Thursday, 13 August 2015

I've Just Seen: Chokher Bali (2003)

Chokher Bali (2003)
Director: Rituparno Ghosh

Set in early 20th century India, the story of Chokher Bali revolves around the lives of widows who, after their husband's death, begin living an ascetic life. Remarriage if frowned upon, a heavy price for those widowed young. This is the case for Binodini, a widow after one year of marriage. She is similar to Hester Collyer in The Deep Blue Sea; she finds herself needing physical affection, a need which draws her into an affair with the master of the house where she is nominally a servant (though a friend to his wife).

Many seem to think that the only films to come out of India are Bollywood films: lavish with much singing and dancing. Though highly popular, there are many different types of filmmaking in India (just like any country). Chokher Bali is a Bengali film; the most famous Bengali filmmaker is Satyajit Ray. While Chokher Bali has beautiful colours, costumes and jewellery, qualities common in Bollywood features, the drama here is quite intimate and quiet. Aishwarya Rai is great as Binodini; Ghosh, who directed her in Raincoat as well, knows how to get the best from Rai.

If your experience of India cinema has only been Bollywood films, you should see this film. Not only well-acted, it gives you a glimpse of a culture reflecting on its own practices. The experience of widows in India was also explored in Deepa Mehta's Water, a suitable double feature for Chokher Bali.

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