What happens when one Master takes a masterpiece of another Master and presents it to the world? It results in the immortalisation of the already immortal!
That is what the prolific film-maker Ray did to the Nobel Laureate Tagore’s ‘Ghare Baire’ ( the Home and the World).
Ray attempts to recreate the magic of the novella. Though he remarks-” No filmmaker could possibly achieve what Tagore did.”- one has to laud the director and artist in Ray.
Ray had prepared a screenplay of the movie back in the 1940s. But the movie never materialised. Ray, in retrospect, discarded the screenplay as “pitifully superficial and Hollywoodish.”
Ray started anew in the 1980s. A new screenplay was prepared. The wait and toil paid-off.
The story is set during the tension of the Bengal Division brought forth by Lord Curzon in 1905.
The movie is quintessentially a romantic drama with an undercurrent of Nationalistic sentiments. It revolves around Bimala (Swatilekha Sengupta). Though educated and opinionated, she finds it hard to chose between advocating Social Reforms, of which her husband, Nikhilesh Chowdhary ( Victor Bannerjee) is a supporter; or Radical Nationalism, which is supported by Sandip Mukherjee (Soumitra Chatterjee).
Nilkhilesh, a well-meaning British noble wants India to be reformed. He helps poor merchants and traders even by incurring loses upon himself. He wants his own wife Bimala to partake in all the affairs, that of the home as well as outside, and thus become “Sampoorna Swadheen”.
Their lives take an unpleasant turn when Sandip, Nikhilesh’s friend and an extreme supporter of the Swadeshi Movement, comes to stay in their house.
Nikhilesh a well-wisher of the poor, does not want to involve himself in the acts Swadeshi Movement, much to the indignation of Sandip. Nikhilesh knows that this would cause irreparable losses to poor, who cannot afford expensive and poor quality indigenous goods. He says- “To worship my country as a God is to bring curse upon it.”
The movie brilliantly showcases the predicaments of a woman’s heart. Bimala, the devout wife of Nikhilesh, is swayed by the rhetoric, powerful and domineering speeches of Sandip (most of which are held in Nikhilesh’s courtyard itself!) so much so that she develops and enraged passion for him.
Sandip too enchants her by singing for her and praising her beauty. He calls her ‘Mukkhi’ (Queen Bee). He gets her involvement by hiding his malicious intents behind the garb of the slogan- “Bande Mataram”.
Nikhilesh is visibily agonised on seeing Bimala’s change of heart. However, he does not question her for he wanted his wife to be free and have her own will. His pains are felt only by his Master-Moshai and Mejorani ( the widowed wife of his brother).
However, tables do turn; Bimala’s conscience does awaken; She realises her folly; but, is it too late?
The film not only made a mark nationally- bagging the Best Feature Film in Bengali, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design- but also was well-received around the globe -Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of 1985 by the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
Watch the movie for the wonderful portrayal of human emotional subtleties and outbursts; for delving a bit deeper into the women’s psyche; and above all- for the celebration of literature.
P.S. – What is a cinema at all if it is unable to transcend the barriers of language? In the words of Ray himself-
“The truth is that every story has two aspects- its underlying message, and its language… This language used in cinema is a language of images. A director must learn it and master its grammar.”