21 February 2011

Review of Satyajit Ray's 'Charulata'

'Charulata' is a 1964 Bengali film by Satyajit Ray based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore. The story takes place in the nineteenth-century during the period of what is called 'The Bengal Renaissance.' Western thoughts of freedom and individuality are ruffling the age-old calm of a feudal society. Charulata's husband, suited, bearded, pince-nez-wearing Bhupati is inspired by the gospels of Mill and Bentham, by ideas of freedom and equality. He spends his feudal wealth and all his waking hours on the propagation of these through 'The Sentinel,' an enterprise which is destined to flounder by the very fact of the single-minded idealism of its editor. But the winds of change are not only stirring him; unknown to herself, his good Hindu wife, conveniently childless, is no longer capable of treading the beaten path of the ideal woman who wants nothing of life but her husband's happiness.

08 February 2011

A Film on Music in the Trobriand Islands

The Trobriand Islands are usually assumed to be well known, thanks to the research of Bronislaw Malinowski and numerous subsequent anthropologists. But in spite of the abundant documentation of other cultural components, the music of the area had been little studied and is almost inaccessible aurally to listeners outside of Papua New Guinea. Therefore, the film 'Kama Wosi' ('Our Songs' in Kilivila language), shot in 1975 by Les McLaren and released in 1979, was a very welcome addition to knowledge of this area. What immediately strikes the viewer familiar with Malinowski's photographs of Trobriand life from 1915-1918 is that few things seem to have changed in 65 years. Even traditional music had not been supplanted by string bands, as the opening credits reveal: 'Although some music was performed expressly for the film, it still functions integrally to Trobriand society.'