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aka The River 1960 151’ b&w Bengali d/sc Rajen Tarafdar pc Cine Art Prod. st Samaresh Bose c Dinen Gupta m Salil Choudhury lp Niranjan Ray, Gyanesh Mukherjee, Sandhya Roy, Ruma Guha-Thakurta, Seeta Devi, Mani Srimani, Namita Sinha

Following in the wake of Satyajit Ray’s idyllic rural realism, Tarafdar’s best-known film is an epic drama about a young fisherman of the Sundarbans, Bilash (Ray), who has to overcome fear and superstition to make his way down the river to the sea. Old Panchu (Mukherjee) witnessed, shown in flashback, the horrifying disappearance into the sea of his elder brother and former leader of the fishermen. His impulsive nephew Bilash has an affair with a married woman, rejects the love of Gamli Panchi (Roy) and finally wants to marry Himi (Guha-Thakurta), daughter of the unscrupulous moneylender Damini. When Bilash decides to ‘go south’ to the sea too, evoking an ominous pattern all too familiar to his uncle Panchu, Himi refuses to follow him. The story meanders through several detours chronicling in detail the fisherfolk’s dangerous lives and their struggles with storms, floods, hunger and indebtedness. Its primitivist iconography extends to the depiction of women as both home-makers and destroyers, and to aligning the men’s thirst for life with nature rites. Chidananda Das Gupta critiqued the film for its lyricism, which for him detracted from the story’s epic potential and pushed it towards melodrama. The film established Tarafdar as a major film-maker, but he still had problems finding work in the industry.