[The following is a translation of a set of letters between Raymond Bellour and Marie Redonnet on Satyajit Ray’s Days and Nights in the Forest (1970), originally written in 1993 and published in Bellour’s Pensées du cinéma (2016, P.O.L.)]

Days and Nights in the Forest

It’s always strange to walk out of a film with another person when we don’t know them well enough to be sure (a dangerous certainty) that they are thinking what you’re thinking. Especially when the film surprised you, took unexpected turns that you felt you followed well, and you don’t know if the other person, who might not have the same relation to cinema, reacted to the film in a similar way, or will at least use similar words to describe it.

Here, on the other hand, was a certainty, still a silent one: we liked the film. Terribly so: it left us speechless for a while, but we knew we’d have time to discuss it in the evening (a civilized ritual around the 8PM screening: have the dinner after the film in order to work on it slowly, privately, like an event that you don’t want to overload with other things, or digest at the wrong time).

Like all memories, of course, it later becomes something of a dream (I have always admired, with perhaps an excessive mistrust, those who are able to recount old conversations as if they had recorded them: are they so different from me, or do they implicitly embrace a mixture of truth and fiction? Or maybe they take notes immediately. But in that case, etc. etc.) I remember latching on to some references to articulate my surprise, to rationalize my amazement: this Satyajit Ray, who couldn’t apparently be more different, made me think, at least in his setup, of Rohmer (this was suggested to me by a friend of mine who loved the film and urged me to go see it right away), of early Fellini (I Vitelloni, for example), or even of Hawks (the fate of groups, the games of men and women, the transition from light to serious, the logic of plot reversals: the miraculous balance of “classical” cinema, modern though it is). In short, it’s still about the Rules of the Game between ethics and aesthetics (now that I’m writing (to you), I recall that Ray had assisted Renoir on The River).

I perhaps told you this, we thought it was really extraordinary that we could prepare for this transformation, that we could retain all the trivial elements of this story, as though suspended in a fishing net, in order to fully make use of them, in the form of a viewer memory, when the story veers, first slowly and then suddenly (that’s where the dexterity, the miracle lies), into the tragic, assuming a sweeping density by endowing its four merry men with a touch of fate.

We didn’t need to recount the film to each other at that point because we had just walked out of it, but we have to play that (minimal) game here. It’s not wholly true though: we did recount it in way, in order to pinpoint the moments in the film that had struck us and to arrive, unwittingly, at what had transfixed us.

So I’ll recall the crux here: four friends leave Calcutta to spend some time in the countryside. Two of them, familiar actors in Ray’s films, look like respectable executives; the third is a famous sportsman (he’s the only one with a backstory, presented through a really unexpected flashback that occurs during their journey, in the middle of their banter, signalling the future course of the film: his girlfriend has left him brutally following a mediocre, incriminating letter from him.); the fourth is the joker of the gang. They move into a forest guest house after bribing its watchman. There’s another house nearby, and the men get to know the family living there: father, daughter, daughter-in-law and her young boy. There are also women of the village, Duli being one of them. The film tells the story of these four bachelors who are out seeking adventure, going around these women towards whom their desire remains vague, only to turn concrete before their imminent departure: Sekhar, the jester, doesn’t get anyone; the sportsman Hari is committed to Duli; Asim to the daughter, Aparna; and Sanjoy to Jaya, the daughter-in-law (I checked these names in Charles Tesson’s book on Ray).

We were hardly interested in Hari, I think, except in order to notice what was extreme about the beautiful native (Duli) who sells herself, who is of a sensuality at once raw and perverse, mastered and uncontrolled, but very autonomous in any case, during the love scene in the forest, the only scene of lovemaking, of which the hero ends up being the victim (after the young woman leaves, he is assaulted by a villager whom he had unjustly accused of theft: the villager had observed the scene, which thus becomes more intense)

But the impression left by the scene fed into what we were constantly thinking about: that here was an extraordinary film on men and women, extraordinary because of the stance taken by a man to show the superiority of women when it comes to intelligence and behaviour in romantic relations.

We soon arrived at the great scene between Asim and Aparna, which could appear to be the most beautiful moment in the film. The groundwork for it is laid by two previous scenes thanks to which the film takes a turn and speeds ahead: a memory game in the forest in which Aparna crushes everyone, Asim in particular, the only one who puts up a fight; and a visit to the local fair, during which the group splits into three couples, with the sensual counterpoint of traditional dances to go with it—it’s audacious of Ray to film these female bodies so modestly and so sensually, to show them in harmony with the couples trying to find their feet.

We were amazed by how Aparna’s character, quite enigmatic so far, somewhat charming but sarcastic and rather removed, bursts out with a contained violence towards a half-flirtatious, half-romantic and mostly childish man, to whom she nevertheless imparts a consistency because she confides to him: her ability to memorize everything since early childhood, her brother who killed himself three years ago seemingly without reason, her mother who set herself on fire when Aparna was twelve. All this to explain her distance, her inability to enter the game of explicit seduction and her marked singularity (I thought so later, I think so now: is this Ray’s romanticism, an idealism that bestows the woman with an extra bit of aura and depth? Or as we originally thought: the naivete and vulgarity of men with their simplistic, dull desire—or, at least, the image they give of that—which rejects not only what is singular in a woman’s desire, but also the identity proper to a mutual desire, its only chance of being shared.)

But we hadn’t yet come to the scene that became, for us, the scene—that’s why we wanted to see the film together the next day, to freely write a few pages each to prolong the memory of what we discussed that evening, before, during and after the sad result of the elections (I’m looking at this obscene image on channel 2 again, enough to singlehandedly condemn television, which can never be cinema: between Madelin and Longuet, presentable forty and fifty somethings passably done up, stands a pulpy student of twenty-three years, fleshy lips and long hair, supposedly representing French youth and especially showing the desire they may have for her).

I think it was I who stopped suddenly at the scene that was hiding beneath what we had discussed before, like how one stops before an evidence: I told you that we’d just witnessed one of the most violent scenes of desire that cinema has ever offered. Until this scene, Jaya seemed, in contrast to her sister-in-law, a rather simple character: a sociable, cheerful woman (we have just learnt of the suicide of her husband from Aparna, but our attention doesn’t shift to her). Jaya returns home with Sanjoy from the fair to which he had accompanied her; she offers him coffee; they are alone in the house, where Ray has set up a muted but very charged lighting scheme that tightens the space. Jaya goes into her bedroom for a moment (there’s a fluctuation of memory here stemming from one of those loose ends characteristic of great mises en scène) and comes out of it transformed, covered with jewellery bought with Sanjoy at the fair. She offers herself with an absolute immodesty that reinforces what she recounts: the death of her husband, widowhood, the wife’s desire expected to vanish with her husband’s death. Sanjoy listens to her in silence, terrified. He is unable to take a single step towards her or make even one of the gestures he evidently imagined and looked forward to; he can only clam up. The more Jaya’s desire saturates the space the more thoroughly Ray’s sequencing withdraws into itself, so as to suddenly limit the whole world to what is happening—or rather, what is not happening—between this man and this woman.

That is where we began to feel differently. I was with Sanjoy, lost, understanding of his terror, projecting something of myself onto the character without knowing where each of us was, caught in a vague no man’s land. I told you how, when confronted with certain bodies, bodies that are too strange but whose strangeness is fascinating, a kind of imaginary madness opens up; I guess everyone has his own, which he recognizes the day it happens (this is amplified for me here by the evident otherness of the Indian woman that Jaya embodies so strongly: heavy, somewhat fleshy body of a glowing sensuality that doesn’t coincide really with the material body and induces a disorder, a dissociation between seeing and touching, or even between two modes of seeing, two modes of touching, which we’d prefer keeping apart). You seemed surprised by this male thing; and you spoke to me about the woman. You told me (I couldn’t think of it that way): a woman can offer herself like that only in order to want to not be taken. She remains in her mourning, which she bears tragically, which she exhibits, to the point of obscenity. This excess she indulges in is what protects her; this excess in which the other is nothing, can’t project himself into, for she desires him in a dead man’s place, as though to prove to him that he has no place there. Writing to you, I wonder if it’s this very intuition that Sanjoy has, considering that his terror mounts to such a degree: the fear of being denied, like the fear among women, as they say, when they can’t tolerate a pure, immediate physical desire. The harrowing magic of the scene, which we must see again to know more about, at least on the means of producing such a shock, could be in not letting either the man or the woman, who are trying to talk to about it like us, decide whether there’s a shade of comprehension or an opacity in what surfaces and dramatically stops between a man and a woman, whether either of them is aware of the horror they provoke in the other or whether these two horrors simply coexist in a space that has become, either way, unbearable.


Days and Nights in the Forest

As soon as the film ended, there was, between Raymond and me, a shared conviction of having seen a film that, beyond the pleasure it just gave us, left behind a mark, a mark strong enough to not let go of us that evening and to make us want to write about it the next day.

What we discussed first of all was our surprise that the shock was produced by a minor film in Satyajit Ray’s body of work, a light comedy without any drama. And even so—that’s its singularity—this comedy, during its second day, impinges on the reality of desire, ends up in a scene, the scene, that turns it upside down, and continues to be a comedy after that. It’s the radical strangeness of this scene within the context of the film that gives it its power, upsetting our imagination, making us see an image of female desire like it’s rarely seen in cinema.

It’s Raymond who spoke of the scene first: the scene where the young widow, the mother of the boy, after secretly putting on the jewellery she has just purchased at the fair (jewellery worn by women of the village who are neither of her class nor of her caste), offers herself to the man who courts her. While she asks him how he finds her with the jewellery, she watches him; and her face, which the man sees and which pierces the screen, is astounding in the sudden desire it expresses. It is unrecognizable, of an opaque, tense, nocturnal beauty illuminated by the jewellery. What this face asks of the man it offers itself to is to respond, with immediate urgency and without any fantastical or romantic mediation, to the desire it expresses radically. It demands that the sexual act be completed, without the question of love, without entanglements (she is leaving town the next day), with just enough time remaining to do it (note the extraordinary control of this woman when a car passes by: she tells the man that it’s not her father-in-law’s car and that they have time). It demands that this act be completed by breaking away from male symbolism and fantasy, in an absolute reality, which the jewellery makes even more unbearable: not those of a whore, but those of a queen. Just before offering herself this way, she tells him that she is like a ghost, chained to her husband who committed suicide, without her knowing why, when he was in England (because of another woman perhaps, she says), and whom she can only mourn, thus revealing through this sexual act what her daytime cheerfulness and lightness conceal. What she asks of the man in expressing such a desire is to wrest her away from this mourning and to resurrect her as a woman, But she is already a woman, which is exactly the challenge for the man, who has nothing to teach her, and has to only give her the pleasure she asks for, to save her from the death that imprisons a part of her, namely the woman.

Raymond told me that he’d never seen female desire shown this way in cinema, in its absolute reality. And what overwhelmed him most of all in this scene is not just seeing what he hadn’t yet seen—the face of a woman unveiling her desire on screen, free of all modesty as of all obscenity—but seeing a man totally lost before this desire. Lost, that’s the verb Raymond used, and which I made him repeat. This man, who has exercised his desire all day (fantasizing, Raymond told me, about the moment the sexual encounter could take place), at the very moment that this fantasy becomes real, loses it and spaces out. He had accompanied the young woman to her house, she had invited him in for coffee. He had said he couldn’t say no to coffee. He had heard her request and agreed to it. The coffee, instead of the customary tea, was the first deviation, the beginning of what was about to take place before their farewell. Raymond told me he was completely overwhelmed by the man’s reaction, as though he embodied at this moment (in his incapacity to respond to what he was originally looking for) the struggles of the modern man: the reality of female desire that lies outside his own rules. The man drinks up his coffee as though nothing has happened, right after he is told that it’s getting cold. He leaves the house, meets his friend at the gate with the sister-in-law, the young woman of the film, and his face loses all trace of his earlier confusion. You’d think he has forgotten what just happened. But Raymond told me that the man is forever marked by this impossible thing that just happened.

As Raymond spoke, it was evident to me too that this truly was the scene of the film. Now, I realize that this was exactly the scene I had forgotten. If Raymond hadn’t spoken to me about it (releasing my repressed memory), I wouldn’t have remembered that I’d seen this scene. If it was I, and not him, who spoke first (but why didn’t I?), the scene I would’ve talked about is another one that takes place almost at the same moment, between the young woman and the friend. Before bidding farewell, he tells her he wants to see her again in Calcutta, and so she writes her telephone number on a currency note. Just before this scene, she too makes the man confront reality, but it isn’t the reality of her desire, just the reality of her past, in which her desire is rooted: her mother who immolated herself, her beloved brother who committed suicide. Starting from the terrible violence of this reality, (in order to protect her desire from this unbearable reality) she constructs for herself an enigmatic, perverse and merry personality. I remember this scene instead of the other one because, for me, it serves as a protective and identifiable screen over the other scene which, in contrast, broaches a taboo by removing this screen in a radical rupture. This taboo, the reality of female desire, is the one around which the history of love and desire in the West is likely constructed (it isn’t by chance perhaps that it comes back to us from India, in 1969).

This scene is echoed by another scene in the film, about which neither Raymond nor I spoke about the other day, and which I recall now; a scene that takes place at the same time in the forest: a sexual encounter between a young village woman, also a widow, and a member of the group (the sportsman, the one who is jilted, at the beginning of the film, in Calcutta, by his emancipated and modern girlfriend, who comes across as a double to the young girl in the film, the one on the currency note). The surprising thing in this scene in the forest is that the face of the young village woman expresses the same desire as the daughter-in-law’s (the same tense, opaque and nocturnal beauty illuminated by the jewellery). If the man, in this scene, responds to the desire of the woman to the point of asking her to come to Calcutta, it’s because she has expressed her desire within male rules: the system of prostitution (she asks him for money, which he is glad to give), but also in her social inferiority (of class and caste, villager and panhandler) and in her somewhat mad deviancy (she gets drunk to the point of unconsciousness, like the men). What this double scene reveals is that, in order for the man to not be lost before female desire and for this desire to kindle his own, this female desire must be subjected to male symbolism and fantasy. What is unbearable to Sanjoy, to the point of radically doing away with his desire, is female desire expressed in its sovereign liberty, transgressing his own rules. It is all the more unbearable because she is in her daytime, totally “normal” self.

If, at the same time, the young sister-in-law manages to make the man she likes fall in love, it’s because she cunningly plays with male symbolism and fantasy, cunningly playing with her own desire in the process. A player, she proposes a memory game to her four friends. She knows she is unbeatable in the game, but lets the man she likes win, in such a way that he nevertheless guesses that she has cheated. Troubled by this, he asks her the next day why she let him win. She is then able to tell him the truth: because he couldn’t have stomached a loss, and that would’ve endangered his desire. She is able to confront him with his narcissistic flaw, without at the same time breaking the game of desire between them, because, shortly after, she confesses her own flaw, her double wound, allowing him a glimpse into her fear. And to continue the game in Calcutta, she writes her telephone number on a currency note, thus playfully mimicking the system of prostitution in which man has boxed female desire.

I told Raymond a little later that, if the young widow, like some queen, has broached the taboo and suddenly unveiled her desire without bothering about male rules, it’s perhaps because her desire is prohibited by her mourning and because she can, in a kind of despair and radical loss, risk unveiling it in this transgressive and impossible act, for which she is immediately sanctioned.

This film, in its surprising modernity, made us think about the pressing question of desire, its crisis, as we could experience them, in our own lives, which we recounted to each other bit by bit, which has meant that, through this film, something like a real communication has taken place between us. Is it perhaps that this woman, who can experience her desire only by broaching a taboo, is mad, and that, faced with such a madness, the man can’t help but be lost? Is it perhaps that there’s an unbearable reality on the woman’s part here, this enigmatic sexual non-intercourse which Lacan spoke about?


Days and Nights in the Forest


We then invented a second rule that each of us should now go see the film alone and write an additional piece on it. I’ll start this time around, you’ll continue.

What struck me the most about the scene, around which our whole discussion revolved, was the degree to which our original memory of it was crystallized in a single image. It’s very brief in comparison to the whole film, but very elaborate nonetheless. There’s, firstly, Sanjoy and Jaya’s entry into the small, dark living room; Sanjoy remarks that it looks like a ghost house. Jaya then turns on the lamp, a soft, muted light illuminates the living room. Sanjoy says, “A mystery is gone”. If he says ‘a’ mystery (and not ‘the’ mystery), it’s that he anticipates another one to be revealed [1]. Jaya asks him to sit, serves him coffee, hands him an album (which he doesn’t open, if I recall correctly) to occupy him while she goes into her room. It’s during this time that, alone in the living room, he drinks his coffee. We see Jaya’s coffee steaming, and in order for us to understand that some time has passed since she went into her room, Sanjoy tells her that through the partition that her coffee is getting cold.

It’s then that she appears. Watching this shot where she appears suddenly, metamorphosed by her jewellery, what became obvious to me the second time is that she is playing a scene in which she is alone. Sanjoy is the one for whom she is playing the scene, but she doesn’t want him as a partner in any way. She allows no space for Sanjoy’s performance, taking over, by her very appearance, the whole space, in which Sanjoy can’t help but be increasingly petrified and expelled. She begins with the game of seduction, asking him if she looks good dressed up this way. She wants him to contradict himself (he had said earlier that he liked Santal jewellery only when it’s worn by the women of the tribe). Upset and unsettled by Jaya’s audacity, he ends up telling her she looks “good”. To aggravate his confusion, she asks him if he’s uncomfortable, and she tells him she, for one, is. If she really hoped for a sexual encounter between them, she must stop this game right here, allowing him to play his game. On the contrary, as thought to put an abrupt end to the confusion she has so violently provoked, she withdraws to talk about the suicide of her husband, who has made her a ghost. Her face is desperate, lost. What can Sanjoy do, other than to not know who he is anymore, or what he is doing with her here? For him, the scene has been de-eroticized, which allows her this incredible moment where, on her transforming face, she unveils to him her desire, suddenly and desperately. She is there, so close to him, like a beggar, to whom he is unable to respond, a powerless viewer on whose face we see beads of sweat and discomfort. What I couldn’t notice the first time around, and which is now clear, is that she can dare broach this taboo only because she makes sure to isolate herself from him. In a way, it’s from a phantom land, a land of the dead, that she desires him this way. We could say that, at this moment, she desires no man, that she is simply prey to her own desire. We can understand then that Sanjoy, as you said, is lost.

What really surprised me watching this film again is also to discover that I’d completely distorted the other scene in the forest. In my memory, the young village woman expressed the same desire as Jaya on her face. Actually, that’s wrong. In this scene, like the other scene that’s very elaborate in its brevity, it’s Hari who leads the game; she simply plays along. There’s firstly the simulation of an abduction in the forest, where he seems to drag her forcefully, as though for a rape. Then comes the moment where he stops and offers her money. Duli’s face lights up looking at the money. We then see them at the end of the love scene. She laughs, as she always does. When he asks her to come to Calcutta, she talks work, money, blouses. Her laughter, her apparent irresponsibility and her provocative sensuality are her own way of concealing herself, withdrawing while offering herself. She doesn’t desire Hari; she avidly takes what he gives her: money and pleasure. Just like Jaya, the other widow, but differently, she remains alone and inaccessible.

I wondered why we didn’t discuss something that is so finely shown in this film: the social situation of crisis of the four Bengali petit bourgeois friends, and how this crisis is amplified by a crisis when faced with desire and women. If Asim is the only one to embark on a romance, it’s also because he is the most socially elevated of the lot. He is the one with the car, the one who gives orders, the one who speaks of the house he will build for himself. When he talks, during the scene of drunkenness at the village, of his unhappiness in life, it’s on an existential plane: “The higher you go, the lower you fall.” At the fair, he buys the bracelets that Aparna likes, which Sanjoy doesn’t do with Jaya. Sanjoy suffers under the mediocrity of his job, which he can’t leave because he has to take care of his family. When Asim tells him that he needs a wise and submissive wife, Sanjoy doesn’t object, and even confesses that he is “conventional”. Jaya can dare to play the scene before him also because she dominates him socially and because, having sensed his flaw, she knows she doesn’t risk anything exposing herself like this. It isn’t a coincidence that the clown of the group, who makes fun of love and is only interested in gambling, is unemployed. As for Hari, who is attacked brutally by the villager he had accused of theft, he is the same person who was “dumped” in Calcutta by a young girl owing to a letter he couldn’t write and who confesses, when drunk, that cricket led him astray and that he is illiterate. For these four friends in a social crisis, who, for a few days in the forest, try to escape through jokes, racism and caste hatred, and the denial of reality, the encounter with “modern” women strips them down and unmasks all their weaknesses, revealing in the process the romantic crisis that is shaking up the West at the end of the twentieth century, a crisis that is also political.



Yes, a political crisis. And curiously, it’s thanks to films from other cultures, from the “Third-World” that is however so removed in many respects from our Western “norm”, that we get the clearest lessons. This mustn’t be mistaken for a too simplistic “human” universality, but indeed as the revenge of the other. And this, with the chronological gaps (between the making of the film, its reception etc.) that needs to be understood. Earlier this year, Kiarostami’s latest film (Life, and Nothing More…) already had a comparable effect: to be capable of upholding—without the compulsion that real filmmakers, in France for example, seem to be increasingly subjected to—a ethic of cinema that is as strong as post-war Rossellini’s. It’s a dispatch that comes to us from elsewhere and which shows us what is missing or irremediably undergoing a transformation in cinema.

But to come back to the scene and the film, and what we were talking about, here’s what happened when I watched it again. Firstly, as always, there were distortions of the memory, significant ones. I could clearly see, just reading your first dispatch, how I much I was mistaken about Aparna, Asim and the memory game: I had taken her to be the winner, overlooking the fine detour by which, as you say, she creates a space for the man’s desire by not subjecting it to intimidation right away. Is there a contagion effect with the other scene, our scene, in which this is exactly what happens? Does this reveal a desire to idealize the female character, a desire stronger than what I was earlier ascribing to Ray? Is this the desire of sovereign women, impossible to “touch”?

The other oversight is not an oversight: what I’d called the (conscious) fluctuation of memory before the power of the mise en scène. That is to say, what happens between the two parts of the scene, between Jaya going into her room and her reappearance. For there are clearly two, neatly separated stretches of real time that unfold, almost excessively so, in realist terms (the time Jaya needs to spruce up), there where one could’ve mistaken it for the violence of a undivided stretch of time, even while suspecting that it was more constructed than that. Between the moment Jaya goes into her room, whose door remains, I think, open (such that our eyes stray into the depth of field and which remains pregnant with action) and the close-up on the two cups of coffee that opens the highlight of the scene, there are in fact two other scenes.

  1. Asim and Aparna walk back towards the forest house, already closer to each other after Aparna’s confessions and the challenge that they pose to Asim’s immaturity. Through a window, they see, in a fine, dark shot, the bedridden wife of the watchman, visibly in a bad shape (we haven’t seen her so far, only heard that she was ill). This becomes yet another way for Aparna to provoke Asim: he had suspicions about the woman’s condition, but didn’t want to know more about it. But in contrast, there is a very symbolic and lively final note: Aparna shares with Asim (and with us) a brief glimpse of a couple of antelopes leaping and fleeing into the forest.
  2. Sekhar finds an injured Hari wandering and moaning in the forest. It’s only then that Jaya reappears, the effect of her strong desire conveyed by that of the previous two scenes, in this intertwining of couples. I don’t know whether you remember that, during the game, Jaya mixes up the names of Sanjoy and Asim (like how I had trouble, at times, physically telling them apart), even though the two “couples” were formed very early, during the badminton game in which Jaya and Sanjoy were partners, and Asim and Aparna’s visit to the cabin where he tells her, “I want to touch you to see if you’re real”. This already announces our scene where Sanjoy is unable to touch Jaya because she is too real, solely real.

As I told you, I wanted to know how this was constructed, how such a tension was produced, aesthetically. In fact, the scene is made of many shots, in a very classical manner, as is often the case with this filmmaker that we could (in an oriental cliché) mistake to be a little hieratic whereas he is so often animated by a sort of “madness” of movement (like in The Adversary, which just rereleased, right after Days and Nights in the Forest, and which predates it by a year). The power of the shot division—through everything that is said, written on the faces, as you noted—lies in arranging a number of differently sized equal shots between men and women in order to bring out the breaking points all the more strongly. I couldn’t note down everything, and didn’t want to see it again. But, after establishing Sanjoy’s point of view and after the first shot of the two cups of coffee, which shows the passing of time, Ray proceeds in rather a rapid shot-countershot pattern: either isolated characters, or both of them with one seen over the shoulder of another, in order to allow Sanjoy to get up and Jaya to advance. A slight forward movement towards her (in the shot where she says, “I’m really a ghost”) underlines Sanjoy’s possible point of view as well as her own initiative, which makes this point of view (and that of the viewer wedded to it) a lost place. And it’s in this progression of contrasts, shots-countershots orchestrated to guarantee alternating identifications, that we arrive at the peak moment that, first, breaks the isolation of bodies and then amplifies it: Jaya is now close enough to Sanjoy to take his hand and place it on her chest: an effect of an almost horrific body that breaks the eyeline only to get back to it, since it is without effect. Note the logic of the last two shots that echo the almost identical shots both at the beginning of the second part of the scene and the end of the first part: the deep space of the bedroom/Sanjoy’s look. But this time, the door of the bedroom closes, and Sanjoy’s look is petrified.

So that’s what we remember as the scene, such is the mental impact it creates. That is because it also absorbs and qualifies all other scenes of desire: Hari’s breakup with his girlfriend in Calcutta, Asim and Aparna’s visit to the cabin, Hari and Duli in the forest, and the four-part scene between Asim and Aparna, until the final provocation (her telephone number written on a five-rupee note). Note also the logic of the setup that helps circulate an absent-mad desire between the two sisters-in-law, Aparna and Jaya, through the shadowy figure of the brother-husband who may have killed himself “for another woman”.




[1] Translator’s note: Sanjoy indeed says “The whole mystery is gone.”