December 13, 2009

Games People Play

This is a great scene from Satyajit Ray's Aranyer Dinratri (1970) aka 'Days and Nights in the Forest'. A group of six people, spending a vacation in a forest, plays a memory game. I have uploaded the 8-minute scene on Youtube. Even if you do not understand Bengali, you can easily follow it. And I want you to watch it. I want to share a glimpse of the genius called Satyajit Ray.

But before you go for the video, I would like to brief you a little about the six characters. Knowing them better will help you appreciate the subtlety with which Ray captures their psychology and the games they play. The underplay of sexuality, among other things, is one of the best achievements of the director. Of course, the best way would be to watch the film. But otherwise, here they are (clockwise from top) :
  1. Aparna or Reenee (Sharmila Tagore) : A girl who lost her mother when she was in school and then her elder brother. She grew up as a bright and intelligent girl, with an excellent memory and a taste varying from Mozart to Tagore to Shakespeare to contemporary issues. During this vacation, she has met Ashim, and both are attracted to each other. But no one has yet taken the first step.
  2. Sanjoy (Shubhendu Chatterjee) : Labour Officer in a jute mill in Calcutta. A hard-working, polite, bachelor. Parents have started looking for a girl to marry him. He is all-set to become a 'conventional' Bengali gentleman with considerable success. During the time he spends here, he develops a bond with Jaya. But we are not aware of that yet.
  3. Jaya (Kaberi Basu) : She is Aparna's sister-in-law, a widow. But we have never seen her sad. She keeps coming up with little things to engage everyone, from badminton to going to the tribal fair. Later in the film, with her growing intimacy with Sanjoy, we get to know about the real pain she is going through. But for now, she is just a warm and sweet lady.
  4. Ashim (Saumitra Chatterjee) : A promising executive, handsome, charming. The richest of the four friends. It is he who suggested this trip and we see him paying for all expenses. It is in his car that the friends travel. But each night, when he gets drunk, his frustration comes out - the frustration of being stuck in a job he hates. On Sanjoy's compliment that he will keep going up as long as he lives, Ashim replies: "With each high, a new low." Since the time he has met Aparna, he is attracted to her and it is through him that we discover Aparna.
  5. Hari (Samit Bhanja) : A sportsman. Even in the forest he is dying to know about the live cricket score. He has just had an upsetting break-up with his girlfriend and is low on confidence and spirit. He has the best built but possibly the least brains. He is going to lust for a tribal woman he sees in the forest.
  6. Shekhar (Robi Ghosh) : The funny man of the group. He has no job and is fond of gambling, although he avoids alcohol. Keeps borrowing money from friends and does not hesitate in approaching woman. Supremely confident. And extremely entertaining. You are going to love this character forever.
So, here they go...


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  2. watched the clip a couple of times ...the effect definitely grew on me..frankly i havent watched a lot of Ray... but the influence was evident in the way the scene was dwelling very subtly and charmingly on the undercurrents more ,rather than the obvious and the evident ... even the choice of the famous characters felt like a commentary on each individual character ... keep digging these gems for the uninitiated ones like me !!!

  3. looking at your list of 'dying to watch movies ' i thought you should add "nine" as well must have heard of it .. it features daniel day lewis ..need i say more :) ..people talk of aamir khan lewis has acted in 5 movies in last 12 years ...not a definitive sign of greatness in itself but when you look at his body of work ,you get his philosophy.. he is flanked by 4-5 leading ladies in 'nine'( academy winners like judi dench and nicole kidman less !!!)..i think the story revolves around the influnece of these women on different stages of his life ..i think it will be worth a watch ..

  4. Haven't heard of it.
    Actually I follow directors and not actors, so possibly i am missing a lot of stuff.
    Few months ago I didn't even know the names of Paul Thomas Anderson and others.
    Slowly, I suppose, I'll learn more.

    For example, I do not recognisze Daniel Day Lewis!!!!!

  5. Yeah!
    I had guessd him right.
    I thought he was the actor in There Will Be Blood.
    Perhaps that's why my subconscious made me write the name of PTA above.

    Really, DDL was just too good in that film.

  6. Oh my god!!!!!!!!!1
    Thanks Atul.
    Thanks a lot.
    I have gone mad!!!!!!

    'Nine' is a remake of Fellini's '8 1/2'.

    Even the name of the characters are same.

    Perhaps I am now dying to watch this movie more than anything else!!!!!!

  7. anytime ... go also for 'my left foot' ( if you hvnt!!) ... may sound cliched but DDL's was one of the best acts I hv seen so far ...

  8. and now that you have mentioned have me super excited about fellini's '8 1/2' ...only if i could find this movie fast enough ..sorry for my naivete ,but is this movie originally in english or in italian?

  9. '8 1/2' is arguably the greatest Italian movie ever made.
    And Fellini, the greatest Italian filmmaker.

    It is a film about the making of a film.
    And that film is '8 1/2'.
    So, it is a film about the making of itself...
    this is what great stuffs are made of, they take cinema beyond its limits.


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