Dilip Basu is research professor of humanities and founding director of the Satyajit Ray Film Study Center at the University of California Santa Cruz

Ray's personal favorite of his works, Charulata follows one woman's romantic and intellectual yearning in a late nineteenth-century India trapped under a constricting mix of “Hindu aestheticism and Victorian morality” (Albert Johnson). Married to a successful, seemingly liberal publisher, Charulata (a stunning Madhabi Mukherjee) passes her lonely days with embroidery and daydreams, until her husband's handsome cousin arrives to distract her with poetry and attention. Subtly drawing out the cracks of a marriage in crisis, as well as the flowering of a woman's independence, this dignified character study is based on a Rabindranath Tagore novella, and flows with the grace of Flaubert and James. For The Manchester Guardian, it is simply “a masterpiece,” while Ray himself called it “my best.”

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