Classic Satyajit Ray movie “Mahanagar” made in 1963 in black and white once again a woman centric movie by the master, after “Kanchenjunga” which was made in 1962 also a woman oriented movie. Quite a genius to make a woman centric movie in the 60s, advanced thinking for the ages. This one is a beautiful film with traces of psychological drama in it, but Ray brilliantly picks it up towards the end. Brilliant performance by Madhabi Mukherjee in the main role of Arati the demure wife of Subrata Mazumdar, the banker who is just making by with his salary with old parents to take care of plus his kid and a sister as well. They live in a old ramshackle house with no fans and no cooking gas. His father is a retired teacher and likes to play the crossword in order to win some prize money. Then they decide that Arati can work to supplement the income of the family. She applies and secures a job as well and becomes quite a star performer in her company. Then all hell breaks loose because it is a patriarchal family system, how can a women go out and work, a silent war rages on between the elderly in laws and the woman. But pangs of jealousy and guilt start hurting the husband, this is where Anil Chatterjee as the husband has performed a bravura role. The wife starts earning more, starts wearing lipstick, sun glasses, appoints maid for the house, meets other gentleman in a cafe, all of which troubles the husband. The husband also loses his job because of a run in his bank. There is one shot in the movie, when Arati is eating and leaves the plate on the floor and asks her husband to do something in a subtly higher voice. The transformation of Arati as demure, house bound, insecure woman to a confident, courageous, bold woman is quite brilliant and subtle and Madhabi has done her part quite brilliantly in that. At this juncture, Ray takes the script down to show the decay in the husband and when i think he would go for the complete melt down of the husband, but that does not happen. There is one instance in the end, when the husband says to the wife “if you succumb what will happen to us”. Ray has controlled the pace in the movie quite brilliantly. The final shot is fitting in that he pans over a city with tall buildings, the only time, the movie refers to its title “Mahanagar” meaning big city. Beautifully made movie which has the master’s stamp all over it.
Picture taken from the internet and not with an intention to violate the copyright.