"Ek Din Pratidin" (And Quiet Rolls the Day) was a fine film directed by Mrinal Sen. The narrative underlined what happens when a working girl doesn't return home after work.Sen is one of the first to assess the changing position of women with industrialization and urbanization. Mamata Shankar, Gita Sen, Sreela Mazumdar & Satya Banerji comprised the cast.
Ek Din Pratidin was based on a story by famed Bengali writer Amalendu Chakravorty. A family of seven members with father (Satya Banerji), mother (Gita Sen), three sisters and two brothers solely dependent on the earning of a single member of the family, i.e. the eldest working daughter Mamata Shankar. The film opens with a sequence of the younger son getting hurt while playing, and taken to the clinic for treatment. Another opening sequence shows a man urinating on the walls of the house where the family lived and the house-owner castigating the person concerned for the act - scenes of everyday life in Calcutta. Sen always gave us such images from Calcuttan life in film after film.
The story unfolds slowly when the working girl doesn't return home that night. At first, the family members kept silent hoping that she might have been working overtime, and will arrive late. The younger sister (Sreela Mazumdar in a superb performance) goes out to make a phone call to see if her sister might still be at the office. She returns home without being able to contact her. Now the family members gets panicky, and the father goes out and watches the buses go by, without his daughter alighting from any of them. When the last bus also passes by, he returns home. Soon the inmates of the multiple storied building where both the landowner and his several tenants resided got wind of the fact that Mamata has not returned home that night from work.
The reactions from the various neighbors are depicted beautifully. Some makes acerbic comments, while others are more sympathetic. Sova Sen, in a cameo role, as a neighbor is good. There are good Samaritan who came to help the family in their hour of crisis. Two such characters, Shyamalda who stays in the same premise, and the scooter-owner friend of the brother goes out in search of the missing person. They head to the Police Station to lodge a complaint. Biplab Chaterji as a policeman, in a small role, excels. Biplab raids the family's residence for basic inquiry, and extracts some facts about Mamata's personal life (the type of garments she was wearing on that day). Sreela provided Biplab and his assisting officers with the details.
Meanwhile, the brother and his friend check out the morgue to ascertain whether his sister's dead body was brought there. The family also receives a news that some lady with similar characteristics as Mamata lay badly injured in an accident in Nilratan Medical Hospital. The father, along with the good neighbour Shyamalda, set off for Nilratan Hospital to find out...
The father found that the girl was not his daughter. They return home relieved.
However, it was a harrowing time for the family during the night. In the early hours of the morning, the small girl of the family sights her eldest sister (Mamata Shankar) coming back. Surprisingly, everyone in the family eyed her with suspicion. They didn't ask her as to where she had been the previous night...
The landlord alights the staircase and asks Mamata's father to vacate the house as soon as possible. He harped upon the fact that the locality is meant only for decent people.
The last sequence shows Gita Sen in the morning hours(who was keeping bad health the previous night) begin her preparation for her everyday household chores.
The critics may find faults. They may argue that in a big city where neighbors live like virtual strangers, neighbors discussing the non-returning of the girl to the house at such length is not a realistic portrayal of modern times, where people are mostly unconcerned about the lives of others. Maybe such minor blemishes apart, the novelty of the theme has never been explored in Indian cinema. Sen's penchant to keep the audiences guessing as to where the girl disappeared is very much in evidence because he doesn't offer any solution.
Film Critic John W Hood finds an excellent example of the liberated woman in Mrinal Sen's "Ek Din Pratidin". "The heroine is her own boss. There is no answer to the question why she did not return home at night. Sen says it is her business where she had been."
In an Interview, when Mrinal Sen was asked about his personal relationship with Satyajit Ray, Sen said that they never discussed each other's films in great detail. Ray made some acerbic comment regarding the Mrinal film, saying that the filmmaker doesn't know where the women character had disappeared the previous night. Mrinal countered this and said that definitely he could have offered a solution in the film as to where the girl had disappeared, but that was not where the focus of the film lay. What he was trying to expose was the hollowness of our responses and characters, the parochial outlook whenever misfortune befalls upon someone.
The film was released in 1979, and won awards at several International Film Festivals.
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