Charulata – A film by Satyajit Ray


One of the best movies I have watched – This film by Satyajit Ray is a masterpiece.

Based on a story by Rabrindranath Tagore, the movie is set in the 19th century, post British colonization of India. The film revolves around the conflict experienced by the protagonist Charulata played by Actress Madhabi Mukherjee.

Charulata’s husband Bhupati played by Sailen Mukherjee, is one of the archetypical rich Bengal landlords of those times who had lot of time on their hands to devote to various pursuits.Bhupati is an intellectual who is shown passionate about publishing political news. Due to his publishing business, Bhupati hardly has anytime for Charu but is sensitive enough to sense her loneliness. When Bhupati’s brother, Amal played by Soumitra Chatterjee comes to live with them for some time, Charu finds herself attracted towards him. Her loneliness is very beautifully depicted , not because of a dearth of people around her but due to her craving for the intellectual stimulation of a companion, as interested as her, in literary pursuits. That craving drives her to step outside the boundaries set by the society even though Bhupati is depicted as a very considerate husband.Bhupati is completely unaware of any undercurrents as his newspaper work is collapsing due to misappropriation of funds by his trusted manager. Eventually, even Amal falls prey to Charu’s attractions but the dilemma he faces is immense and finally decides to leave. After the collapse of his business, Bhupati takes Charu out for a sojourn during which he again gets inspired to start another newspaper with Charu’s support. But as fate would have it, a letter from Amal, is all it takes for Charu to break down completely and is witnessed inadvertently by Bhupati. Charu becomes aware that her husband has witnessed her and awaits his decision.
The turmoil of Bhupati’s mind is shown very well and the last scene when they both extend their hand hesitatingly is frozen with unsaid words and emotions.

The film is a study in complex human emotions. All the characters are caught in the web of their emotions. Madhabi emotes extremely well conveying all the angst experienced by the character. Words are made redundant as the expressions convey much more. The scene when Amal tells Charu that his brother wanted him to convince her to write and her subsequent anger is very eloquent. The film has been able to bring out the subtlety of emotions of the human mind but the understanding of the complexity of female emotions is a masterstroke. Symbolic depiction of the turmoil and anxiety is very eloquent. The camera angles, the shots capturing the emotions on the faces of the characters establish communication with the viewer in a way in which spoken dialogues can never do.
The last scene when Bhupati’s extends his hand is also pregnant with thoughts and the beauty lies in the fact, that it has the capacity to let each viewer interpret it for oneself.

The picturization in black and white. The play of light and shade and the shots are brilliant.

The song ‘Ami chini go chini tomare..’ is so delightful and the tune so simplistic that you don’t have to be a Bengali to enjoy it.

Here are links to some good reviews..
http://www.satyajitray.org/films/charu.htm
http://upperstall.com/films/1964/charulata

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8 thoughts on “Charulata – A film by Satyajit Ray

  1. The Nomad

    I am going to watch it this week I think, after reading your review. I remember my mom telling me about this movie, in almost the same description, in ’88 or so. And it was exactly this “last scene… beauty lies in the fact, that it has the capacity to let each viewer interpret it for oneself”, what you have written, which she expressed too- that made me shirk from watching the movie ever- as I avoid such things – you know me. 🙂

  2. Charulatha – The broken nest – Charumathi
    The tribute to Rabindranath Tagore —- *
    The questions and the issues for the broken nest in the approximations and the inferences to the records and the files – ? the communications – ? the collectives in the experience of the impact – ? the extensions to the info networks – ?
    the identities – ?
    the knowledge – ?
    the aggregate experience – ? K signed on Thursday, 18th August 2011

  3. It is a classic work indeed. You could have included more of a personal element while writing this review. I would be interested in knowing more about your experience of watching this film.

    1. Thanks ! I think the personal experience comes through in how we describe what we watch, what we choose to speak about and what we don’t. Even why some films catch our fancy and some don’t. Don’t you think so ? For me, it was almost like turning the pages of an old album and watch people come alive. The mood swings of Charu’s mind, the dilemma , the situation which force to explore a forbidden fork in her life..all are emotions which are easy to relate to as a woman. The beauty of the work lies in just appreciating human emotions as they unfold without being judgmental.

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