Set in East Bengal in 1908, Satyajit Ray's 1984 film tells of a liberal-minded landowner (Victor Bannerjee, of A Passage to India) who encourages his long-sequestered wife (Swatilekha Chatterjee) to violate purdah and meet one of his friends, a political activist (Soumitra Chatterjee) involved in the protests against the British plans to divide the district into separate Hindu and Muslim zones. Overcome by her first encounter with the outside world, and deeply impressed by the politician's energy and commitment, she falls in love with him, and even steals money from her husband to give to his cause. The film is slow, studied, and observed with a fanatic attention to the smallest gestures and glances, which helps to fill out the somewhat schematic structure Ray has inherited from his source (a novel by Rabindranath Tagore). Ray soft-pedals the ironies (the politician is, of course, a bounder), while bringing out the full emotional sweep of the young woman's awakening, suggesting that the violent demonstrations that rock the streets are the product of a similar repression.
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