Saturday, January 18, 2014

Suchitra by candlelight

This isn't a high-quality screen grab (it's taken from a mediocre YouTube print), but I love this scene from the 1957 film Musafir where Suchitra Sen's face is revealed in candlelight.

The film was Hrishikesh Mukherjee's first as a director, made when he was still very much part of the Bimal Roy camp; the DoP is Kamal Bose, who shot most of Roy's work (this was the only time he worked for Mukherjee), and there are clear visual references to Roy's films. 

For instance, in Devdas, made a few years earlier, Suchitra Sen as Paro got to light the candle that would give us our first view of the grown-up Devdas - Dilip Kumar, making his star entrance into a darkened room. In Musafir, the light (so to speak) has been passed on, and Suchitra is the one who gets that star privilege. She deserved it. I haven't seen enough of her work (and almost none of the Bengali films) to say informed things about her, but I thought her Paro was one of the great Hindi-film performances, pitch-perfect in its depiction of love, concern and despair, expressed jointly as well as in fragments, within the restrictions of a particular social setting. The quiet sadness of the character is such a fine counterpoint to Devdas's more showy masochism, and the role needed an actress who was up to it. If Suchitra had done no other film, it would be legacy enough.

[More on Musafir some other time, hopefully - it's a film that should be better known]


  1. I've never seen Musafir. I should put it on my watch-list, I think...

  2. Dustedoff: yes, do that. Unfortunately you'll probably have to see it on YouTube, in that so-so print. But if you ever come across a DVD, do let me know.

  3. Better Youtube than nothing - but I shall search on Induna; they often have some fairly obscure DVDs.

  4. but I thought her Paro was one of the great Hindi-film performances

    Not sure about that. A solid enough performance. I thought it smacked a little of "strained seriousness" to use a Sarris phrase. Also her Bengali accented Hindi is a slight put-off. But one should live with that exactly as I put up with Ingrid Bergman's accented English!

    As I write this, I am watching "Mamta" - a 1966 Suchitra Sen starrer. Very conventional plot. But again any film with Ashok Kumar in it is always watchable.