June 30, 20118:30pm

It’s late nineteenth century India and Charulata’s (Madhabi Mukherjee) husband, Bhupati (Shailen Mukherjee), recognises that she is bored. Charulata leads a life of wealthy indolence, she has little option. Bhupati encourages his brother Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), a student of literature, to develop Charulata’s interest in writing. Bhupati himself is too engrossed in running his newspaper to spend time diverting his wife. The closeness between brother-in-law and wife grows until it is painful for Charulata to contemplate that Amal might marry.

Charulata is widely considered to be Rays finest work. A Bengali filmmaker fascinated by his own region and culture, the director’s films have a universal relevance. Ray excels in portraying small human dramas within the context of wider social implications. Here he shows a tenderness for his flawed characters, avoiding mocking the privileges of the wealthy. He balances the depiction of indulgence with Bhupati’s sense of the importance of decency and practical action for the society’s future. In fact the film can be seen as a study of balance in life, as Amal observes, Life is a rhythm. Birth. Death. Day. Night. Happiness. Grief. Meeting. Parting. Like the waves of the ocean. Now up. Now down. You can’t have one without the other. It follows that where there is trust there can also be deception.

While some find the leisurely pace a slight challenge these days, in retrospect Ray wouldn’t have changed a thing he said in an interview for Cineaste Magazine nearly 20 years later: “Well, the one film that I would make the same way, if I had to do it again, is Charulata”.

The film affords a dazzling view of Rays mastery of the medium and gives vital proof of his ability to explore universal themes without compromising his uniquely Bengali sensibilities. Slant Magazine, Jay Antani.

Charulata is the work of one of cinemas great humanists with no small cinematic skill to boot. Film4 Certainly one of Rays best films, with a superb music score of his own composition. TimeOut, Tom Milne.

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Film Information
Release year: 1964
Running time:   117 mins
Directed by: Satyajit Ray
Language: Bengali, English
Country: India
Genre: Drama
Starring: Madhabi Mukherjee,
Soumitra Chatterjee,
Shailen Mukherjee
Awards: Berlin Silver Bear

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