Sunday, April 08, 2007

Days and nights

We've just emerged from Satyajit Ray's serene and charming movie, Days and Nights in the Forest (Aranyer Din Ratri) - another of the DVDs we bought during our honeymoon in India.

Four young middle class Bengali men leave Kolkata, and their worries about love and work, for a weekend trip through the forests of Palmau in Bihar, where they bribe a caretaker to let them stay in a government-run tourist bunglalow. In the days and nights that follow, their youthful swagger and arrogance are challenged through a variety of interactions with the women they find there: Duli, a penniless young woman from the local Santhal tribe, plus two middle class women also vacationing from the city - the young and poised Aparna and the older, widowed Jaya.

A subtle, amusing and compassionate character study that is also masterfully shot and structured by a true genius of modern film. M and I enjoyed it immensely, but my parents, who had watched it when it first came out in 1969, found it too long and too slow compared to the faster-paced Bengali movies they now watch via Sky on the Bangla TV and ATN Bangla channels.

Satyajit Ray's debut film in 1955, Pather Panchali - the first film of his mighty The Apu Trilogy - was the first to connect Indian film to the rest of the world. Akira Kurosawa said of that film, "I can never forget the excitement in my mind after seeing it. It is the kind of cinema that flows with the serenity and nobility of a big river." Most people in the west think that Indian cinema is Bollywood, but there has always been a wide variety of film coming out of the vast sub-continent, from Bengal and Assam to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. There is so much to explore.

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