Pratidwandi (English: The Adversary) is a 1970 Indian Bengali drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray based on the novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay. It is the first part of the Calcutta trilogy. Set during the period of the Naxalite movement in Bengal, Pratidwandi tells the story of Siddharta, an educated middle-class man caught up in the turmoil of social unrest. Corruption and unemployment is rampant, and Siddhartha cannot align himself with either his revolutionary activist brother or his career-oriented sister. The film is known for experimenting with techniques such as photo-negative flashbacks.
|Pratidwandi (The Adversary)|
A poster of Pratidwandi
|Directed by||Satyajit Ray|
|Produced by||Priya Films (Nepal Dutta, Asim Dutta)|
|Written by||Sunil Gangopadhyay|
|Screenplay by||Satyajit Ray|
|Music by||Satyajit Ray|
The historical background of the film is set in the decade of a wide range of political turmoil in India. The huge influx of refugees during the partition of India and loss of economic activity in the hinterland of Kolkata resulted in the stagnation of the economy of Kolkata. The protagonist Siddhartha is forced to give up his study of medicine and his ambition of becoming a doctor at the demise of his father. He makes several fruitless attempts to secure a job. The job interview scene shows interviewers asking irrelevant questions, just as in other films of Ray's Calcutta trilogy. He finds his only solace in Keya, who loves him but is troubled by the problems in her own family.
A large part of the narrative is dominated by Ray's allusions to the moral decadence of the city and the youth in particular. During several scenes, Ray makes use of dream sequences and memory sequences to portray the thoughts of Siddhartha.
Siddhartha's sister Sutapa (Tapu) is the only earning member of the family and Siddhartha confesses before his friend that she had got her job not due to her qualifications alone but also due to her looks. Siddhartha's brother is a student, who is actively involved in politics of the Naxal era in West Bengal.
Finally, being unable to obtain a job in Calcutta, Siddhartha is forced to move to Balurghat, where he takes up the job of a medical salesman. The cinema ends with Siddhartha watching a group of men carrying a dead man to the cremation grounds. This scene completes a circle with the first scene, which showed the death of his father.
Siddhartha (Dhritiman Chatterjee) is forced to discontinue his medical studies due to the unexpected death of his father. He has to now find a job instead. In one job interview, he is asked to name the most significant world event in the last ten years. His reply is 'the plain human courage shown by the people of Vietnam', instead of the expected: man landing on the moon. The interviewer asks if he is a communist. Needless to say, he does not get the job.
He reaches a coffee shop where he is offered work for the communist party. When he does not show any interest, the party leader tells him about an opening for a medical representative. To escape from the heat and have a snooze, he goes into a cinema. As a government propaganda newsreel is being shown before the feature, a bomb explodes in the cinema hall. In the stampede that follows, Siddartha breaks his watch. He goes to a watchmaker but he cannot afford the repairs.
Waiting to cross the road, he notices a sexy girl. He drifts back to his days as a medical student in a flashback. The professor is explaining the anatomy of the female breast. Many flashbacks and dreams occur to Siddartha throughout the film. On his way to the hostel, he has an encounter with some hippies. Along with an ex-classmate, he goes out to see an uncensored Swedish film but, to their disappointment, the film turns out to be boring. In such constant wandering in Calcutta, disintegrating relationships with his sister and a Naxalite (militant communist) brother, his friendship with Keya is the only thing that keeps him sane.
Keya is a simple girl. They enjoy each other's company but they cannot make any commitment to each other due to the circumstances. After yet another attempt at a job interview, Siddhartha leaves the big city to take a modest job as a salesman in a far off small town. He writes to Keya that he still cherishes their relationship. He also hears the call of a bird that he remembers from his childhood in his dreams but this time it is for real, and not in his mind. After completing the letter, he comes out to the balcony of his modest room. The bird calls again. He also hears the sombre chants of a funeral procession. As he turns to the camera, the picture is frozen.
The ending is reminiscent of the first scene which shows the death of Siddhartha's father. However, the last scene is symbolic of the end of Siddhartha's aspirations of finding a job in Calcutta.
Reception & awardsEdit
Vincent Canby of The New York Times gave it 4.5 stars out of 5, calling it a "particularly moving comedy" in which the protagonist "seethes with rage about social injustices, about economic corruption, but he is powerless to express it." Dennis Schwartz, grading the film an A-, calls it a "[b]eautifully observed political film of disenfranchisement." "Satyajit Ray" he writes, "gives his nod of approval to world-wide counter-culture revolution, the revolt of youth against the stagnant older generation, and the social upheaval taking place in his beloved Calcutta. But he also points out that India is a different animal than the Western countries in upheaval. He says it's because India has a different temperament after being oppressed so long by being colonized by the British and therefore the youth has to re-establish their own true identities before they can change things for the better." " The message seemed accessible" he concludes, "but, perhaps, what was most inaccessible in this political drama, was Ray's wickedly droll sense of humor (like those timely placed X-rays to let us see the stark truth of reality)." James Travers gave the film a perfect score, noting "a significant stylistic shift from Ray's previous films, so much so that it may have shocked and surprised contemporary audiences who had grown accustomed to his poetic flavour of neo-realism during the previous decade." He comments that the film's cinema verite style "suits its subject perfectly" and calls it an "[un]comfortable film to watch" due to its "austerity and bleakness that distance the spectator from the subject and, unusually for Ray, its harshness is not softened by poetic irony."
Writing for Sight & Sound, Tom Milne, considered that "[t]oo much [...] ha[d] been made of the increasingly direct political involvement in [...] The Adversary", finding parallels with his previous films such as Mahanagar, Kanchenjungha and Jalsaghar. Derek Malcolm wrote that the film's "lyrical flashback technique [...] does not always work out too well" despite having some "superb passages" and "that elusive quality of looking as deeply under the surface of things as almost anyone" in his writing and direction. He also defended the film from its detractors.
The film won three Indian National Film Awards; including the National Film Award for Best Direction in 1971 and a nomination for the Gold Hugo Award, at the Chicago International Film Festival, 1971.
In 2012, filmmaker Ashim Ahluwalia included the film in his personal top ten (for "The Sight & Sound Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" poll), writing: "Pratidwandi sees Ray drop his early style for a gritty hand-held Godardian romp through ’70s Calcutta. Incredible."
- Nick Pinkerton (14 April 2009). "First Light: Satyajit Ray From the Apu Trilogy to the Calcutta Trilogy". The Village Voice. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
- Victor Canby (1972). "An Indian 'Adversary': Satyajit Ray Work Is A Moving Comedy An Ex-Medical Student Seethes at Injustices". New York Times. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
- "adversary". homepages.sover.net.
- Travers, James (22 June 2019). "Review of the film Pratidwandi (1971)". filmsdefrance.com.
- "Document Citation". cinefiles.bampfa.berkeley.edu.
- "Document Citation". cinefiles.bampfa.berkeley.edu.
- "The Adversary on Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 22 October 2018.
- "Ashim Ahluwalia - BFI". www.bfi.org.uk.