Ray had an eye for details, and an uncanny ability to pick the best and create memorable films. The brilliance of Tarashankar Bandopadhyay (writer), Subrata Mitra (cameraman) and Chabi Biswas (actor) and their association with Ray could only have resulted in a film like JALSAGAR – a film praised highly by the renowned photographer Hans Cartier Bresson for its exquisite imagery. The film touches upon decay of royalty and embedded pride about lineage refusing to come to terms with changing circumstances. Chabi Biswas carries the entire film on his shoulders with great elan. The supporting cast includes Padda Devi as the wife and a few others.
Quite a few long shots, like that of the feudal mansion captured at dusk, have a lingering effect. The scene where Chabi Biswas re-opens his closed Jalsagar towards the end and sees himself (after a long time) in the dusty mirror gaping at his own mirror image in disbelief is brilliant. The psychological probity of the Zamindari system has given us two more works from Ray – DEVI and MONIHARA.
Writing in the book “Portrait of a Director – Satyajit Ray” (Dennis Dobson, London), the author Marie Seton says “Jalsagar represented the 1920s with a central conflict not dissimilar to that in John Galsworthy’s play THE SKIN GAME. Ray commenced work on this film in 1957 shortly after completing APARAJITO.” Seton also writes “In the original story, the kathak dancer was the mistress of Biswambhar Roy (the character played by Chabi Biswas). Ray eliminated this aspect of the Zamidar’s life. Some people attributed this to prudery on Ray’s part. I left it out because it was melodramatic. Its elimination makes the film more austere, was Satyajit Ray’s explanation, which seem a valid one.”
Marie Seton further comments “In the context of Indian cinema, including the previous styles developed in Bengal, the most uncompromising aspect of JALSAGAR was Ray’s use of the strictly classical music of the noted sitar player, Ustad Vilayat Khan, in place of the more fluid musical approach of Ravi Shankar who had collaborated on the music for the Apu Trilogy.”
JALSAGAR remains one of the finest works of Ray…
Rating: 4.4 out of 5