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aka The Big City 1963 131’ b&w Bengali d/sc/m Satyajit Ray p R.D. Bansal pc R.D.B. & Co. st Narendranath Mitra’s Abataranika c Subrata Mitra lp Anil Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Jaya Bhaduri, Haren Chatterjee, Shefalika Devi, Prasenjit Sarkar, Haradhan Bannerjee, Vicky Redwood

Ray’s first major incursion into the Calcutta environment after the brief sequence in Apur Sansar (1959). The film chronicles the shift from feudal social arrangements to Independent capitalism and urban mass culture. Middle-class clerk Subrata Majumdar (A. Chatterjee) persuades his wife Arati (Mukherjee) to take a job as a saleswoman. The large joint family, including his sister (played by Bhaduri in her debut) is horrified at the thought of a working woman in their midst. For Arati, going door-to-door selling knitting machines opens up a new world which includes an Anglo-Indian friend, Edith (Redwood), and her employer Mukherjee (Bannerjee). Earning money changes Arati’s status in the family, causing further problems, especially when her husband loses his job. When Edith is unjustly sacked for racial reasons, Arati resigns in protest and throws the family into crisis. The film ends with an almost socialist-realist idiom as the camera cranes up to show the couple striding with determination into the teeming proletariat on the street. Different characters stand in for the conflicting ideologies: the father-in-law expects feudal loyalty from his former students; the entrepreneur Mukherjee espouses ruthless business ethics and the salesgirl Edith exemplifies the orthodox bias against working women as ‘Westernised’ and with loose morals. Ray often adapts a shooting style to suit the different locales represented by these individuals, using e.g. expressionist low and wide-angle shots in Mukherjee’s office and in the conversation between the two women in the ladies’ rest room, whereas ‘period’ realism prevails for life in the family house. In between the sets designed by Bansi Chandragupta are the location shots, beginning with shots of tramlines and ending with the sweeping upward crane. Madhabi Mukherjee’s performance dominates the film, as it would again in Charulata (1964).