THE BIG CITY (Mahanagar) 1963 by Satyajit Ray

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MAHANAGAR (The Big City)
(1963, INDIA, 136 min., 16mm) Satyajit Ray

The post-WW2 economic boom was to provide the stimulus for one of the greatest social upheavals of the 1950s, the movement towards gender equality. This was not confined to the West, as this film from India’s most acclaimed director testifies. However, India was different in that the prevailing gender roles were far more rigidly drawn than in other modern capitalist democracies.

MAHANAGAR is concerned with a young married woman who, through financial need, is driven to find paid work. She has an uphill struggle trying to overcome her own low self-esteem and the traditional notion of a woman’s place in society. Ultimately, she wins the self-confidence and economic independence that allows her to live a life fulfilled as a woman, wife and mother. In the end, she surprises us by showing that she is a slave neither to convention nor to money, that she is truly a liberated woman.

Director Ray was clearly influenced by the Italian neo-realists in crafting its visually striking design, which emphasizes the massive gulf between rich and poor. Heading an impeccable cast is the sensitive and stunningly photogenic Madhabi Mukherjee. Most of what she has to say she says with her carefully controlled facial expressions, especially her extraordinary eyes.

Nearly 60 years later, this film still resonates strongly with a modern audience grappling with the same issues our lead character encounters. Expect to be moved into remembering this film many years from now. It’s that good. Winner of a Silver Bear in Berlin for Best Director. English sub-titled print.

Admission is 8$ or 6$ for students and seniors. Cash only. Box Office opens at 6pm. Intermission features coffee, tea and desserts. We can meet up post-screening at Hurley's Irish Pub on Crescent, just steps away from the venue.