In the past few days, Satyajit Ray occupied my mind quiet a bit, as I was discussing about him with a friend. To address my mind’s constant reminders, I first read a bit of Professor Shonku adventures, thanks to the library. But like before, I liked the imaginative themes but found Prof. Shonku’s narcissism boring. Then, in the past 3 days, I ended up watching “Shakha Proshakha” and “Ganashatru” although I planned on re-watching “Agantuk” and “Hirak Rajar Deshe” (Here is my article on this last one, in Telugu). This blog post is about these two movies.
“Shakha Proshaka” is the story of 4 generations. A 93 year old man; his son, a 70 year old Anand Majumdar who is successful and well-respected in his town; Ananda Majumdar’s 4 sons and his grand son. Most of the story takes place within Ananda Majumdar’s house where he, his father and one of his sons live. The story centers around the thoughts and discussions between the sons (and their families) when all of them meet to visit Ananda, who is recovering from illness. The story, to me, has multiple layers to it and its hard to put a single thing as its theme (although most web reviews seem to put the idea of “honesty” as its main theme).
What attracted me the most in this movie were: the gripping (even if its slow!) narration, Soumitra’s performance as a seemingly demented son of Ananda Majumdar and the old man who played Ananda Majumdar’s father. The story as seen from different characters in the movie was fascinating and left me thinking at several points. Soumitra was amazing although I felt he did not get enough screen space..the story was designed in such a way that he is a background hero (with all that background music).
I was also curious about the usage of English words in this movie. I think it was while watching “Mahanagar” that I wondered – why is it that they use so many English words and phrases even in 50s and 60s?
Most amusing review I read online was the one where a foreign reviewer left everything else in the movie and expressed disgust at the fact that the family members were eating with their hands in some of the scenes. To be frank, those scenes where the whole family sits at the dining table and speak while eating with their hands (and licking them) were some of the most natural and pleasing ones to my eyes. How much our cultural background affects our perspective!
Here is a blog post I found about this movie.
“Ganashatru” was adapted by Satyajit Ray from a Norwegian play by Henrik Ibsen, En Folkefiende or “An Enemy of the people“. When I read the play about an year and half ago, I was quite fascinated by the narration. I longed to see “Ganashatru” ever since. Finally, I managed to watch now.
I liked the movie as a seperate entity. I neither expected nor wanted the movie to be faithful to the play. Seeing how Ray adapted Tagore’s “Home and the world” to make his movie, I
knew that this would be Satyajit Ray’s “Ganashatru” and it was. I loved the way it was adapted for Indian scenario. Soumitra was awesome as Dr Ashok Gupta. Three scenes I liked the best in this movie are:
a) the discussion on temple water and its purity, where Bhargav challenges Prof. Gupta saying that temple water can never be unhealthy (because its “holy”!)
b) the scene where Dr Gupta plans a so called “open” public speech but is never allowed to properly read out his letter to the public.
c) the glow in Dr Gupta’s eyes when he comes to know in the climax scene that there is hope after all.
The actor who played Soumitra’s brother looked really menacing. Others too suited well for their roles. Mamatha Shankar, through her simple looks, has a strong scene presence (IMHO). Ray caught the spirit of the play correctly although he took liberties with the content itself (I remember this was exactly how I felt when I watched “Ghar Bhaire”).
While watching these, I realized that most of the movies of Satyajit Ray that I watched and liked come from those that were made in later parts of his career
Both the movies are available on youtube. “Shakha Proshakha” is available with subtitles. Regarding “Ganashatru”, you need to figure out a way to watch it with subtitles