Teen Kanya (1961)

Passed   |    |  Comedy, Drama

Teen Kanya (1961) Poster

Based on popular Indian stories of great writer Rabindra Nath Tagore, these short films reveal definitive moments in the lives of three young girls.

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Satyajit Ray


Satyajit Ray (screenplay), Rabindranath Tagore (stories)

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26 June 2015 | robert-temple-1
| Magnificent, emotionally wrenching early film by the great Satyajit Ray
This film, called TEEN KANYA in Bengali and TWO DAUGHTERS in English, was made six years after Ray's first film, PATHER PANCHALI (1955), which was the first of the famous APU TRILOGY. Having finished that trilogy as well as another of his haunting masterpieces, THE MUSIC ROOM, Ray turned his attention to two wonderful short stories by Rabindranath Tagore, so that this film is therefore a diptych, composed of two separate films of those two stories. The first of them is entitled THE POSTMASTER, and most of it is filmed in and around a small hut inhabited by a young man who has just become a village postmaster. Along with the hut and the job, he has acquired a servant named Ratan who is a 10 year-old orphan girl who never knew her mother and father. The previous postmaster beat her and treated her badly, but the new one is very kind, and she becomes attached to him. This is the first time she has ever allowed herself to feel anything for anyone, in her harsh young life. The story is one of the saddest and most heart-breaking ever filmed. The intensity of the acting by the young girl, played by Chandana Banerjee, is one of the most powerful child screen performances in the history of world cinema. This young girl only made one other film, KAA, in 1966, and after that, nothing is recorded of her life or her fate. She was able to convey so much with her eyes without speaking, that it was like cinematic telepathy. The ending of this film is unforgettable, and will haunt any sensitive person always. The second film is not a sad story but an odd and amusing one. It concerns a girl in her late teens who is a wildly eccentric tomboy. She and her family live in a shack by the river bank, having lost their home and all their possessions in one of the many floods which continually afflict Bengal (the stories are set in Bengal). She likes to run wild and free, swing from the trees, play with the boys, run and hide in the forest, and always goes barefoot. She is brilliantly played by the young actress Aparna Sen, whose first adult part it was (she had appeared in one film previously as a child). She went on to become one of India's most famous serious film actresses, and has appeared in 62 films, including others by Satyajit Ray such as DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE FOREST (1970) and THE MIDDLEMAN (1976). She also appeared in James Ivory's THE GURU (1969) with Michael York and Rita Tushingham, as well as James Ivory's BOMBAY TALKIE (1970) with Felicity Kendal. In this film, Sen evokes the mystery and the animal energy of the wild young creature in an unforgettable portrayal of a girl in rebellion at becoming a woman and a wife and thus forfeiting her freedom. These days the film should be adopted by feminists as a manifesto statement. Satyajit Ray was notable for making many films sympathetic to women, girls, and children, and he had a rare understanding of the vagaries of feminine psychology. His films are often as much psychology lessons as they are high art. And he had the ability to get his actors and actresses to give of their best, and then more besides. Certainly, Ray's films are some of the most emotionally moving and psychologically profound works of cinema ever made. But in addition to that, they are technical masterpieces as well. For this film, Ray was director, producer, writer, and composer of the music. Ray was certainly one of the three great Bengali geniuses of the 20th century, another being Rabindranath Tagore himself, and the third being unquestionably Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, the scientist who collaborated with Albert Einstein, and after whom Bose-Einstein Condensates are named. (But if you have never heard of Bose-Einstein Condensates, you are forgiven, as they are highly technical, and even most physicists have never heard of them.)

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