Brilliant noir film by Satyajit Ray, “Nayak” (1966) explores the dark underbelly of a film star’s imperfections. Made in black and white and starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore as the central protagonists, the film is shot entirely inside a moving train except the opening shot and few sequences in his dreams/ recollections. Arindam (Uttam Kumar) is a huge film star going to New Delhi to receive an award in a second class train from Calcutta of those days. His arrival at the train station and inside the train creates a buzz amongst the passengers. Aditi (Sharmila Tagore) is a journalist writing for a women’s magazine and wants to interview him. Over the course of the interview which takes three to four sittings, Arindam degenerates his personality from a confident movie star into a insecure, distressed, unsure, nervous person due to ephemeral nature of his profession. All along his biggest fear is that three flops will take him down to the gutter. Satyajit Ray has interspersed the narration with three to four episodes from Arindam’s past such as his first ever day in the films, his betrayal of his friend who becomes a union leader, his inability to help a lady who wants a career out in the movies. In one scene he is seen desperately clutching bank notes as he is sinking deeper and deeper into a morass from which even his mentor Shankarda is unable to help him. Satyajit Ray has also added minor sub plots in the movie in the train itself with one lady wanting to act in the movies but whose husband wants her to inveigle herself to a potential client who is enamoured of her. That man’s wife and children are in the same coupe as Arindam and the daughter who is sick from the beginning of the train journey recovers towards the end. There is a Hitchockian touch to the movie. The to and fro between Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore is brilliantly done and Uttam Kumar’s character from a confident assured movie star to a distressed despairing insecure individual is brilliantly done by Uttam Kumar. Sharmila Tagore looks glamorous and alluring when she removes her thick glasses.  

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