By Amrik Chakraborty
Satyajit Ray’s Charulata has one of the most beautiful character introductions that I have seen in cinema. I won’t go into details but here’s something.
The film opens with a shot of Charu knitting a handkerchief, she is knitting the letter ‘B’ which we later know is the initial of the name of her husband, Bhupati. This establishes her care for Bhupathi. Then she hears the sound of the clock and walks to the corridor to remind her servant to serve tea to her husband in his office. We now know her husband’s office is located in the house itself. Then Charu walks into a room and picks up a book from the bookshelf and starts reading and walking while humming a song. Her leisure and carefree walk tell us that she is not into anything important. She walks over to the window and notices a Madari (trickster), she runs and brings her binocular to get a closer look but till she comes the Madari leaves. This is followed by another few voices of people moving with a palanquin in the street, Charu runs over to another window to see them, as they exit the frame we see Charu follow a random man walking with an umbrella, from the window. That man is not even doing anything special, he is just walking on the street with an umbrella, Charu still follows that man from window to window until he walks out of her sight. This informs us about her boredom as she stalls around the house, sits on the piano and glances into nothingness. We even see her husband walk past her in the corridor and not even having a glance at her, as she waits for his attention at the doorstep.
Charulata is another example of Ray’s brilliance in handling human emotions beautifully. Usually, in tales of extra-marital affairs, it is really an insensitive and cheap plot point to portray either the husband or the wife or the lover in a negative light just for ‘masala’ purposes. This tale originally by Rabindranath Tagore, chooses to portray humans as humans and Ray re-creating it visually just adds up to the brilliance.
Director- Satyajit Ray
Story- Rabindranath Tagore
Screenplay- Satyajit Ray
Cinematography- Subrata Mitra
By Amrik Chakraborty