Madhabi “Charulata” Mukherjee is the wife of banker Anil Chatterjee (The Cloud-Capped Star). They’re barely making ends meet, supporting kids and parents, so she gets a sales job. Grandpa would rather guilt his former students into buying him favors than accept lady-money, but after Anil’s bank goes under, Madhabi gets promoted and becomes the sole breadwinner. Without anything to do all day, Anil suspiciously follows his wife around. Ultimately she’s too principled to be a capitalist, and quits in solidarity with one of her coworkers. An obvious sort of social issues drama, but with a very excellent performance by Mukherjee at its center.

Written as a follow-up to Pather Panchali (and set in 1954) but not produced for eight more years.

Chandak Sengoopta for Criterion:

The Big City was awarded the Silver Bear for best direction at the Berlin Film Festival in 1964, but it was at a festival nearer home that it had its greatest impact. When screened during a 1964 international film season in Dhaka (the capital of Bengali-speaking East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), enormous crowds, including thousands of women, queued for tickets for the three scheduled shows. The lack of seats precipitated a mini riot, and after more than a hundred people were beaten up by the police, the festival organizers were forced to schedule ten extra shows, running consecutively over twenty-four hours.

Gorgeous movie. Looks different from the Apu flicks: strange angles and camera follows, and some stills at the end. Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee, also of The Big City and The Coward) is a bored, rich housewife whose husband Bhupati is too busy with work on his newspaper, so he gets his cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee, Apu in the third movie) to come hang out with her, which sparks her creativity as she and Amal both try to get stories published. What will happen when the neglected housewife spends all her time with an energetic young man? As a hint, the source novel was titled The Broken Nest. And while the husband’s relative is with his wife, Charulata’s relatives are supposed to be working on the newspaper but rob the accounts and skip town.

P. Kemp

It’s widely believed that the story was inspired by [author] Tagore’s relationship with his sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi, who committed suicide in 1884 for reasons that have never been fully explained. Kadambari, like Charulata, was beautiful, intelligent, and a gifted writer, and toward the end of his life, Tagore admitted that the hundreds of haunting portraits of women that he painted in his later years were inspired by memories of her.

The further, depressing adventures of doomed Apu (now played by newcomer Soumitra Chatterjee) in an uncaring, godless world. Apu now lives alone, trying to write a book while dodging the landlord. When he finally attempts to find a proper job, he claims to be less educated and take a manual labor position, but then decides that won’t be any fun. Still with no ideas or direction, he accepts an invitation to the country and accidentally gets married.

Well it’s a weird situation – he’s going to his friend Pulu’s cousin’s wedding, but the groom appears to be insane. The girl’s dad is convinced that there’s an “auspicious hour” during which she must marry to avoid curse, so they ask Apu. “Is this a play or a novel? What do you take me for?” But he does it, returning to his city apartment with his bride Aparna (Sharmila Tagore, star of Devi the following year).

Aparna makes the best of the situation, seems to be a caring and hard working wife. Things are going well for Apu, so we know this can’t last. She goes home to her parents’ after getting pregnant, dies in childbirth, then he wanders away to finish his novel, leaving his son with the in-laws.

Pulu tracks him down five years later. Apu has abandoned the novel and is working odd jobs from town to town. He’s more of a fuckup than I thought he’d end up. He comes to see his son, convinces the boy to leave the disapproving grandpa and come a-roaming, in an apparently happy ending.

Film Quarterly called it “the most important single film made since the introduction of sound” and I’m not even kidding, while Rosenbaum calls it “the final and weakest part” of the trilogy. At least we can say it’s authentic Indian cinema, the same year Fritz Lang released his “Indian Epic”

Won the golden lion in Venice against Throne of Blood, White Nights and Bitter Victory. Apu’s family gets settled in the big city by the river. Dad seems to be making a good living as a priest, but he gets sick and dies soon after. Mom moves Apu to a small town (doesn’t seem as rural as their home in Pather Panchali) and works for a rich family, sends Apu to school. Years later, new actor College-Age Apu wants to leave home and further his education. He tries to balance career and family, but favors the former and his mother dies of heartbroken loneliness. Apu’s own story is pretty hopeful (he’s still a good kid who loves his momma) but his family is as depressing and sudden-death-prone as ever. I’m guessing Apu himself will become desperately poor then die of a sudden illness in part three, but we’ll see.

Silent World by Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle beat it for the golden palm at cannes, but it took the “human document” award. The film print said “grand prix” but it doesn’t even look like that award was handed out in ’56. The print also calls Ray “Roy”, but those two seem interchangeable by the IMDB. Supposed to be India’s Rashomon, the one that brought Indian film to the world’s attention.

Daunting to watch a movie known for 50 years as a masterpiece… well-illustrated when I walked into the room early and saw a bunch of freshman watching the end of Citizen Kane.

Oooh, my fourth 50’s film in a week. This came out less than a decade after Bicycle Thief, its inspiration, and the year after Senso, La Strada, Seven Samurai and Saga of Anatahan.

Ray’s first film, with great music by then-unknown Ravi Shankar. Rich drama, very moving and awesomely shot. I kind of expected to be underwhelmed, but I loved it (probably more than the film students around me who sighed a lot and started fidgeting and text-messaging towards the end) and maybe even cried a little. Some of the students did too, so there’s hope for them.

Little Apu is born to overburdened mom, underemployed dad, always-in-trouble sister and elderly aunt. Sis’s friend is getting married. Apu goes to school. Dad gets work with the landlord but isn’t paid for months. Sis steals a necklace. Mom fights with aunt while trying to make sure kids are fed and staying out of trouble. One horribly powerful fight scene when, after the necklace dispute, mom drags sis out of the yard by her hair, collapses against the inside of the door while through the wall we can see Sis crying on the other side.


The scene is edited and scored with such force, seems like it couldn’t be the work of a first-time film director working before his country even had a proper film industry. Anyway, Sis gets sick and dies right before father comes home from the big city (he’s barely in the film) bearing money and gifts. Death scene (during a horrid rain storm) is at least double what the hair-pull fight scene was, with the music peaking into the scream that we never hear from the mother. In the finale, the family is moving to a new town to start again, Apu finds the necklace and throws it in a lake.

Movie feels like a masterpiece despite my pedestrian plot description.

When looking for screenshots I found this scene that wasn’t in the print we watched. The parents have a rare conversation about their lives and bring up moving out of town for the first time.

Ray: “The cinematic material dictated a style to me, a very slow rhythm determined by nature, the landscape, the country. The script had to retain some of the rambling quality of the novel because that in itself contained a clue to the authenticity: life in a poor Bengali village does ramble.”

Ray in ’82: “All artists owe a debt to innovators and profit by such innovation. Godard gave me the courage to dispense largely with fades and dissolves, Truffaut to use the freeze.”

Truffaut walking out in ’56: “I don’t want to see a film about Indian peasants.”


His sister in the rain, celebrating a short-lived freedom:

Outcast auntie:

Sad parents:

Update, Jan 2010: Katy liked it, but says she saw the sister’s death coming.