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MAHANAGAR was based on a story by Narendranath Mitra. The core theme of the disquiet caused when a Bengali homely lady Arati Mazumdar (Madhabi Mukherjee) steps out of her secluded domestic existence into the working world have been deftly portrayed by the director. I think Mrinal Sen’s PUNASCHO in the Sixties also dealt with the same theme but as per latest reports available that film is completely lost to filmgoers as no print of that film exists today.
Some of the sequences in the film are truly memorable:
The scene where Madhabi presses her first earning against herself and proceeds to watch her in an adjacent mirror
• The Anglo woman gifts Madhabi a lipstick and shows her how to apply it
• “Was he your boyfriend”? asks her Anglo colleague Madhabi points to Vermillion on her forehead
“Okay. Your husband.”
“Do you know this ring?” her Anglo friend queried “This means that I am married.” ( A beautiful scene on manifestation of marital status in two cultures)
The effect of the lady walking out of the orthodox household into the professional world on the husband (Anil Chatterjee) and the family can be summarized in the following dialogues/scenes that transpired in the film
“Kaaje amay chinte parbe na” (Madhabi) “Barite Chinte parbo to” (Anil Chatterjee)
• “Bouma, Sales girl?” (Anil Chatterjee’s father)
• “Taka thaklai Sansar a shanti thake na Baba aaj 3/2 maas amar sathe katha bole na.” (Anil Chaterjee talks of his equation with his father)
• The first day Madhabi goes to work, her child runs away from her as a protest

The weakness of the film: The forced situations where husband loses his job and is dependent on Madhabi’s job. The ending also appeared filmic to me. I, for one, can’t throw away job because of injustice being meted out to a colleague. You would agree that Arati’s of the world wouldn’t be able to keep any job in present day corruption ridden India.
The most interesting character to me was the patriarch – the father of Anil Chatterjee who represented the plight of retired teachers in the country
“jemon gorbo bodh kori, temon hingse hoi” (talking about his students)
• “Bhagwan er bidhan e kothai jeno gondogol royeche” (complaining about God’s injustice towards his ilk)
• “Amar bhoro obhab” (The old man cries and tells his eye specialist student ) “Chasma ta hobe amar Gurudakhina” (The student replies thusly)
• “sei jug aar ei jug ek noye” (Anil Chatterjee to his father)

There’re other sequences that characterize social milieu of that era
• Madhabi goes to sell knitting machines and start a conversation with prospective customers discussing personal problems – the ability of Bongs to start conversation with complete strangers
“Ei sob parar thakar anondo je nijeder radio kinte hoy na” (Anil Chaterjee tells his wife)
The supporting cast included Jaya Bhaduri, Haradhan Bannerjee and others.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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