“Samapti” from TEEN KANYA (Satyajit Ray, 1961)

From Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, writer-director Satyajit Ray’s “Samapti” starts out hilarious and troubled and turns tender and joyous. Characters learn to bend to others, to stop being stubborn and to allow others to choose what they want for themselves. Ray, Jean Renoir’s assistant on The River (1951), beautifully alludes (with his girl on a swing) to Renoir’s Une partie de campagne (1936), while the feminist aura of John Ford’s stormy, radiant, rollicking The Quiet Man (1952) permeates a similar situation.
     In two months Amulya will begin law studies. In the meantime his mother presses him to marry someone he dislikes. Instead, he marries Mrinmoyee, who refuses to spend the wedding night with him because she was forced into this marriage. She is in love with Amulya, but she wants to be able to choose him. Mrinmoyee returns to her mother’s house; her mother, like Amulya’s, feels disgraced by this marital outcome; Amulya leaves for Calcutta, telling Mrinmoyee he will return if only she writes him and asks him to. Amulya’s mother, who disdained the tomboyish Mrinmoyee, learns to value her daughter-in-law as someone who might make her son happy. Amulya is tricked into returning to his rural village home, and he and Mrinmoyee, who explains she has returned to him because she “wanted to” (the reason Amulya earlier gave for marrying her) have their wedding night.
     A bespectacled Soumitra Chatterjee, brilliant, suggests Amulya’s kinship with Cary Grant’s David Huxley in Howard Hawks’s Bringing Up Baby (1938); lovely Aparna Sen’s Mrinmoyee steals Amulya’s shoes rather than his pants.
     Mrinmoyee and her family lost everything in a flood. Reconciling with her, her mother tells Mrinmoyee: “We have nothing, we are nothing. That’s why everyone scorns us.” But their “evil karma” will be proven illusory.

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