(director/writer: Satyajit Ray; cinematographer: Subrata Mitra; editors: Dulai Dutta/; music: Satyajit Ray; cast: Sharmila Tagore (Aditi), Uttam Kumar Chatterjee (Arindam Mukherjee), Premangshu Bose (Biresh), Ranjit Sen (Haren Bose), Bharati Devi (Bose’s wife), Lali Chowdhury (Bulbul, Bose’s daughter), Somen Bose (Sankar), Kamu Mukherjee (Sarkar), Susmita Mukherjee (Sarkar’s wife Molly), Subrata Sensharma (Ajoy), Jamuna Sinha (Ajoy’s Wife), Bireswar Sen (Mukunda Lahiri), Sumita Sanyal (Chatterjee), Nirmal Ghosh (Jyoti), Jogesh Chatterjee (Aghore, elderly journalist); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: R.D. Bansal; NY Film Annex; 1966-India-in Bengali with English subtitles)

It chugs along as a long train ride into the past.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An obscure reflective film about the movie industry and the false public perceptions to induce hero worship that was perpetuated for the stars by the industry, as directed and written by India’s great filmmaker Satyajit Ray (“Pather Panchali”/”Devi”/”The Stranger”). The slight script touches on a soap opera story of a famous actor reflecting on his rise to stardom and how his false image as a hero is behind his box-office success and his celebrity, as he mulls over the consequences he must pay for his fame (like not able to sleep without taking sleeping pills) and worries about his downfall if his films bomb at the box-office. Thoughtful acting by the leads makes this minor Ray film bearable. It chugs along as a long train ride into the past, that could have used a few stopovers to check out the scenery and whatnot.

Arindam Mukherjee (Uttam Kumar Chatterjee) is a superstar film actor who leaves Bengali by train to accept a film award in Delhi. It comes after a morning newspaper reports he had a nightclub drunken brawl that night. The self-indulgent actor shares a compartment with the Bose family, the secretive businessman husband (Ranjit Sen) and his caring wife (Bharati Devi), and their sick young daughter (Lali Chowdhury). Bored with the ride, the actor agrees to be interviewed by the attractive Aditi (Sharmila Tagore), a writer for the magazine Modern Woman which shuns coverage on movies.

Though interviewed many times before by the media and his life story well-known, the actor this time starts out in the same superficial manner but after a nightmare and later a suicide attempt he sees the light and goes into a truthful confessional mode and tells the naive Aditi about his shortcomings and insecurities and obstacles he had to overcome, and how his ambition fueled him. When he gained success he betrayed his leftist school friend (Premangshu Bose) by refusing to publicly back his causes, fearing it would be risky for his career. Through further flashbacks we see how he later got revenge on the noted rigid silent actor (Bireswar Sen) who mocked him openly on the set when making his screen debut and that he refused to give a part to a beautiful woman (Sumita Sanyal) who would do anything to get into the movies.

None of the stories made much of an impact, including the subplots among the passengers showing that life imitates art. In one instance a struggling sleazy advertiser (Kamu Mukherjee) tries pimping his unhappy wife (Susmita Mukherjee) to get the account of Bose’s firm but hypercritically refuses to allow her to have the chance to be in films.

Just before embarking in Delhi, the compassionate Aditi rips up her notes and tells the vulnerable actor she will not tell his true story and risk destroying his career. In Delhi they part and go separate ways.

The arthouse film was a winner at the 1966 Berlin Film Festival.

Nayak (1966)