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Satyajit Ray Org
Speak out on Ray, his filmmaking and his films. Share your thoughts about Satyajit Ray's World, or read what others are saying.
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Little did Satyajit Ray know that AGANTUK (The Stranger) would be his last film. Though regarded by many as a film-maker who had lost his sheen in his twilight years, the Master had been able to produce a reasonably good film based on one of his short-stories--OTITHI (The Guest)--written for "young adults".
When a Western-educated scholar returns to his native Bengal after more than two decades, he finds himself to be an unwelcome guest in the house of his niece, whom he had last seen as an infant and who hardly remembers him. The lady (Mamata Shankar is spontaneous), his elder sister's daughter, is courteous and cordial, but initially maintains a distance. Her son is excited about meeting a man who "may or may not be" his grand-uncle. Her husband (Dipankar De) is absolutely suspicious from the beginning, and gets him cross-examined by an uncouth barrister friend (Dhritiman Chatterjee fits in perfectly) to verify his antecedents. The scholarly man suddenly leaves without informing them, and when he is finally traced in a remote Bengal village, both the niece and her husband have no doubts left about his being her chhotomama (younger maternal uncle). Unexpectedly, and touching the family to the core, he leaves his share of paternal property, worth millions, for his niece.
For the common viewer, and for those without intellectual pretensions, AGANTUK is too scholarly a film. The man, a social anthropologist by training and profession, speaks about things that may not interest those who have read little. And with the reading habit on the decline all over India from the 1990s onward, there was no doubt about the fate of AGANTUK.
But there were traces of the Master's character and thoughts in him. Like Satyajit Ray, the character Manmohan Mitra (Utpal Dutt in one of his most enjoyable roles) is a Left-leaning agnostic. Again like him, he has a fondness for good food but is a frugal eater. Most notably, he is a man of great learning, but not vain and self-obsessed. A scholar with a heart of gold. Very much like Satyajit Ray himself.
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