Mahanagar (1963)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Satire, Feminist Film, Urban Drama  |   Run Time - 122 min.  |   Countries - India   |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by

The liberation of a middle-class housewife is a stepping stone for writer/director Satyajit Ray to explore a host of issues; yet this film feels nothing like an exploration of issues, just a simple recitation of one family's economic struggles. Subrata (Anil Chatterjee) and Arati (Majhabi Mukherjee) are portrayed as a reasonably happy couple in the film's opening scenes of domestic life, even with his elderly parents sharing cramped quarters with them and their two children. But Arati yearns for something more, not just money to ease their financial burdens, and she determines, under the guise of bringing in more money, to become a sales representative for an appliance company. Subrata's ailing father, trading in on his relationships with former students for financial favors, leads the charge against his daughter-in-law's break with tradition, although in a passive-aggressive way; he just stops talking to his son and Arati. Her friendship with an Anglo-Indian colleague and a boss who's both avuncular and bigoted open her eyes to the wonderful world of office politics, while Subrata struggles to reconcile the family's economic reality with his own pride. In one of the film's best scenes, he's able to eavesdrop on his wife making a sales pitch in a café and covering up the family's desperate circumstances with lies that shame Subrata even more. Ray focuses on several objects (the patriarch's eyeglasses, Arati's lipstick tube) that provoke misunderstandings by other family members and also symbolize the fierce pride of these two characters. The director views each major character with the same equanimity, and though our sympathies are almost always with Arati (thanks in part to Mukherjee, a wonderfully subtle actress), we're able to clearly see the motives of those who would oppose or support her.