The Big City (1963)

The Big City (Mahanagar)
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Written by Satyajit Ray from a story by Narendranath Mitra
1963/India
R.D. Banshal & Co.
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Arati: [to her husband] You would not recognize me if you saw me at work.

Satyajit Ray does it again in a very human and perfectly realized domestic drama.

Subrata Mazumder works as a bank manager.  His wife Arati keeps house and cares for their young son.  The couple has not been able to make ends meet since his parents moved in with his younger sister.  Both are very traditional Bengalis. The father is a retired teacher who mightily resents the fact that his students have succeeded while he lives in poverty.  He believes they owe him something and is generally demanding at home.

Subrata lets slip that the wife of one of his friends has gone to work outside the home. This sets Arati ablaze with the idea of similarly helping out.  She gets a job as a door-to-door salesperson.  She finds that not only is she good at it but she loves it.

On the other hand, all the other members of the household, with the exception of the sister-in-law, disapprove. Father stops speaking to either his son or daughter-in-law. Tensions rise as Arati goes from success to success as her husband’s fortunes slide. The story builds to a really satisfying conclusion.

Satyajit Ray had the magical ability to make all his characters understandable despite their flaws.  This movie is just fantastic.  We can sympathize with both the husband and the wife as they struggle to adapt to a new India.  Even the father has his reasons.  The film is also beautiful to look at.  Very highly recommended.

Re-release trailer

 

2 thoughts on “The Big City (1963)

    • The story could have taken place anywhere that gender roles were changing. These people are not abjectly poor just struggling a bit. I don’t think you would regret watching it but you’ve only got room for so many non-List movies I know!

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