Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest)

1969, India. 115 min, B/W, In Bengali with subtitles

Summary

Four friends from Calcutta city venture out to the forests of Palmau for a holiday excursion in car. They arrive at a little village in the state of Bihar. Not having made any arrangements for their stay, they come across a rest house. As they have not made reservations, they bribe the caretaker, who risks his job, as he needs the money for his wife’s illness.

The four young men are full of the over-confidence of the big city and scant respect for the rural villagers. The group is led by Asim (Soumitra Chatterjee), the richest of the four. Sanjoy (Subhendu Chatterjee) is a timid person who always plays it safe. The sportsman, non-intellectual Hari (Samit Bhanja) wants to forget a girl who recently rejected him. Sekhar (Robi Ghosh) is self-confident and comical. The journey into the forest turns out to be a journey of self-discovery.

They spend their first night getting drunk at a local liquor shop. Hari is drawn towards one of tribal women, Duli (Simi Garewal), whose untamed quality enhances her appeal.

The following morning, while debating whether to shave or not, they spot some other women from Calcutta, they locate the women’s cottage and introduce themselves to the family. Asim is interested in Aparna (Sharmila Tagore), a cool, self-confident young woman whose widowed father jokes that he never knows what she is thinking. Sanjoy is attracted to her widowed sister-in-law, Jaya (Kaveri Bose).

A series of episodes reveal the characters. Drunken sprees, social embarrassments, adventures with servants, officials, romance. The four friends’ youthful arrogance gets them into a series of disastrous and often hilarious adventures.

Hari makes love with Duli, the servant Lakha ambushes him in revenge. The inhibited Sanjoy does not dare to respond to Jaya’s bold seduction while Aparna leaves Asim after giving him her address – perhaps a promise of love. The friends depart again for the city, each with a better appreciation of life.

Comments

It is a familiar premise – men in unfamiliar situation discover themselves as they interact with others – but what makes it compelling is the volatility of the narrative and characters, masterly juxtaposition of urban and tribal, and brilliant performances. Look out for the picnic scene, a complex and engrossing interplay of the characters – pure cinema. On surface they play a simple game, but it explores psychological probing through use of acting, dialogue and editing.

Ray described the film to Marie Seton in a letter, “The first half has the appearance of a light comedy but there’s a steady modulation to a serious key.” It starts as a spree and ends up changing lives of three of the men.

What others say

On the surface, this Satyajit Ray film is a lyrical romantic comedy about four educated young men from Calcutta, driving together for a few days in the country, and the women they meet. The subtext is perhaps the subtlest, most plangent study of the cultural tragedy of imperialism; the young men are self-parodies--clowns who ape the worst snobberies of the British. A major film by one of the great film artists, starring Soumitra Chatterjee and the incomparably graceful Sharmila Tagore.
Pauline Kael
Pauline Kael
Film Critic, in Reeling
... every word and gesture is recognizable, comprehensible, true ... Ray's work at its best, like this, has an extraordinary rightness in every aspect of its selection and presentation - the timing, performance, cutting, music - which seem to place it beyond discussion.
David Robinson
Financial Times, 15 October 1971

Credits

Producer:Priya Films (Asim Dutta and Nepal Dutta)
Screenplay & Direction:Satyajit Ray, based on the novel: ‘Aranyer Din Ratri’ by Sunil Ganguly
Cinematography:Soumendu Roy, Purnendu Bose
Editing:Dulal Dutta
Art Direction:Bansi Chandragupta
Sound:Sujit Sarkar
Music:Satyajit Ray

Cast

Asim:Soumitra Chatterjee
Hari, Harinath:Samit Bhanja
Sanjoy:Subhendu Chatterjee
Sekhar:Rabi Ghosh
Sadashiv Tripathi:Pahari Sanyal
Aparna:Sharmila Tagore
Jaya:Kaveri Bose
Duli:Simi Garewal
Hari’s former lover, Atasi:Aparna Sen
Aparna and Asim
Aparna and Asim
Aparna and Asim
Aparna and Asim
Duli (Simi Garewal) ©Nemai Ghosh
Duli (Simi Garewal) ©Nemai Ghosh
Duli (Simi Garewal)
Duli (Simi Garewal)
Asim, Hari, Sekhar, Jaya, Aparna and Sanjoy ©Nemai Ghosh
Asim, Hari, Sekhar, Jaya, Aparna and Sanjoy ©Nemai Ghosh
Hari makes love with Duli, at location ©Nemai Ghosh
Hari makes love with Duli, at location ©Nemai Ghosh
Duli (Simi Garewal)
Hari makes love with Duli (Simi Garewal)
Aparna and Asim
Aparna and Asim, a still from Aranyer Din Ratri.
Ray on location ©Nemai Ghosh
Ray on location ©Nemai Ghosh