Friday, February 20, 2009

Charulata



English title : The lonely wife
Language : Bengali

The movie vividly portrays an upper class Indian household in Calcutta set at 19th century. The plot is deceptive in its simplicity since it lays the foundation for a film that is stunning in its poetic and philosophical depth.

Charulata called “Charu” by her intimates, belongs to the Bengali upper class, leading a life of idle privilege. She is the wife of Bhupati , who has inherited wealth and uses the freedom that he is thereby privileged to possess to publish a political newspaper.
charu is adored by her husband who is one of the most respectable aristocrats in the higher social activist in calcutta,He jokes that his newspaper is his “second wife”, but Charulata understands that it is she who is the second wife and his paper the first. Charu knows and loves her husband too well to complain and suffers her loneliness.

Charu loves her husband and seeks to please him as best she can (embroidering a handkerchief and slippers for him), but is starving for both attention and aesthetic stimulation. Bhupati and she are poorly matched in their interests. Where he is practical and political, she reads Bengali literature and poetry (which he dismisses as sentimental rubbish). Bhupati thoughtlessly remarks "Where do you find the time?" when she gives him the handkerchief to which she dryly replies "Time is all I have." Failing to recognize her talents, he has no desire to read fiction or poetry and only wants to deal with political matters. She is unable to share her emotional life with her stolid husband.. Her only companion of near-equal social stature with whom she regularly shares her living space is her sister-in-law, Manda ,but Manda is relatively shallow and more than content to pass her day in idleness and card playing, and exhibits passion only for ice cream.




The tension of the film profoundly deepens when, into this imperfect relationship, a new element is introduced. Bhupathi’s young cousin, Amal, a recent college graduate, has been floundering in the next phase of his studies. Bhupathi invites Amal to stay in his household, for a while to help with the newspaper, but in reality to rest, rejuvenate himself, and reestablish his bearings.
Just out of school, Amal wants to be a writer, but Bhupati has no position for him on his newspaper staff. Amal writes from the imagination, and Bhupati only finds space for scientific and political prose—he can't even comprehend the metaphoric reference in Amal's poetic title "Light of the Moonless Night." In contrast,

Charulata feels an immediate kinship of spirit with Amal. Here, at last, is her equal in intellect and emotional sensitivity, who shares her interest in writing and love for literature and poetry. Amal reads poetry to her and awakens her deepest feelings. Charu quickly develops a strong attachment to Amal, akin to love, because he feeds the deep emotional hunger that has existed unfulfilled within her for so long

Bhupathi receives a letter containing a marriage offer for Amal. Charulata is distraught at the thought of Amal leaving but must carefully hide these feelings lest she pain her husband with the revelation of her attachment to Amal.

Umapada(Bhupati 's brother in law) has been systematically delaying payments to creditors and hoarding the money, and has now absconded with it, leaving the paper bankrupt. Amal, shamed that his good friend and cousin has been betrayed through embezzlement by one relative, now realizes that he, himself, is threatening Bhupati with a deeper betrayal by his attachment to Charu. The honorable Amal makes excuses and departs immediately.


A letter now arrives from Amal, announcing that he has accepted the arranged marriage, with means that Charu will likely never or seldom encounter him ever again. Bhuparti hands the letter to Charu, with no expectation of it causing her undue pain, and leaves. Upon reading the letter in private, Charu breaks uncontrollably into tears and, in the midst of this, Bhupati returns, now realizing for the first time the extent of the emotional attachment between his wife and his cousin and the extent to which he, himself, has neglected her. Bhupati realizes Charu's feelings for Amal. He is broken, shocked and bewildered by it.He rushes out of the house, wanders aimlessly in his carriage. On his return, Charu and Bhupati make a hesitant gesture to reach out, but their extended hands remain frozen in a tentative gesture.

RAY - The storyteller



The opening sequence is a piece of cinematic poetry. We see the young wife Charulata moving from one window to another in her house. She observes the activities of the outside world through the window blinds using opera glasses. She is like a caged bird in her mansion. We sense her curiosity and desire to know the outside world.

The frame freezes when they join hands again with a message "The ruined nest".The shot is frozen and is followed with still images of Charu's half-lit face, Bhupati's half-lit face, a servant holding a lamp, a mid-shot of Charu and Bhupati and finally a long-shot of them.It was ray's cinematic answer to Tagore's original ending in which Bhupati has to go out of town and Charu asks him to take her with him.The two are about to reconcile and then prevented from doing so.

Ray conveys the innermost feelings and thoughts of his characters without any dazzling technique and with minimal dialog. An another wonderful sequence is the swing sequence in the garden. In this scene Charu, who has been resisting her feelings for Amal, gives in and admits her love to herself. It is about eight-minute long sequence with almost no dialogue. With innovative camera and narrative style, Ray depicts Charu's state of mind and her dilemma.

Satyajit Ray is a master at subtly communicating through artistry and cinematographic technique in action and dialogue alone. We see, for example, Bhupati’s face acquire a glow when he is in his newspaper room. He conveys Bhupati’s preoccupation with his work and neglect of Charu when he walks past her in their home, taking no notice of her as she watches him plaintively. Amal’s arrival is punctuated by a storm. With mere gestures, Charu expresses her innermost romantic feelings at the beach, by pulling Bhupati’s first grey hairs.

Ray’s craftsmanship is sublime.

11 comments:

Venkiraja said...

Haven't seen the film yet. Would surely watch it. You give me the urge through your post. Kudos for that!

Classic Movies said...

Amazing movie indeed. Just found out a place to watch this movie online.

http://www.50-classics.com/2009/03/charulata-lonely-wife-1964.html

Cheers!

வெங்கிராஜா said...

Thanks. Please visit our blog often.

L said...

Brilliant movie! Madhabi Mukherjee looks gorgeous and as always Ray's movie goes beyond the extraordinary cause there is so much humanity in it.

P.S : Watch Apu trilogy if you are Ray fan.

L said...

* if you are a

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