wiki:Ashani Sanket

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Ashani Sanket

aka Distant Thunder 1973 101’ col Bengali d/sc/m Satyajit Ray p Sarbani Bhattacharya pc Balaka Movies st Bibhutibhushan Bannerjee’s novel c Soumendu Roy lp Soumitra Chatterjee, Babita, Ramesh Mukherjee, Chitra Bannerjee, Govinda Chakravarty, Sandhya Roy, Noni Ganguly, Seli Pal, Suchita Roy, Anil Ganguly, Debatosh Ghosh

Ray returns to the village setting of his early films, but in lush colour, with this Bibhutibhushan novel set in 1942 in the run-up to the catastrophic 1943 Bengal famine (evoked in many films, cf. Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta ’71, 1972). A Brahmin, Gangacharan (Chatterjee), and his beautiful wife Ananga (Bangladesh actress Babita) find their village, despite a successful harvest, overrun by famine. The rice shop of Gangacharan’s former benefactor, Biswas (Mukherjee), is attacked by starving villagers, while strangers who have profited from WW2 try to subjugate the local women. Chutki (Sandhya Roy), who had earlier protected Ananga from a sexual assault, has to resort to prostitution in return for rice. The famine forces Gangacharan to abandon his priestly identity and the film ends with his family, including his pregnant wife, sharing what little food they have with a large family of refugees. Footage of starving people in silhouette, with a caption reminding viewers that over five million died in the famine, closes the film. In sharp contrast to Ray’s 50s ruralism based on Bibhutibhushan stories, this film is closer to Benegal’s Ankur (also 1973) in its use of realist plotting and performance within a melodramatic structure. Several critics had problems with the use of colour e.g. the lush green environments and blazing sunsets. Although defended by Ray himself as an appropriate device to emphasise the artificial nature of the man-made tragedy, it could also be due to laboratory processing in India which tends towards highly saturated effects in line with the demands of the commercial mainstream and advertising film.

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