls, rooms and staircases in her sprawling mansion, window to window, gazing at the world outside, studying passersby, often raising opera glasses to her eyes. Nothing is said. Nothing needs to be said.

In Ray's hands--aided by Subrata Mitra's cinematography and the acting skills of the beauteous Madhabi Mukherjee--"Charulata" is an ode to idealism, love and yearning. And to the art of cinema.

Further remarks

These are my ten film treasures for many reasons, not the least of all that their ending felt like a connection to a living and breathing world being rudely snapped. None more so than Linklater’s "Boyhood" (the only film in my list made in the last five decades), as immersive an approximation of life as you could ever hope to see. At the end of the De Sica and Ozu, I was disconsolate, so dearly wanting a reversal of fortunes for those protagonists. As for the Kheifits, based on an Anton Chekhov story, the melancholy I felt at the end of the story of a love that cannot be remains indescribable. Also, if I may add, the women in my films are incandescent—whether the beauteous Madhabi Mukherjee in "Charulata", Grace Kelly in "Rear Window", Annie Girardot in "Rocco and His Brothers", and the unforgettable Setsuko Hara in "Tokyo Story".