Days and Nights in the Forest (Aranyer Din Ratri)
Sharmila Tagore, Kaberi Bose, Simi Garewal, Soumitra Chatterjee, Subhendu Chatterjee / Fiction / Bengali
This masterpiece by Satyajit Ray is a splendid summation of the images and themes of our tribute to the cinema of West Bengal. As the title suggests, one major setting is a forest, rendered in dappled light by director of photography Soumendu Roy. Here, as in Nirjan Saikate, is a group of people on a journey; here also is Sharmila Tagore in 1970, when she was the queen of Indian film and incredibly beautiful. We are treated to the languor of long hot Indian afternoons, and a master filmmaker channelling both Jean and Pierre August Renoir. Though the film is nearly 40 years old, it feels more than relevant to presentday India. Its four middle-class Bengalis, with their talk of “rough” villagers and Burt Lancaster movies, are a hair’s breadth away from today’s Mumbai nouveau riche. Ray skewers their snobbery and ennui, telling the Chekovian story of their interaction in brilliant sunlight and bold wide-angle compositions, all the better to reveal their vanity and fear.
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