The centenary of Indian cimena is upon us, marking 100 years since Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra.
Curiously, though it’s by no means an unwelcome decision, the occasion will be first marked on Channel 4 not with screenings of Hindi films but with a short season of films from Bengali director Satyajit Ray.
Jalsaghar: Set in 1930s Bengal, the 1958 film tells of the decline of Bengal’s landlord class via a man who fritters the last of his cash on lavish music evenings. Huzur Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas) is the aging zamindar who hosts musical soirées in his splendid music room (the jalsaghar of the title).
Mahanagar: A portrait of a lower middle class family in 1950s Calcutta, the 1963 film exposes the fault lines that emerge as the husband (Anil Chatterjee) struggles to support his family. As his wife develops a successful career selling knitting machines door-to-door, her traditionalist father-in-law is uncomfortable to see his daughter-in-law transformed into an independent woman; a process that’s exacerbated by her friendship with an Anglo-Indian with a very modern outlook and manners.
Charulata: Based on a Tagore novella, Charulata (1964) is set in late 19th-century Bengal and focuses on Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee), the beautiful, childless wife of the newspaper proprietor Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee). The intellectual loves his wife deeply but finds his time almost entirely absorbed by politics, the freedom movement and his newspaper. When Bhupati’s cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee) comes to visit, Charu finds the young man a delightful and enchanting companion and things start to change.
Nayak: Nayak (the hero) is about about public image and the less than heroic decisions people take, either as they become successful, or in order to be more successful. The story revolves around famous Bengali film actor Arindam (Uttam Kumar) and a young journalist, Aditi (Sharmila Tagore), he meets while travelling from Calcutta to Delhi by train.
Agantuk: The 1991 film is based on a short story the director wrote some years before. Agantuk (The Stranger) was the last film Satyajit Ray would make – he passed away in 1992, aged 70.
Billed as part of Channel 4’s centenary, I’m assuming – and hoping – that other films will added to the scheduled in due course
• Jalsaghar – Saturday 4 May, 00:55 – 02:35
• Mahanagar – Sunday 5 May, 01:05 – 03:20
• Charulata – Monday 6 May, 01:00 – 03:00
• Nayak – Tuesday 7 May, 01:05 – 03:05
• Agantuk – Wednesday 8 May, 01:35 – 03:35