The Big City

Another beautiful film from Satyajit Ray. He has a special storytelling style that I absolutely love.

I’ve realized over time that I have a deep and abiding love for family dramas.

There’s something about focusing on minor victories and failures, and treating them as if they shape worlds, that really appeals to me on a deep level.

It makes sense, after all these are, in some sense, our lives. It’s hard for most of us to relate to action films for example; I’m assuming that most of you aren’t secret agents fighting world takeover plots.

On the other hand, we all live similar lives to some degree, and in a good family drama there’s usually something for each of us to relate to.

This is the story of Arati, a women who decides that she’s going to get a paying job, in order to do the best she can for her family.

This is early-sixties India, and while it’s not unheard of for mothers and wives to work, it’s not exactly common either. In Arati’s case she has to contend with the wishes of her husband, as well as his parents, who also live with them.

Over their disapproval she finds a job, and more importantly finds out that she’s good at it. The film follows this journey, and the implications it has in her personal life.

There are a ton of nice ideas in this movie. About the rights of women, and how to respect the elderly parents who raised us. About how to navigate the complexities of life and relationships.

I am not Indian, and I didn’t grow up in India, but to my eye these don’t feel like stereotypes, they feel like characters.

These are people who have motivations and frustrations. They are all trying to do what they feel is right. And they all love each other. Ultimately, it’s that love that draws me in so fully.

Like I said, I have a special place in my heart for family dramas. All types of family dramas. But, the kind I like the best is when circumstances are propelling the story, but the characters are ultimately full of love.

It’s a nice feeling. Tragedy might strike, chaos might prevail, endings might not be completely happy. As long as the people are trying their best, I’m more than satisfied.

india, 1963, 1.33:1, bengali