Mahanagar (Mahānagar; English: The Big City) is a 1963 Bengali drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray and starring Madhabi Mukherjee in the leading role of Arati. Based on the short story Abataranika by Narendranath Mitra, it tells the story of a housewife who disconcerts her traditionalist family by getting a job as a saleswoman. It marks the first screen appearance of Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan, then aged 15, who later became one of Bollywood's leading actresses.
A poster for Mahanagar
|Directed by||Satyajit Ray|
|Produced by||R.D. Banshal|
|Screenplay by||Satyajit Ray|
by Narendranath Mitra
|Music by||Satyajit Ray|
R.D. Banshal & Co.
|Distributed by||Edward Harrison (US)|
Shot in the first half of 1963 in Calcutta, this was also the first film directed by Ray set entirely in his native Calcutta, reflecting contemporary realities of the urban middle-class, where women going to work is no longer merely driven by ideas of emancipation but has become an economic reality. The film examines the effects of the confident working woman on patriarchial attitudes and social dynamics. Besides The Apu Trilogy, the film, according to veteran film critic Philip French, is one of Ray's greatest films.
Set in Calcutta during the 1950s, Mahanagar explores the evolving independence of middle-class women of the city. Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), a homemaker, takes a job as a door-to-door saleswoman to meet the increasing financial pressure on her orthodox and conservative family, who share a cramped apartment. Despite the disapproval of her father-in-law, Priyogopal (Haren Chatterjee), the hesitant and nervous Arati soon begins to prosper in her field and gradually starts to enjoy her new-found financial and psychological independence.
Her initially supportive husband, Subrata (Anil Chatterjee), starts to feel insecure and asks Arati to quit her job after he tentatively secures another part-time job. Before Arati can quit, Subrata loses his full-time job when the bank he was working for shuts down in the last of the Calcutta bank crashes. Subrata has no choice but to let Arati continue to work.
Arati now becomes the sole breadwinner of the family. She befriends an Anglo-Indian colleague, Edith (Vicky Redwood), a move which raises suspicion and increases conflict within her family. Slowly Arati begins to shine in her job and earn the trust of her manager, who promises her more responsibilities if she continues to work with efficiency.
Priyogopal, a retired schoolteacher, visits several of his former pupils who are now prospering in their chosen professions to solicit funds (after refusing to accept money from Arati). One of them, an optometrist, gives Priyogopal a badly needed pair of eyeglasses. Another of his ex-pupils, a doctor who provides free medical care after Priyogopal falls down a flight of stairs, chastises Subrata for neglecting his father's material needs.
Meanwhile, Subrata spends his days idly at home and is consumed by suspicion and insecurity. Subrata finally decides to meet Arati's boss, Himangshu (Haradhan Bannerjee), to ease some of his suspicions. He finds that Himangshu is an affable and friendly person who, like him, hails from Pabna District. They discuss Subrata's unemployment and Himangshu promises to find him a job somewhere.
Edith returns to work after a long illness, but Himangshu doubts she was actually sick and fires her, citing her frivolous lifestyle. Arati discovers her crying and persuades Edith to tell her why she is upset. Despite being the sole breadwinner of the family, the previously timid Arati abandons her inhibitions and confronts Himangshu over his unjust firing of Edith. After a heated exchange in which her boss refuses to apologize to Edith, Arati hands in her resignation letter and storms off.
On her way out of the office, she meets Subrata, apologizes to him for impulsively quitting her job, and admits she is scared of the future. Subarata realizes that his wife has shown courage rather than meekly submitting to her boss to sustain her livelihood. He placates Arati and tells her that he believes some day they both will get jobs to support their family.
- Madhabi Mukherjee as Arati Mazumdar
- Anil Chatterjee as Subrata Mazumdar (the husband)
- Haradhan Bannerjee as Himangshu Mukherjee (the boss)
- Vicky Redwood as Edith Simmons (the Anglo-Indian colleague)
- Jaya Bhaduri as Bani (Subrata's sister)
- Haren Chatterjee as Priyogopal (Subrata's father)
- Sefalika Devi as Sarojini (Subrata's mother)
- Prosenjit Sarkar as Pintu (Arati and Subrata's son)
Reception and legacyEdit
Upon its 1967 release in the United States, Mahanager drew praise from Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael and others. According to Ebert, "the power of this extraordinary film seems to come in equal parts from the serene narrative style of director Satyajit Ray and the sensitive performances of the cast members." He described the film as "one of the most rewarding screen experiences of our time".
The film won the All India Certificate of Merit for the Third Best Feature Film in 1963 at the 11th National Film Awards.
Preservation and restorationEdit
- Seton, Marie (2003). Portrait of a Director: Satyajit Ray. Delhi: Penguin Books India. p. 233. ISBN 9780143029724.
The two sisters, Anime and Monisha, and Gulabi, are a distinct contrast from the more traditional Indian women in Ray's earlier films. But in Mahanagar, Arati is not only the central character but a woman, as Chidananda Das Gupta observed, ...
- Robinson, Andrew (2004). Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker. New York: I.B. Tauris. p. 149. ISBN 9781860649653. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
She was like someone I had seen,' says Madhabi Mukherjee of her wonderfully expressive performance as Arati in Mahanagar, which Ray shot in the first half of 1963. This is his first examination of more or less contemporary Calcutta, ...
- French, Philip (18 August 2013). "The Big City – review". The Observer. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
- Ebert, Roger (3 April 1968). "The Big City". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
- "Mahanagar (The Big City) (The Great City) (1967)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
- "Prizes & Honours 1964". Annual Archives: 1964. Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
- Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
- "Programme - April 25, 1964". State Awards for Films. International Film Festival of India. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
- "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 5 July 2018.