|THE EXPEDITION (ABHIJAN) (director/writer: Satyajit Ray; screenwriter: story by Tarashankar Banerjee; cinematographer: Soumendu Roy; editor: Dulal Dutta; music: Satyajit Ray; cast: Waheeda Rehman (Gulabi), Soumitra Chatterjee (Narsingh), Ruma Guha Thakurta (Neeli), Gyanesh Mukhopadhyay (Josef), Robi Ghosh (Rama), Shekhar Chattopadhyay (Rameshwar), Reba Devi (Joseph's Mother), Charuprakash Ghosh (Sukhanram), Abani Mukhopadhyay (Lawyer); Runtime: 150; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Botha Nath Roy; Angel; 1962--India--in Bengali with English subtitles)|
|"Weaves a trite commercial film
action story but is rescued from its
ordinariness by the director's usual
by Dennis Schwartz
of the lesser films of Satyajit Ray
("Charulata"/"The Music Room"/"The Chess
Players"), that weaves a trite commercial film action
story but is rescued from its ordinariness by the
director's usual humanistic touches. It's adapted by
Ray from a story by Tarashankar Banerjee, and is filmed
in B/W. It plays best as a character study of a
volatile, unsympathetic character, who reforms when
he falls in love with a virtuous schoolteacher he
cannot have and the secular warrior becomes
religious to ape her recent conversion to the
Catholic faith in multicultural India.
Taxi driver Singh (Soumitra
Chatterjee), driving a vintage 1930
Chrysler, loses his taxi license when recklessly
passing on the road a local political bigwig. As a
result, Singh moves to a small town that borders the
states of Bengal and Bihar. Here Singh, embittered
over a recent divorce and that he as a proud member
of the Rajput warrior caste is forced to
mingle with lower-class castes, gets hired
by the shady merchant Sukhanram
Ghosh) to transport opium.
He also falls madly in love with reserved
Catholic schoolteacher Neeli (Ruma
Guha Thakurta), who is committed to
marrying a crippled. Changing his wild ways in
the presence of Neeli, a changed Singh helps her
elope with the crippled.
Singh sells his valued vintage car to partner with Sukhanram
and his crooked lawyer (Abani
Mukhopadhyay) friend in the smuggling racket.
But when confronted by his loyal assistant Rama (Robi
Ghosh) and Neeli's earnest Catholic brother
Josef (Gyanesh Mukhopadhyay), he reacts
against his partner's white slavery operation and acts
to free the prostitute Gulabi (Waheeda Rehman,
This commercial film, the artistic director's most mainstream film, one that Ray never intended to direct, his friend Bijoy Chatterjee was supposed to but bowed out after one day on the set thinking he was not the person to direct this melodramatic story. It was ironically Ray's biggest box-office success in his native Bengal.
REVIEWED ON 3/29/2014 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ