Charulata - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Charulata Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2017
This beautiful film from Director Satyajit Ray has a lot of things going for it, the story of repressed passion, of course, but also elements of philosophy and politics, as well as some absolutely sumptuous sets. Based on Tagore's novella 'Nastanirh', which itself was based on Tagore's own attraction to his brother's wife, 'Charulata' tells the tale of the growing attraction between a cousin (Amal, played by Soumitra Chatterjee) who visits a newspaper publisher (Shailen Mukherjee), and the publisher's wife, Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee). The pair are encouraged to spend time together by the publisher, who loves his wife but is too busy with his job to spend time with her, and the feelings they begin to have are subtle and begin with discussions of writing. There are some nice moments with Amal singing to Charulata, as well as a fantastic scene with her swinging while he lays in the grass beside her. This is a subtle, deft, perfectly told story; the betrayal is contained to emotions, not physical acts, and is more powerful as a result. All of the actors turn in excellent performances, and Ray's direction is brilliant. The philosophical moments elevate the film ala Bergman, and here are a couple of quotes:

"I was thinking all of life is like a rhythm. Birth...death. Day...night. Happiness...sorrow. Meeting...parting. Like the waves on the ocean, now falling. One complements the other."

"Even as Prince Abhimanyu, while still in the womb, learned only how to penetrate enemy formations, but not how to withdraw. So a river, emerging from the mountain's rocky womb, can only advance and knows not how to turn back. O river! O youth! O time! O world! You too can only march onward. You never turn back along the path strewn with memory's gilded pebbles. Only the mind of man looks back. The rest of creation never does."
December 29, 2016
- 2nd time watching this masterpiece which is an absolute must watch for any cinema love. Satyajit Ray is one of the greatest director's of all-time and this film exemplifies why. The cinematography is gorgeous and performances excellent. Seek this one out!

- LOVED it. This is the first film I've seen by master filmmaker Satyajit Ray and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Beautiful story, and wonderful technique from Ray as a director. The film looked stunning and the performances were fantastic. This movie is a MUST for any cinema lover!
September 12, 2016
I'm a big fan of the exquisite camerawork and the performances; not so much of the glacial pace and sometimes-pointless musical numbers. But probably I'm missing something in translation...
½ May 24, 2016
Gorgeous and sumptuously melancholy; Charulata is with little doubt one of Satyajit Ray's crowning achievements.
October 5, 2014
Apart from the sophisticated acting and cinematography, this film carries very deep social and moral messages which are not dumped on the viewer in a preachy manner. However, Charulata has been criticised often to be slow in its pace. As a Bengali, I have watched this movie multiple times while growing up and frankly I never understood the movie. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, I used to think that there is hardly a relevance of a story set in 19th century Bengal. On the contrary, I now find the movie highly thoughtful and deeply affecting. Certainly, I get the historical context better and I am an adult with my own experiences in love and betrayal but there's something else. Charulata is by no means slow paced. Rather, its pace aptly conveys the humdrum life of the title character - a lonely wife. I am not a woman but I believe that the refined feminist references in this film would be better interpreted by a woman critic. Whether or not you are aware of the impact of Bankim Chandra's literary works on Bangla society. Charulata is the interplay of inner feelings and insecurities that creep into our lives. Charulata is that realisation that no matter what our intentions may be, our relationships are as fragile as a bird's nest and a strong wind can take it down easily. Although we may not hear the sound of a relationship breaking, we know that things will never be the same. The original story on which this movie is based was by Rabindranath Tagore and conspicuously named 'Nashta-Nirh' (Broken Nest). I think Tagore wrote the story with a slight autobiographical connotation where he identified himself as a young struggling writer Amal in the shadow of Bankim Chandra who was an established writer when Tagore was still unknown. Tagore's personal attachment towards his elder brother's wife and the very important role of his elder brother in his life also seem to echo through this story. Nonetheless the film beautifully captures the essences of Tagore's story and says more than one could possibly fathom in a single viewing.
½ September 27, 2014
Achingly beautiful drama by the great Satyajit Ray, adapted from the popular book by Rabindranath Tagore. Ray's genius is in his restraint, tucking the intensity of what is going on in Charulata's mind and heart in places the camera can't see directly, and letting his audience go digging for it. A milestone in Indian and feminist cinema.
½ February 7, 2014
I never read 'Nastanirh' by Rabindranath Tagore, so a comparison would not suit me. But as a standalone movie, Charulata's central character played majestically by Madhabi Mukherjee is brilliant. An excellent writer who channeled her impulsiveness almost effortlessly through her writing, Charu is a quintessential rich Bengali housewife of nineteenth century, beautiful and lonesome. Yet her simplicity hides most of the complexity of her character which only finds release at her impulsive gradients of outbursts. The grandeur of Tagore's original characters are perfectly portrayed by the supporting casts as well, especially the helplessness of Bhupati. Soumitra Chatterjee is great as always, and overall the movie is a must watch for movie connoisseurs.
½ January 18, 2014
This is filmmaking at its best.
May 5, 2013
A lonely housewife whose husband is a busy newspaper publisher finds love and inspiration with her husband's cousin. Though not my favorite of Satyajit Ray's films, this film still has many earmarks of his greatness. Not the least of which are the great performances of the cast that gives fresh life into the love triangle/adultery story. The ending, in particular, is beautiful and haunting.
January 17, 2013
In Calcutta in the last decade of the nineteenth century, a wealthy man neglects his bored housewife due to his passion for his political newspaper; as a result she draws nearer to his brother in law who encourages her to write. Ray's own brand of family drama is a wonderfully gripping one also because of his ability of building up and atmosphere filled with drama and tension. The style is poetic and sophisticated and the underlying hints at poetry and art make this much more than a pretty film to look at, but a great film experience.
½ January 5, 2013
There is seldom a foreign film, dealing with the theme of love, that does it as aptly as it did with this great masterpiece. The critics were right in describing the depth and extraordinary lengths the director went through in making this classic - not least of them the musical score, superbly composed by the great Ray himself - is commendable to say the least. In all frankness, critics, if not the audience in general, tends to placate that memorable "swing scene" as the greatest in this gemstone: particularly where, in an optical illusion that might as well put to shame the modern day "visual effects", Charu's eyes suddenly gleam, like a tigress, after peeping at (we are reminded of feminist film theory with regards to the "Gaze" with this) her cousin with her pair of lorgnettes, signifying how her romance kindles like a tigress'. But there are other scenes ‚" " indeed, EVERY scene in this classic, as can be seen from multiple viewings, has been made meticulously, painstakingly. It is Ray's own true greatness that he once said, in his own words, that he would make Charulata the exact same way as he did this, were he given the chance to re-direct it!
½ February 26, 2011
"If you have not watched Satyajit Ray, then you have never seen the moon or the sun" -- or something like that, is what Akira Kurosawa (really?) said about this great Bengali filmmaker, my new hero and mentor :-))
February 16, 2011
A masterpiece by Satyajit Ray! Incredible script, with terrific acting by the whole cast, especially Madhabi Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee. The swing shots are unforgettable! Maybe, the greatest film to come out of India.
July 18, 2010
Madhabi Mukherjee turns in a terrifically nuanced performance in an emotionally complex role as "the lonely wife" (the alternate title, which really says it all). Satyajit Ray experiments with superimposition and zoom (and a wind machine) to enhance the psychological focus.
May 8, 2010
It's a shame that Satyajit Ray's films go unseen in so many parts of the world, including his native India. I guess he is a legend as many of his works are known by reviews and not by actually seeing them.

Taking place in late 19th century Bengal, a newspaper owner is more into his work making his paper a voice of the people, more than the affection of his dear wife. The wife becomes quite close to the husband's brother, who is into writing and poetry, which he recommends her to start writing. But when her writing gets published, well, you can probably imagine what happens here.
February 20, 2010
Ganz klassisches, poetisches, z√§rtliches und kluges Kino - und seinerzeit wohl auch ein radikales sozialrevolution√§res Statement. Trotz unleugbarer Berlinalem√ľdigkeit auf den letzten Metern ein sch√∂nes Kinoerlebnis.
½ December 3, 2009
The copy I saw was dupey and had bad audio and subtitles. Story wise it's slow and not particularly engaging. There were some scenes that would have been lovely in a better print. The over arching point of the film was interesting, but overall I didn't enjoy this film.
½ June 30, 2009
Bengali newspaper publisher is betrayed by those around him. Satyajit Ray movie that unfortunately is a bad transfer and needs better subtitles. Might have been an OK movie but hard to follow, and the constant noise of tape hiss on a DVD release really gets annoying.
½ May 1, 2009
Ray regarded it as his finest film. Who am I to argue? A complicated love triangle where each character is shown to you in the most subtle and sympathetic fashion, where a husband's myopic neglect of his wife causes emotional turmoil that never he, nor his potential rival could anticipate, yet Ray blames no-one. The tone is perfect, never exaggerated for effect. It's about lives going in unforeseen directions that no-one can help, nor prevent, and Ray handles it wonderfully.
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