Charulata: style, loneliness, love, and anti-evangelistic affection
The cinema of Satyajit Ray is violent, often it’s extremely subtle and that’s why the violence gets decorative and in consequence of its decoration it gets hidden, under banners of style, alienation, drama, and death. The frame is steady, and Charulata is embroidering ‘B’ on a handkerchief for her husband…The first 10 minutes of Charulata’ show not just her affairs with loneliness, but her acquaintance with it. The first of the minutes of Charulata are not hinting at what’s coming, but it’s a revelation about the storm.
The dynamic of Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee) with Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee) and Bhupati Dutta (Shailen Mukherjee) Who the handkerchief is for. Both Amal and Bhupati are descendants of tragic and lost love…Their idea of the world, and love is interconnected with affection, their relationship reminds me of a beautiful quote from RK Narayan’s The Bachelor of Arts
It never occurred to them to doubt. They were innocent and unsophisticated in most matters (except their fractions and fights), and took an ascetic make-up at its face value.
The significance of the revelations in the first 10-minutes is poetic, inscribed in the music of the wall clock. There is a certain style to its rhythm. A cawing Crow is heard, not seen in the frame and a cawing crow in the Indian book of superstations is meant to bring an uninvited guest home, in this case, it’s Amal and he brings with him a storm, quite literally.
The film is an adaptation of a novella named ‘Nashtanirh’ (The broken Nest) written by Rabindranath Tagore. The story is a product of the renaissance of Bengal. Bhupati is liberal and runs an English newspaper called ‘The Sentinel’. The film is filled with marvelous visual storytelling, Charu’s symbolic use of the binoculars to bring Bhupati closer to her, to bring her husband closer to her. Charulata is beguiled by the outer world, which she looks at while she’s confined to her house. The poetic revelation at the start is then contrasted when Charu is with Amal in the open garden space, enjoying the flight of the swing, and when she uses the binoculars again, she sees a woman on a balcony. Uff, The cinema of Satyajit Ray.
Satyajit Ray is considered to be world’s one of the most iconic and influential Indian directors/Filmmakers, He’s films have put India on a global map. The Late legend Soumitra Chatterjee worked with Ray on 14 films, some of his best works were crafted by Ray.
Charulata’s affection is anti-evangelistic in nature. We don’t get a searing sense of what she has left behind, except in sputters of conversation and visual aids by Ray. Bhupati throughout the film ignores Charu while passing by her side, Bhupathi’s interest lies in politics and he describes romance to be the fancy of a fool. The distance between both of them keeps increasing throughout the film, after a point, it becomes so obvious that Charu has to look at him through binoculars until he disappears into the abyss.
Charulata and Amal talk about Music, love, literature, art, and things that are the reason for their affection, these are the same things that would be the reason for their failed love. When Amal leaves Charu’s home, he has unknowingly taken all the things that she took pleasure in… Rounding up there is not much left for Bhupati except to come back home. When Charu and Bhupati aim at holding their hands, they seem not distant, but near…all they have left with them is a dark room, failed pieces of literature, a failed business, and a broken nest.