(director/writer: Satyajit Ray; screenwriter: from the novel by Rabindranath Tagore; cinematographer: Soumendu Roy; editor: Dulal Dutta; music: Satyajit Ray; cast: Soumitra Chatterjee (Sandip Mukherjee), Victor Banerjee (Nikhilesh Choudhury), Swatilekha Chatterjee (Bimala Choudhury), Jennifer Kapoor (Miss Gilby), Gopa Aitch (sister-in-law), Manoj Mitra (Headmaster); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: National Film Development Corporation of India; Criterion Eclipse series 40; 1984-India-in Bengali with English subtitles)

It’s a lengthy but elegant film that is grandly acted by the three principals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The schematic political and romantic drama about the attempt in 1908 to divide by a partition Bengali into Hindu and Muslim states, and of the Western-educated progressive wealthy landowner, Nikhilesh Choudhury (Victor Banerjee), who liberates his repressed traditional wife, Bimali (Swatilekha Chatterjee), by letting her out of purdah (orthodox seclusion) and she falls in love with the fiery charismatic leader of the nationalist Swadeshi Movement, Sandip Mukherjee (Soumitra Chatterjee), who is urging the boycotting of foreign goods and the rejection of British colonial rule–especially their policy of dividing the Hindus and Muslims. Sandip is hubby’s old college friend, and introduces Bimala into the movement that is sweeping the country with fatal results.

Director-writer Satyajit Ray(“Distant Thunder”/”The Music Room”/”The Chess Players”) bases it on the 1919 novel of the same name by Nobel Prize winner Hindu writer Rabindranath Tagore, Ray’s friend and himself a Swadeshi leader who left in 1906 because of its increasing violence. It’s a lengthy but elegant film that is grandly acted by the three principals. During post-production Ray suffered a heart attack and the film is completed by his son Sandip without seemingly missing a beat.

The bitter film, never a masterpiece because it’s too slow moving and too softly observed, reflects Ray’s disappointment of events in India. The well-textured thoughtful film is one that demands of the viewer more scrutiny of India’s past and present dangers plus the additional dangers from female emancipation.