Sakha Prosakha (1990)

Posted: October 21, 2015 in Bengali films, Mamata Shankar, Satyajit Ray, Soumitro Chattopadhyay

shakha prashakha

The hallmark of a great director is that he is ahead of his times. Long before Corruption became a major issue in the country paving the way for the birth of a new party which came to power in the Capital of the country in 2014 riding on its promise to fight and end corruption, the master filmmaker Satyajit Ray made a full length feature film focusing on erosion of human and moral values in our midst.

Through the tale of an upright, successful man and his four sons, Ray highlights the loss of ethical values in our society. While the youngest sibling (Ranjit Mullick) resigns from his job as a mark of protest against corruption, the eldest son (Haradhan Bannerjee) is the practical one who has succeeded in life having no qualms accepting bribes and freebies in his job. The second son (Soumitro Chaterjee) lives with his father and is shown as slightly abnormal at times. He listens to Western Classical music and by extrapolation can be construed as a ‘pure soul.’

A cardiac arrest of their father brings the four sons together for a brief interval. What transpires in the aftermath forms the narrative of the film. This may not rank among the best works of Ray but for the anticipation of corruption breeding like Cancer in Indian Society the director deserves our kudos.

One is not sure whether the father has autobiographical elements of Ray. The resemblance between the actor and the director is quite striking. In the concluding sequence, when the other sons have left and the second son appears on the door, the old man lovingly calls out for him emphasizing a special corner for the slightly insane (Soumitro) child of his. Was Ray sympathizing with all those good people who are increasingly being sidelined in all spheres of life? Was Ray predicting doomsday for us where the talented and honest (like the second son) are destined to lose their sanity? Maybe cynical you may say, but Ray forces us to introspect and acts against the winds of change (like Ranjit Mullick in the film) in our society.

I am not exactly sure whether this film echoes Francesco Rosi’s THREE BROTHERS which was also about an interaction of a father with his three sons after the passing away of their mother. In his last films (Ganashatru, Shakha Prosakha, Aguntuk) Ray became highly philosophical. Did he have a premonition of an early death? Did it influence the choices of films he made in this period? After all many have lived beyond their Seventies…

Due to Ray’s failing health, outdoor shooting was kept at a minimum, at Sukna Forest near Siliguri.

The supporting cast includes Deepankar Dey, Mamata Shankar, Lily Chakraborty, Pramode Ganguly and others.

Rating: 3.9 out of 5

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