In 1905, in keeping with the 'Divide and Rule' policy of India's British overlords, Lord Curzon (the British Viceroy) proposes splitting Bengal into two separate administrative units, intended to create an artifidal rift between the Hindus and the Muslims, thereby weakening the bond between the two groups.
A large section of the middle class intelligentsia is opposed to this policy, and a new political movement, the Swadeshi, arises to oppose it through widespread terrorist activity and the urging of a boycott on British goods. Sandip Mukerji, a leader of this nationalist movement comes to Suksayer (in East Bengal) to win local support.
Tension develops between Sandip and old friend Nikhilesh, an enlightened local landowner. While Nikhilesh opposes Curzon's policy, he is more moderate than Sandip. Indian goods, he points out, are simply
not available to replace many essential items currently imported, and ultimately it will be the poor who will suffer from the Swadeshi's actions.
There is an additional reason for the tension between the two old friends: Nikhilesh's wife, Bimala. Nikhilesh is an educated man of modem, liberal views and has encouraged his wife to come out of her othodox domesticity - she has learned English and started to take an interestin politics. He is particularly keen thatsheshouldnowbreakwith the tradition that forbids a wife to mix freely with her husband's friends. This Bimala has opposed for a long time, but she agrees at last to meet Sandip.
The meeting takes place, and Bimala is swept off her feet by Sandip's charisma and lively charm, which contrasts strongly with her husband's calm sobriety.
The triangular situation at the film's centre may suggest similarities with Chorulato, but like Kurosawa's Kagemusha this is very much an older man's film - both are rather leisurely-paced films, both use major periods of socio-political change in their respective countries as backgrounds to more intimate central dramas, and both may be seen as a result of a calm philosophical reflection that only age and experience seem able to produce.
'In Rabindrinath Tagore's The Home and the World, I was fascinated as much by its tragic love story as by the major political event against which it unfolds. The Home and the World was to have been my first film. The fact that 30 years intervene between desire and fulfilment has, I think, helped the film because of the experience I have gained in the meantime, not only of my craft, but of human nature.”
- Satyajit Ray