Indian cinema is often dismissed, on the world stage, as nothing more than simply Bollywood. This does a huge disservice to a diverse and rich film industry which caters for millions of people, spanning serval languages across the country, and beyond. The great Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray is considered by most to be the nation’s best ever director. The likes of the ‘Apu Trilogy’, The Music Room and The Chess Players became festival favourites and brought him to global prominence. Charulata is one of his best.
Set in late 19th century India, Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee) is the upper-class editor and publisher of a newspaper. Whilst his focus is in politics and the Benghali freedom movement, his beautiful wife Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee) is more interested in intellectual pursuits. He’s driven and dedicated to his work; she is bored and lonely with only the company of her crude sister-in-law (Gitali Roy). That is until his young cousin, Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), arrives and suddenly life is very different.
Charulata is an exquisite and sensitive tale of forbidden love, literacy obsession and emotional turmoil. Every scene is beautifully realised, in a way which feels both naturalistic and exotic. It’s a tale of a woman’s journey towards finding her voice. A marriage poised on a precipice. It’s supremely directed and perfectly acted, particularly Madhabi Mukherjee who embodies the quiet psychological torment pressing in on Charulata. One of Ray’s many masterpieces. So simple yet all so beguiling.
- New, restored 2K digital film transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- New interview program with actors Madhabi Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee
- Adapting Tagore, a new interview program featuring Indian film scholar Moinak Biswas and Bengali cultural historian Supriya Chaudhuri
- Archival audio interview with director Satyajit Ray, conducted by film historian Gideon Bachmann
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp and a 1980s interview with Ray by his biographer Andrew Robinson
- Cover illustration by Satyajit Ray, design by Marian Bantjes
Charulata is released on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection on 5 April.