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Mrinal Sen is the grand old man of the socially conscious Indian cinema, and he is a filmmaker of real talent: his use of flattened perspectives and raw, direct sound to create the dangerously charged emotional atmospheres of this film is masterly and discreet. Yet Sen's commitment to the dry conventions of social realism drains his work entirely of interest for me. A peasant boy, sent into domestic service with a middle-class Calcutta family by his impoverished parents, dies mysteriously in the course of a cold night. Though the cause of death is never determined (a touch of fashionable ambiguity here), the moral guilt of the middle-class couple is clear before the credits are over. Is it a good film? Probably, but I find it hard to care.

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