wiki:Jana Aranya

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Jana Aranya

aka The Middleman 1975 131’ b&w Bengali d/sc/m Satyajit Ray p Subir Guha pc Indus Films st Shankar’s novel c Soumendu Roy lp Pradip Mukherjee, Satya Bannerjee, Dipankar Dey, Lily Chakraborty, Aparna Sen, Gautam Chakraborty, Sudeshna Das, Utpal Dutt, Robi Ghosh, Bimal Chatterjee, Arati Bhattacharya, Padmadevi, Soven Lahiri, Santosh Dutta, Bimal Deb, Ajeya Mukherjee, Kalyan Sen, Alokendu Dey

The final film in Ray’s Calcutta trilogy (cf. Pratidwandi, 1970; Seemabaddha, 1971) is also his most disaffected melodrama. Further elaborating the theme of corruption which runs through the entire trilogy and would return later in e.g. Shakha Proshakha (1990), the film features the young Somnath Bannerjee (P. Mukherjee) who, unfairly assessed in his graduate examination, cannot get a job. He goes into partnership with Bishuda (Dutt) and becomes a corporate ‘middleman’ or dalal (also the term for a pimp) buying and selling. Since the purchasing officer of a mill, Goenka (Lahiri), requires a call-girl as a bribe, Somnath and his new mentor, Mitter (Ghosh), explore Calcutta’s underworld. Several comic failures later, he finally meets the prostitute Juthika (Das), the sister of a former classmate Sukumar, (G. Chakraborty), although she is too ashamed to admit to this. The film is contextualised by the Emergency situation through e.g. the references to power shortages and the then- Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray’s hostility to the film. With this grimly comical tale Ray abandoned the gentle humanism with which he chronicled the follies of his well- meaning but sometimes ill-equipped liberal intelligentsia. Even the mild sympathy he felt for the radical movements reflected in Pratidwandi now disappear before a hero willing to be led unquestioningly through life by mentors like Bishuda or Mitter. The ‘upright’ father-figure (Satya Bannerjee) now belongs to a different world from this new generation. For the next decade, Ray concentrated on children’s stories and period melodramas, turning away from the contemporary.