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This film about a woman’s artistic and romantic yearning by Satyajit Ray is set in late nineteenth-century, pre-independence India. It takes place in the gracious home of a liberal-minded, workaholic newspaper editor and his lonely, stifled wife, Charulata, whose exquisitely composed features mask a burning creativity. When her husband’s poet cousin comes to stay with them, Charulata finds herself both inspired by him to pursue her own writing and dangerously drawn to him physically. Based on a novella by the great Rabindranath Tagore, Charulata is a work of subtle textures, a delicate tale of a marriage in jeopardy and a woman taking the first steps toward establishing her own voice.
For more about Charulata and the Charulata Blu-ray release, see Charulata Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 8, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Shailen Mukherjee, Tarapada Basu, Nilotpal Dey
Director: Satyajit Ray
» See full cast & crew
Charulata Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 8, 2013
Winner of Best Director and OCIC Awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, Satyajit Ray's "Charulata" (1964) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include exclusive new video interviews with Madhabi Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee; new video program featuring Indian film scholar Moinak Biswas and Bengali cultural historian Supriya Chaudhuri; and an archival audio interview with director Satyajit Ray conducted by journalist Gideon Bachmann. The release also arrives with a 32-page illustrated booklet featuring film historian Phillip Kemp's essay "Calm Without, Fire Within" and "Ray on Charulata", an interview conducted by Andrew Robinson in Satyajit Ray's home in Calcutta in the mid-'80s, which was translated by the author for this release. In Bengali, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The film is set in 1870s Calcutta and the overwhelming majority of it takes place inside the lavish home of an ambitious and very patriotic newspaper editor who rarely has time to talk to his beautiful wife. He loves her, but he loves his country even more. Knowing well that the future of India will likely be determined by the winners in the upcoming elections in England, he writes articles that frequently highlight the views promoted by the Liberal Party.
During an unusually hot summer day, Bhupati (Shailen Mukherjee, The Zoo) finally realizes that he is spending too much time with his "second wife", which is how he jokingly refers to his newspaper, and invites his cousin Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee, The World of Apu), an aspiring writer, to spend some time with his real wife, Charulata (Madhabi Mukherjee, The Big City). Soon after, Amal enters the house with a large suitcase, smiling and singing.
Amal immediately impresses Charulata. The way he talks, sings, and praises the beauty of life also inspires Charulata to refocus on her writing. Feeling energized and a lot more optimistic about life Charulata then surprises Amal with a beautiful gift. Meanwhile, not realizing how close Charulata and Amal have become, Bhupati begins discussing his cousin's possible future marriage to the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur.
This excellent film directed by the great Satyajit Ray tells two different stories. The first is that of a young woman who is trying to listen to her heart in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the beautiful cage she has been placed in, however, writing is the only thing that occasionally makes her feel alive.
The second and less obvious story is about a country looking for a new direction. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that there is tension in the air that could inspire dramatic events. Ray never delivers any political statements in the film, but it is easy to tell that like Charulata the country is quietly frustrated with the role that has been chosen for it.
The beauty of the film comes from its calmness and simplicity. Ray follows the conversations between the three protagonists without ever forcing the viewer to side with any of them. They exist and Ray and his camera are there to simply capture the moments they share. However, all of this, the observation and the acting, is done with a tremendous sense of effortless grace and elegance that makes viewing Charulata a very special experience.
As it is the case with virtually all of Ray's films, music has a very important role in Charulata. But it never becomes the focus of attention - it either enhances emotions and feelings or simply eases the transition from one sequence to another.
Charulata, Ray's favorite film, is based on the popular novella Nastaneer (The Broken Nest) by the great Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, who was the first Asian writer and poet to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.
Note: Charulata was recently restored in 2K from the original film negative. The restoration was supervised by RDB Entertainments and carried out in Studios Pixion in Bombay, India. Earlier this year, the restored Charulata had its premiere in the Classics section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Charulata Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Satyajit Ray's Charulata arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"This new digital master was produced from a restoration undertaken by RDB Entertainments, under the supervision of Kamal Bansal and Varsha Bansal. For their restoration, a digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on ARRISCAN film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative at Pixion in Chennai, India. Due to several instances of sever warps and in the original negative, a few sections were replaced using an original 35mm safety fine grain belonging to the Academy Film Archive. The original monaural soundtrack was restored from the original sound negative.
Project supervisor: Mr. Balaji/Pixion, Chennai, India.
Lead restorers: Mr. Chandrashekhar, Mr.Kiran/Pixion.
Colorists: Mr. Mathews, John Tharyil/Pixion."
This very beautiful film looks quite extraordinary on Blu-ray. I have a DVD copy of it in my library and after running some direct comparisons I have to say that the improvements in clarity and image depth have to be seen to be believed. The beach footage, in particular, looks exceptional (see screencaptures #5 and 19). The footage from Bhupati's lavish home where Charu spends most of her time also boasts some terrific clarity and fluidity - there sequences where even tiny objects are remarkably easy to see (see screencaptures #7 and 16). The overall balance between the blacks, whites, and the variety of grays is also very pleasing. There are a few sequences where sharpness levels have a tendency to fluctuate, but these fluctuations are indeed source related (see screencapture #14). Furthermore, there are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Problematic sharpening adjustments have not been performed either. Overall image stability is dramatically improved. Also, it is clear that debris, large damage marks, cuts, stains, and dirt have been removed as best as possible. All in all, considering how problematic so many presentations of the legendary Bengali director's films have been on DVD, this new restoration of Charulata is really quite the revelation. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Charulata Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: Bengali LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Overall dynamic intensity is rather limited, but clarity and depth are very pleasing. I can also tell that various stabilizations have been performed and background hiss removed because there is a very obvious difference between the lossy track from the R2 DVD release and the lossless track. For the record, there are no pops, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Charulata Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Charulata Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Recently restored and earlier this year screened in the Classics section of the Cannes Film Festival, legendary Bengali director Satyajit Ray's beautiful film Charulata has now transitioned to Blu-ray. Having seen a number of Ray films on DVD during the years, I honestly think that this new restoration of Charulata is quite extraordinary. As cliche as it may sound at this point, I think that it is appropriate to repeat one more time that this is a very special time to be a film collector because we are seeing some of the greatest films ever made looking as good or even better as when they first entered cinemas around the world many years ago. Buy with confidence, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Charulata Blu-ray, News and Updates
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