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An Indian epic. A Bengali film directed by the great Indian maestro-Satyajit Ray. The film which portrayed integrity, trust, commitment, womanhood and much more. You have every reason to fall in love with a movie of such potential and aesthetic quality. You do not have to guess, the movie which has an undeniable position in the Indian film history: "Mahanagar"-The Big City.
Mahanagar, the 1963 Indian drama written and directed by Satyajit Ray adapted from Naredranath Mitra's ‘Abataranika’ has a lot to offer. Yet another highlight of the movie is the central character played by Madabhi Mukherjee, who gives out a show stealing performance in the film and turned out to be the favorite of the film critics whole over the world.
The film is set in the post- independence period in Calcutta, revolves around a middle class family consisting family man Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee), who works as a bank clerk, lives with his wife, children and parents. The family has been going through deep financial crisis and he is finding it hard to meet the ends. To find a solution to this, Subrata and his wife Arati (Madabhi Mukherjee) decide that Arati must find a job. She takes job as a sales woman promoting a new knitting machine. Her father-in-law who is indifferent about women taking jobs but is forced to accept it when Subrata says that things have changed and it is not like old days. The day when Arati sets out for work witnesses dramatic events at their. A frame composed of Subrata and Arati having their meal after a long time, probably after their marriage as Subrata's sister recollects, who is sitting beside and seems excited about her sister in law going to work.
Meanwhile Arati's mother-in-law in the background wiping the tears who still finds it difficult to accept the reality that a women in her family is going to work. When Subrata tries to console her by saying a quote by Bernard Shaw, she seems not to listen to him anymore. Whereas Arati bursts into tears when her son Pintu behaves to her indifferently. Through all these scenes Ray establishes the level of indifference, hope, desperation and commitment of all the characters involved in the movie. The scene gives us a mood of sentiments when Arati sets out for the job when suddenly,Pintu calls out for his mother and asks her what is that she is going to buy him. A delighted Arati runs to her son and embraces him to say that "Whatever ever you want"; here Ray brings back the optimism and positive energy to the character and thereby to the audience.
Arati finds her new job interesting and begins to prosper in her field. She gets along with her Anglo-Indian colleague Edith (Vicky Redwood) and as an efficient staff earns the trust of her boss Himangshu Mukherjee (Haradhan Banerjee). While in a salary hike issue Arati's boss demands her to take up the initiative and leadership to discuss such issues with him rather than sending an Anglo-Indian, clearly showing his discrimination towards the outsiders. Meanwhile Arati does not show much attention towards it and continues to be in good terms with Edith. The day when she receives her first salary she looks into her own smiling reflection in the restroom mirror. Holding a bunch of fresh notes she sees wonderful and happy future in front of her. Meanwhile Edith enters the restroom after complaining about the old notes the accountant has given her and exchanging a few notes with Arati, Edith offers Arati a lipstick which she refuses to accept. Edith points out that she has put an vermillion between her hairs, bindhi on her forehead; so what is wrong with trying a lipstick. In spite of her shyness she finally tries it and wipes it off with a tissue paper and puts it into her bag.On the same day she buys gifts for her everyone in her family bringing a jovial mode in the family. While explaining her job to Subrata, Arati says that he will not be able to recognize her at work. Her involvement in the job makes Subrata suspicious about her and asks if she will be able to recognize him at home. Her initially supportive husband turns insecure and starts looking for a part time job and asks Arati to quit as she has become tired and started turning strange to him. A depressed Arati who had started enjoying the job in spite of all the difficulties finds it painful to leave the job. But Subrata who is so particular that she should resign the job asks her to sign the resignation paper. On her way to the office to resign blended with intercuts of Subrata's bank failure, the director bring out the tension in the audience. Subrata somehow reaches her through telephone and asks her not quit. Now the entire responsibility of the family falls on Arati who in turns much for committed to the family asks for a hike in her salary.
Subrata passes through a state of melancholy when he remains jobless, the mental stress in him due to the suspicion also rises when he finds a lipstick in Arati's bag. He becomes speechless as of the desperate situation in which he is in. But a loyal Arati throws the lipstick outside and says she don't prefer what Subrata is not interested in. A clear portrayal of womanhood is seen here. As the film moves on much more tension adds when Subrata finds Arati with a stranger in a hotel, but finds reveled when he hears her speaking highly of her husband as a workaholic and a successful business man. He understands that the stranger to be her client.
Towards the climax Subrata decide to visit Arati to meet her boss at the office. Her boss offers him a job at the firm to which Subrata responds positively. Meanwhile Arati finds Edith crying in the restroom who has been terminated from the job by accusing Edith of being irresponsible in the job and having fun by bunking the job. Arati, who very well knew that she was ill, decides to talk to her boss. This is the point where the film takes an unexpected twist. Arati with all her loyalty and integrity pleads to Mr. Himangshu should be showing disrespect just because of Edith being an Anglo-Indian. She demands that he should apologize to Edith for the injustice that he has done to her. But her boss never listens to her. A strong willed Arati takes out the resignation letter in her bag and hands it to him and leaves instantly. Downstairs she meets her husband. They move to a corner and Arati explains the entire story to him. She explains that she could not resist the injustice towards Edith in spite of all the problems their family is going through.A sensible husband is seen in the movie when Subrata comes forward and says that what she had done is right and he is proud that she had stood against the wrong doing. A relived Arati looks up to see the buildings and says in such big city there are lots and lots of opportunity and giving a hope to live and move forward with confidence. As the couple moves out to the street the camera zooms out to show the "Mahanagar".
“The Big City" has lot to offer. It deals with the emotions and problems of a common man. More than 50 years of its release the film is still remembered for its directorial brilliance and an excellent treatment. It has every right to be classified as one among the greatest movie made in India. As famous American critic Roger Ebert has written-"Ray's films are about Indians, and I am not an Indian, but Ray's characters have more in common with me than I do the comic-strip characters of Hollywood." At some point we see ourselves in a movie, so close, so attached. We see ourselves on screen. We show a close attachment to such movie. Mahanagar is a movie in that list.