Kapurush (The Coward) (1994)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Kapurush (The Coward) Photos
Critic Reviews for Kapurush (The Coward)
A deeply felt and observantly rendered mood piece that pivots on setting, camera placement, actor positions, and an editing structure that incorporates flashbacks via emotional associations
...Kapurush has a great deal of charm, most notably in the wordless acting prowess demonstrated by the two lead characters. Through their subtle eye movements and small body gestures, we are able to discern their unspoken turmoil.
Audience Reviews for Kapurush (The Coward)
What a wonderful little film this is. Using essentially just three actors and 70 minutes of film, director Satyajit Ray is masterfully precise in telling a haunting story. The premise is quite simple: a man's car breaks down and a wealthy stranger lets him stay in his remote house for the night. To the guest's great surprise, the stranger's wife turns out to be his former lover, unbeknownst to her husband. We find out through flashbacks that the two had actually been very close to marrying, but he wasn't ready, and let her slip away. The film reunites Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee, who had played in Ray's 'Charulata' the year before, which also featured a love triangle with a married woman. While that story was about temptation and forbidden love, this one is about the torture of regret, and on top of that, seeing the love one lost later in life, content with a new partner. Is it possible to get a second chance? Mukherjee turns in a great performance, and the flashbacks allow us to contrast her loving expressions from the past with the cool and measured looks she gives Chatterjee in the present. Neither time period is as simple as that, and she's especially good at portraying her conflicting emotions in the latter. Chatterjee may be a little dramatic in his expressions at times, but overall, it's in keeping with his character. Haradhan Bandopadhyay, who plays the husband, is quite good as he unwittingly tortures his guest, criticizing Bengalis while drinking too much early on, and then later commenting on how the remoteness of his bungalow made it a perfect spot for their honeymoon. Ray also allows him to make a point about India's caste system, as he says that while he was bothered by the system the British had employed for 150 years, he came to terms with it because if one was rich, it made things convenient. It was simply a matter of 'drowning the conscience' with alcohol. It's in moments like these that we really see the character of the individuals. Chatterjee's character is sensitive but indecisive, and Bandopadhyay's is friendly enough to give a stranded traveler a place to stay, but boorish and entitled. Perhaps we can also see that in the tiger pelts he has prominently displayed in his home. Then again, he did act to get what he wanted, and got the girl. We also have to ponder small moments in order to understand Mukherjee's emotions. As Chatterjee questions her and presses the issue, she often returns questions with questions, and it's hard to understand how she feels. She gives him sleeping pills it what seems like a minor gesture the night he stays with them, but there is so much meaning to it when she says "I don't think you will" in response to him asking what will happen if he takes more than two. She knows his timidity. This also comes out in his flashbacks. In one frustrated moment, she says "What's the use, Ami? What you really need isn't more time...but something else." Earlier in their relationship, she says "Where there's no courage, one resorts to excuses." The ending is brilliant and slightly ambiguous. For what it's worth, my interpretation is that by showing up for her sleeping pills, she not only makes her decision known, but also that despite outward appearances, she is sad in her marriage, and needs those pills to cope. She, too, is haunted - and yet the time is past, and there's no going back. Clean, concise, wonderfully understated, and yet, emotionally impactful.
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