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THE STRANGER

India, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Satyajit Ray

The great Indian director Satyajit Ray died in April, shortly after receiving an Oscar for his lifetime achievements. His last film,The Stranger, is a deceptively simple but affecting moral story, and a fine. Parting from the esteemed filmmaker who was a guest of this festival in 1966.

The film centres on a wealthy upper-class Calcutta couple who live a comfortable life with their bright 11-year-old son. Out of the blue, wife Anila receives a letter from her long-lost uncle, the family's black sheep, who went overseas in 1955 (the year Ray completed his first film Father Panchali) and hasn't been heard from since.

"Husband Sudhindra is instantly suspi­cious. Suspicions aren't allayed once he arrives; he seems genuine but behaves in a strange and unworldly manner. But as they get to know the old man, they discover he's an almost mystical character who left because he wanted to be a painter. Since then he has trav­elled to countries where tribal people survive, seeking inspiration from their knowledge and wisdom.

"Ray tells this story with calm serenity, and the thematic charm and power only grad­ually creep up on the viewer, as indeed the charm of the uncle (beautifully played by Utpal Dutt) gradually imposes itself on the family. Mamata Shankar, too, excels as the wife who visibly mellows under uncle's influence.

"There's still quite'a lot of talk, but the stat­ic theatrical feel of Ray's last two films here gives way to a more graceful, cinematic style."

• David Stratton, Variety

See also...

THE CHESS PLAYERS

This is Satyajit Ray's first film with Hindi and English dialogue. It is also his first historical film, set in mid-nineteenth century India. It is based on a short story by Munshi Premchand. ... Two ... More »

WORLD OF APU

So much has already been written about Pather Panchali and Aparajito that Ray's trilogy was destined for classic status even before the release of the third instalment, and the various influences ... More »

MIDDLEMAN

Somnath is a bright student, but he only gets an ordinary pass in his BA exams. His indifferent results make it difficult for him to get a job. Frustrated by inconclusive interviews, he comes across ... More »

THE KINGDOM OF DIAMONDS

"It is an ironic comment that the major audiences for Satyajit Ray's mature works are in the West, whilst commercial interests in India limit them to a small coterie: yet his children*s films have a ... More »

THE ADVENTURES OF GOOPY AND BAGHA

Goopy is a singer who cannot sing and he meets Bagha, a drummer, after they have both been driven from their respective villages. They sing and play to disperse their fears during ... a night in the ... More »

Monihara

Monihara, a ghost story based on a tale by Rabmdranath Tagore, is told by a dishevelled teacher to a silent, dark-clad figure on a river bank. Phanibhushan, a rich jute merchant, brings his beautiful ... More »

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