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Abhijan (The Expedition)

 

Year 1962
Producer Abhijiatrik
Distributor Indra Nath Roy
Screenplay Satyajit Ray
Based on The novel Abhijan by Tarasankar Banerjee
Photography Soumendu Roy
Editor Dulal Dutta
Art Director Bansi Chandragupta
Music Satyajit Ray
Sound Durgadas Mitra, Nripen Paul, Sujit Sarkar
Length 150 min.
Print Black & White

Cast:

Narsingh Soumitra Chatterjee
Gulabi Wahida Rehman
Neeli Ruma Guha Thakurta
Joseph Ganesh Mukherjee
Sukhanram Charuprasash Ghosh
Rama Rabi Ghosh
Naskar Arun Roy
Rameswar Sekhar Chatterjee
Banerjee Ajit Banerjee
Joseph's mother Reba Devi
Lawyer Abani Mukherjee

Abhijan was one of the most popular films (in Bengal) Ray has produced: a "conscious" effort to communicate with a wider audience. The project was originally one that his friends had conceived. Ray stepped in when his friends panicked at the prospect of directing. It was Ray's mastery that turned this "conventional" plot from a stark to a subtly nuanced story. The theme of the film is the attempt to "buy" over an honest but impoverished young man by a financially sucessful middle-aged businessman.

The action takes place in Bihar (northwest of Bengal), around 1930. Narsingh, a proud and hot tempered rajput (originally from Rajastan), is a taxi driver with a passion for his vehicle. His license is taken away as he races a government official, but Sukhanram, a shady merchant, offers him a handsome fee to transport some merchandise. Narsingh, thus, finds himself drawn against his better judgement into trafficking in opium. The two main female characters Neeli and Gulabi form a contrast. Narasingh has a soft spot for Neeli who is a strong, reserved Catholic schoolmistress, and has no interest in him. The other female character is beautiful Gulabi who has been forced into prostitution by circumstances. Narasingh falls in love with Gulabi for her basic values.

In the end he redeems both himself and Gulabi and proves that every rule has an exception.