Charulata (The Lonely Wife) / New 50th anniversary digital restoration


After introducing the Indian film industry to the world at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival with his award-winning classic Pather Panchali, filmmaker Satyajit Ray built a stunning body of politically-charged, humanist cinema unequaled in film history. Directed in 1964 at the height of the director’s career, Charulata (aka The Lonely Wife) is an exquisite story of a woman’s artistic and romantic yearning set in late nineteenth-century, pre-independence India, in the gracious home of a liberal-minded, workaholic newspaper editor and his lonely wife, Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee). When her husband’s poet cousin (Soumitra Chatterjee) comes to stay with them, Charulata finds herself both creatively inspired and dangerously drawn to him, leading to an erotically-charged conflict that will test the increasingly-adventurous woman’s every belief. Based on the 1901 novella Nastanirh (The Broken Nest) by the great Bengali author Rabindranath Tagore, Charulata is a work of sumptuous and subtle textures, a delicate tale of a marriage in jeopardy and a woman taking the first steps toward establishing her own voice. Carried along by the grace and beauty of star Madhabi Mukherjee, Charulata received rapturous critical acclaim (winning Ray the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 1965 Berlin International Film Festival) and is often considered the filmmaker’s greatest work – an exquisitely rendered tale of female empowerment as well as a fascinating fable about the bequest of Empire in India. Satyajit Ray himself noted that Charulata was his “most flawless film” and that if he could make it again, he wouldn’t change a thing. (Dir. by Satyajit Ray, 1964, India, in Bengali and English with subtitles, 117 mins., Not Rated) Digital