Satyajit Ray Collection Vol.1


Mahanagar - aka The Big City (1963)       Charulata - aka The Lonely Wife (1964)


Nayak - aka Nayak The Hero (1966)

 


Titles

 

 


 

Satyajit Ray is internationally acknowledged as one of the great masters of world cinema. From his extraordinarily accomplished debut 'Pather Panchali', his films - many of them masterpieces - have won him legions of admirers, among them Akira Kurosawa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, V.S. Naipaul and Martin Scorsese. Mahanagar (The Big City): Set in the mid' 50s, Ray's often humorous story of conflicting social values in India's lower-middle class stars Madhabi Mukherjee as a housewife whose growing independence alarms her traditionalist family. Charulata (The Lonely Wife) Neglected by her ambitious journalist husband, the lonely Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee) befriends his cousin (Soumitra Chatterjee), a sensitive aspiring writer, and almost inevitably their feelings for each other begin to deepen. Adapted from a story by Rabindranath Tagore, Ray considered this sensitively realized drama one of his finest achievements. Nayak (The Hero) This beautifully observed character study was one of Ray's earliest original screenplays. En route to an award ceremony, a famous and egocentric Bengali movie star finds that he is compelled to re-evaluate his life after encountering a disapproving young journalist (Sharmila Tagore).
 

Mahanagar (1963) - There's a lot of meat in "The Big City.'' Through his story and his images, Ray always presents Arati in a positive light. No matter how bad things become at home, the viewer understands her good intentions, intelligence, quick-wittedness and resolve. She's also beautiful, as are her Bengali co- workers.

Ray's admiration and respect for women comes through clearly. His black-and-white images are clean and graceful, and he loves close-ups that allow viewers to see emotions flicker across the faces of his characters. Equally appealing is the opportunity to listen to the Bengali language, with English phrases tossed in, mostly in the course of office dialogue (a ``none of my business'' here, a ``strictly speaking'' there).

Somewhat more difficult to accept, for me at least, was the pace of the movie, which moves along in such a quiet and stately manner that I was squirming in my seat. There are so many ways in which Ray is entitled to demand respect that I felt absolutely naughty wanting something to happen quickly.

Excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle located HERE

 

Charulata (1964) - Satyajit Ray's fascination with Rabindranath Tagore culminated in CHARULATA, his twelfth film and arguably his greatest achievement. Based on a short story by Tagore, it is a surprisingly modern tale of love, lust, fidelity, and a woman's growing self-awareness against the backdrop of the Bengal Renaissance, a vibrant intellectual awakening in 19th-century India.


Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee), the childless wife of a wealthy Bengali intellectual, lives in seclusion in her spacious and ornate home in Calcutta, while winds of change are blowing away the cobwebs outside. Her husband, Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee), inspired by Mill and Bentham, spends his inherited wealth in the pursuit of freedom and equality, by editing an English-language liberal political weekly. But he has no time for Charu, who has little to do in a home run like a well-oiled machine by a fleet of old retainers.

With its beauty, structural perfection and conceptual purity, CHARULATA remains a triumph of Ray's craftsmanship and cinematic vision. The exquisite interiors created by art director Bansi Chandragupta were among the best of his work, as were the subtle use of lights and the sensitivity of Subrata Mitra's camera. The costumes, the faces, and the detailed structuring of the film created a superbly colourful piece of monochrome cinema. CHARULATA has the quality of a miniature painting, where minute details are revealed by a stroke of the finest brush, and the unspoken is made visual by a mere suggestion.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

 

Nayak  (1966) - Satyajit Ray's 1966 feature comes at the tail end of his early realist period, which included most of the films (the Apu trilogy, Devi, Charulata) that won him his reputation in the West. A popular actor reveals his life to a woman journalist, whose initial cynicism turns to sympathy as she comes to understand the young man's celebrity entrapment. With Uttam Kumar and the flowering perennial of Ray's major work, Sharmila Tagore.

Excerpt from Pat Graham's review at The Chicago Reader located HERE

 

Posters for Charulata

 

Theatrical Releases: Various from 1963 - 1966

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Artificial Eye (3-disc) - Region 2 - PAL

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL
Time: 2:16:04, 1:59:48, 1:56:44 respectively
Bitrate:

Disc 1 Mahanagar

Bitrate:

Disc 2 Charulata

Bitrate:

Disc 3 Nayak

Audio Bengali + English (original)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33

Edition Details:

• Satyajit Ray text screen bio on each disc


DVD Release Date: July 28th, 2008

Custom case
Chapters:
12 each X 3 = 36

 

Comments:

NOTE: This package was initially delayed due to disc errors that were being corrected - namely Nayak (a layer-break freeze) and Charulata (a chapter freeze). The release date was pushed back to July 28th, 2008.

The three discs are all DVD9 - (Dual-layered/single-sided) and each film is transferred onto one disc. Despite the dual-layering the image quality may be considered fairly poor and this is solely due to the source provided to Artificial Eye. Classic cinema in India suffers from some of the same issues as some in Japan. Storage facilities are usually of weaker quality and hence degeneration of film stock can happen quite rapidly. These Satyajit Ray films may very well look as good as they can at this time without benefit of an intensive restoration process - that we can only hope will happen one day. Artificial Eye gives the caveat on the package of the sub-standard quality. Bitrates are in the high 6's which reflects that, along with the dual-layering, AE most probably have done the best they can with what they had.

The three main features/3 discs of this boxset are housed in a thick keep case and none of the films are sold separately by Artificial Eye at this time.  All three features are coded for region 2 in the PAL standard and all features are in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Overall impression: I can't tell what causes it - but each film shows a 'ghosting', 'combing' effect to varying degrees (ex. it is very prominent on Mahanagar - aka The Big City (1963) but far less so in the other two). I don't think it is from the incorrect standard and it may be a form of interlacing although it doesn't seem consistent. If you look closely you can see it in the subtitle captures and we placed a prominent example at the very bottom of this review. From my understanding this is not a flaw of AE but rather the D1 source they were provided. Even Criterion have fallen victim to this in their Late Ozu boxset (with Tokyo Twilight being interlaced).  Aside from that negative, the image quality is not bad - certainly better than I have ever seen before on DVD (a perfect example would be how much better this Charulata looks compared to the hideous Bollywood Entertainment - Region 0 - PAL edition reviewed HERE.) Two of these films start with English text credits but after that the Bengali text returns to show the titles etc.

Image: Aside from the anomalies listed above the image is not fatally poor. Contrast is strong with deep rich black levels and detail has some reasonably strong moments notably visible in close-ups captures we have provided. Probably the worst we can say is that the image is a notch below 'mediocre' but vastly improved over the VHS editions I had of these films. I didn't note extensive damage except in the beginning of Charulata. There are also minor light scratches and speckles here and there on all three transfers.    

Audio - Each has original Bengali audio (with some English in Mahanagar) and options for English subtitles in an white font with black border (see samples below). There are no extras aside from text bio screen of Satyajit Ray on each of the three discs.

The film belong in the pantheon of great world cinema and it's one of the injustices of the film world that they presented in such a less-than-stellar condition. With many DVD-R bootlegs etc. floating around these are the best I have seen representing these 3 works - by a wide margin. I'm displeased that there are no supplements as Satyajit Ray's work is deserved of extensive viable extra features and discussions with input from prominent filmmakers and journalists - including commentaries. I cherish these film and feel gratified that I can retire my old VHS tapes of two of these three.

The value (price for what you get) is about $10 each film (depending on your currency conversion) and from that standpoint the package is recommended with the warning about the inherent quality! I'm both disappointed but also thrilled have these share a prominent place in my DVD library - under the category of the director's personage. Until something better comes along - these are very much worth owning despite the negatives.           

Gary W. Tooze



DVD Menus


 


 

Mahanagar - aka The Big City (1963)


 

Screen Captures

 

 


 

Charulata - aka The Lonely Wife (1964)

 

 

Screen Captures

 

 

 


 

Nayak - aka Nayak The Hero (1966)

 

 

Screen Captures

 

 

Combing evident in all three

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution Artificial Eye - Region 2 - PAL




 

Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!