Indian Cinema

Devi, 1960

Devi opens with a static shot of an undecorated alabaster statue in the image of Kali, the goddess of creation and destruction, as the Hindu deity is excessively ornamented for a religious festival. On the eve of the festival, Umaprasad (“Uma”) (Soumitra Chatterjee) brings his shy and beautiful wife, Doyamoyee (“Doya”) (Sharmila Tagore) and nephew,… read more »

Apur Sansar, 1959

Times are hard in the city of Calcutta. Apu’s (Soumitra Chatterjee) college funds have run dry, and he is forced to suspend his university education. After receiving a letter of introduction from a supportive professor, Apu exits the faculty office only to walk into the chaos of a student protest. It is a harbinger of… read more »

Jalsaghar, 1958

Jalsaghar opens to the shot of a large, ornate, candlelit chandelier, precariously swaying from the momentum of its cumbersome weight. It is a vestige of the fading grandeur of Huzur Biswambhar Roy’s (Chhabi Biswas) cherished jalsaghar – the elegant entertainment room where guests listen to the performance of traditional musicians amid eroded columns and peeling… read more »

Aparajito, 1956

The people make their daily pilgrimage to the Ganges River: bathing in its holy waters, filling their ceremonial vessels, attending a reading of the scriptures by the entrance steps. The Ray family has left their ancestral home (in Pather Panchali) and has settled into a ground floor apartment in the city of Banaras. Hari (Kanu… read more »

Pather Panchali, 1955

A young girl named Durga (Runki Banerjee) ventures into the neighbor’s orchard that was once owned by her family, and picks some guavas for her great aunt, Indir (Chunibala Devi). The neighbors detect the incident, and complain loudly of Durga’s undisciplined behavior for her mother, Sarbajaya (Karuna Banerjee) to overhear. Sarbajaya, in turn, scolds Indir… read more »

Genesis, 1986

Genesis prefaces to a strange and anachronistic fable of creation, as the narrator recounts a catastrophic drought that ravaged an unnamed civilization, leading to widespread disease and famine. The god dispatches an emissary with distinctively shiny shoes to take thumbprints of the inhabitants within a predefined geographic area that bounds the realm of his divine… read more »

Khandahar, 1983

Mrinal Sen’s Khandahar (1983) is an absorbing, intelligently constructed film that centers on a blind, invalid, elderly woman (Gita Sen) of aristocratic descent who is cared for by her devoted, unmarried daughter, Jamini (Shabana Azmi) in the ancient ruins of a feudal-era zamindari (the landowner’s estate). On a Christmas holiday weekend, Jamini’s cousin Dipu (Pankaj… read more »

Kharij (The Case Is Closed), 1982

The second film in Mrinal Sen’s thematically connected “absence trilogy” (along with Ek Din Pratidin and Ek Din Achanak) that examine the implications of a person’s unexpected disappearance from a middle-class household on the family’s moral consciousness, Kharij expounds on the trilogy’s clinical and uncompromising social critique of entrenched, dysfunctional bourgeois values and materialistic privilege… read more »

In Search of Famine, 1980

Nearly a decade after the release of his three-part magnum opus Calcutta 71, Mrinal Sen would rekindle the specter of famine, exploitation, and poverty within the collective consciousness of contemporary society to create an equally haunting and introspective exposition into the nature of human suffering in In Search of Famine. Structured as a film within… read more »

Ek Din Pratidin, 1979

The opening shot of Ek Din Pratidin is of a rickshaw passing through the narrow alley of a deserted residential street, framed between the discolored, weather-beaten walls of a pair of dilapidated boarding houses. This curious image of decaying structure and narrowed field of view proves to be an incisive preface to the claustrophobia, entrenched… read more »