Thursday, 10 July 2014

THE BIG CITY (MAHANAGAR) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Newly RESTORED 35mm FILM PRINT during The Films of Satyajit Ray @ TIFF Bell Lightbox #tiffcinematheque AND in the STUNNING BRD & DVD from the visionary home entertainment label the CRITERION COLLECTION!!! See it on the BIG SCREEN, then BUY it to OWN FOREVER!!!

Don't miss a single one of these great films on display at TIFF Bell Lightbox in the TIFF Cinematheque series "The Sun and the Moon: The Films of Satyajit Ray". From visionary programmer James Quandt, this is one of the most important retrospectives ever presented in Canada. If you care about cinema, you can't afford to miss even one. Heed the warning below!!! The Film Corner & Mr. Neeson mean business!!!
35mm FILM PRINT @ #TiffBellLightbox
and on gorgeous BLU-RAY and DVD

Anil Chatterjee dolls up in Satyajit Ray's The Big City.
Directors who made art films in the 50s, 60s and 70s

understood that they had to cast:

who were also
Gorgeous new cover art by Marian Bantjes
for the extras-laden Criterion Blu-Ray.
The Big City [Mahanagar] (1963) *****
Dir. Satyajit Ray
Starring: Madhabi Mukherjee, Anil Chatterjee,
Jaya Bhaduri, Haren Chatterjee, Sefalika Devi,
Prasenjit Sarkar, Haradhan Banerjee, Vicky Redwood

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Big City [Mahanagar] is such a great picture that even though it suffers somewhat from a rushed, unearned ending, its joys and virtues are many. Satyajit Ray delivers yet another masterpiece for the ages. This lovely amalgam of family drama and love story is once again another example of just how ahead of his time Ray was. The central character is female and she drives the entire engine of the story. Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee) is a young, hard-working housewife who toils with a face of happiness and tries to reserve any expressions of concern to herself. Though her husband Subrata (Anil Chatterjee) has a decent lower middle class job in the city as a loans officer at a bank, his financial obligations are almost ruinous. Not only is his salary supporting a wife, but also their little boy Pintu (Prasenjit Sarkar), Arati's still unmarried teenage sister and student Bani (Jaya Bhaduri), his father Priyogopal (Haren Chatterjee) and mother Sarojini (Sefalika Devi).

The family lives paycheque to paycheque and Arati is occasionally forced to borrow certain staples from the neighbours. Priyogopal is a former school teacher, now old, infirm and needing new prescription lenses so he can properly see his crossword puzzles. Bani feels guilt about going to school when she should be bringing in income (especially when she's chided that she won't need an education since she's a woman and will inevitably get married). Sarojini even feels like she and her husband are milestones around the neck of this young family. The pressures of poverty are considerable which, of course, brings considerable shame to Subrata.

Things take a positive turn when husband and wife decide that an extra income is needed and well within their grasp. After all, there are plenty of people to run the household, so it's not as if Arati can't take on another job.

Here the film springs into a joyous mode as Arati, for the first time in her life, leaves the confines of home and hearth to work as a door-to-door saleslady, hawking knitting machines along with a team of young woman. Arati discovers a new found independence, but in so doing, realizes she has a great gift for sales and it doesn't take long for her to earn a promotion as the head of the whole team. The money she starts bringing into the household is considerable.

Madhabi Mukherjee is such a stirring, stunning, sexy presence in this film. It's no wonder she was one of India's biggest and brightest stars, as well as being a favourite of Ray's (she starred in his wonderful Charulata). Her role demands wearing a variety of masks - some tried and true, but others all new. Mukherjee handles Arati's blossoming with steadily mounting subtlety and it's also no wonder her role was so appealing to her as an actress. Women, were so often second fiddles in Indian cinema, but not in Satyajit Ray's films and especially not in Mahanagar.

All is not sweetness, light and empowerment. Ray deftly handles the new burdens facing both Arati and her family. Her child misses her, Arati feels even more ashamed at how well his wife is doing in the business world and his father is appalled that his son would be such a weak man that he'd allow his wife to work. For his part, Priyogopal has always had a chip on his shoulder about slaving for years as a schoolteacher and now, in his august years, lives with no pension and under his son's roof. He's proud that all his former students went on to become such successful and rich professional men, but he also feels they owe him something, so he begins a campaign to track them all down and essentially beg money from them - money he feels they owe him.

On the work front, Arati is also faced with a huge challenge. Though her boss clearly values her, she's not too impressed with how he's been prejudicially treating one of the employees, an Anglo-Indian woman who is not only her friend, but the constant butt of the boss's disdain. Arati has some big decisions to make and one of them involves taking a huge stand against the injustices perpetrated by her boss.

The film is so stirring, funny, touching and tender that after having seen it a few times now, I'm still disappointed with the manner in which it resolves all of the conflicts so quickly. Ray has been so careful to take his time wending his way through the tale and yet in the most crucial moments, the storytelling seems to falter. What transpires makes complete narrative sense, but how he gets us there seems too pat and unearned.

And you know what? It doesn't matter. The movie is otherwise infused with such greatness that it still has stood the test of time as yet another Satyajit Ray masterpiece. He really was one of the best filmmakers of all time. We're so blessed he was able to make the films he wanted his way in an industry that was never too open to the kind of contemporary realities facing India that Ray explored so often and so well.

Mahanagar (The Big City) is presented at TIFF Bell Lightbox on July 12, 2014 at 3:45pm as part of the TIFF Cinematheque series "The Sun and the Moon: The Films of Satyajit Ray". NOTE: THIS IS A RESTORED 35MM. This might be your only chance to see this masterpiece the way it was meant to be seen, so get your tickets NOW and GO. Visit the TIFF website for further details by clicking HERE.

After you've seen this on a big screen, you'll absolutely kill to own the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. This is a film to cherish and Criterion has pulled out all the stops with the supplements. In addition to the all-new restored 2K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, the disc includes a brand new interview with Madhabi Mukherjee, a terrific short doc/interview with Suranjan Ganguly entitled Satyajit Ray and the Modern Woman, The Coward, a wonderful 1965 short feature by Ray about modern female identity starring Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee, B.D. Darga's excellent 1974 short documentary Satyajit Ray, great English subtitles newly translated and the de rigour Criterion booklet that has an essay by scholar Chandak Sengoopta and a 1980s interview with Ray by the inimitable Andrew Robinson.