Charulata (1964) (aka The Lonely Wife)
Satyajit Ray

“Give me your word that no matter what might happen, you won’t leave”

CharulataFor a large part of the rest of the world, the name Satyajit Ray would immediately relate to the Apu trilogy and would probably stop at that. Ironically, a great number of his fabulous films have never reached the eyes of the Occident. Charulata (1964) is one such gem that never gets a mention when briefing the director’s work.

Bhupati is the owner of a newspaper The Sentinel and gives his heart and soul for its development so much so that he neglects the presense of his wife Charulata. Charulata kills her time doing petty stuff such as looking at people on the street through her opera glasses and doing embroidery. Bhupati asks his graduate brother, Amol, to somehow induce her to write which she seems interested in. Amol pretends to Charu that he is interested in writing and spends his afternoons with her trying to get valuable inputs from her. Finally, Amol manages to make Charu write an article and get it published in a renowned magazine but not before the latter develops a strong bond with her brother-in-law. Meanwhile, Charu’s brother and treasurer of The Sentinel doesn’t see prospects in running the newspaper and decides to run away with the funds. Bhupati comes to know of the betrayal and decides to suspend production after which Amol leaves the house with the intention of easing his brother’s burden. After a few sombre days, Bhupati and Charulata decide to resurrect the newspaper with both of the contributing. This is immediately followed by the climax where Bhupati accidentally discovers Charu’s attraction towards his brother and realises his mistakes.

Not one character is wasted or overdone in the film. In many ways, Charulata is Satyajit Ray’s most daring and open statement on the position of women in the society. Charulata is the epitome for the free and thinking woman of new India as opposed to her sister-in-law Manda. The tale of constrained relations between a man who has been complacent in his marital life, a woman who seeks forbidden love and a young man who becomes an involuntary catalyst for the exposure of truth is not only a commentary on contemporary India but also a fine work of art. Charulata won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1965.