Friday, August 09, 2013


Madhabi Mukherjee has a beautiful face and Satyajit Ray makes the most of it in his 1964 film, Charulata (or the Lonely Wife). Close ups of her generally passive face make up a significant portion of the two hour running time.

Bhupati, a busy owner/editor of his newly started newspaper in 1870s Calcutta, is aware that his wife is bored. When he hears that his younger cousin Amal has just finished university and is at a loose end, Bhupati invites Amal to come and stay. Bhupati suggests that Amal subtly encourage Charulata to resume writing. There is a funny scene where Bhupati's friends celebrate Charulata's success (in her absence) and to Bhupati's embarrassment.

There are no prizes for guessing where this plot is going. It is all very chaste. This is a film about high brow literature and drawing room politics. Everyone is very polite and restrained, don't expect sex, violence or even a raised voice. Much of what is going on in Charulata's head is portrayed visually through her acting, the camera work and by synchronizing changes in the weather with changes in her mood.

This film is beautiful but far too slow and long for my tastes.

Ian's rating 2.5/5

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