I remember this film - especially Jaya Bachchan's acting - being praised highly in the media when Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa was released (or when it won the Award, I don't remember). I never saw it, though - the synopsis I read in the newspapers sounded too depressing for me. In any case, I don't think it showed in too many cinema halls.
It's certainly not a fun watch. Since first starting to get some understanding of Indian films, I've always thought that Bangla literature and films seem like India's Russian art and this film, reinforced that, even to having characters reading Russian poems. That said, I was able to watch this one, I was bleaked out halfway through the first film of the Apu trilogy, and never went back.
And I was thinking it's about time I got around to watching Pather Panchali. It's been lying with me for the past two years or so, and I'd been feeling massively guilty about not seeing it, let alone the rest of the Apu trilogy. Sigh. That gets pushed bak into the pile.
The only Ray film I still want to see is Shatranj ke Khiladi - I don't dispute his mastery of the artform, but I don't have that Russian/Bangla soul to revel in the relentlessness of misery. As for you, if you want to assuage your guilt at not watching the master's crowning achievement, you could work on a screenplay for your friend Muzaffar Jang. That might help :)
Another Ray film that I like - though in a way very different from my liking for Shatranj ke Khiladi - is Goopy Gyne Baagha Byne. It's a delight. :-)Oh. I wish I had the time to write an MJ screenplay. Right now I'm bogged down with working on the fourth book in the series, and am having a very tough time... I love this man, but he's so much work.
In a wonderful coincidence of interests, I just read that the CFSI, of which Nandita is currently chair, has produced an animated version of Goopy Gyne Baagha Byne, so now I have an added reason to see the original first.
When you say "the two women who dominate it," where does Seema Biswas fit in to your assessment? She is an excellent actor and I found her performance chilling. As I recall, her scenes with Jaya are magnificently effective. She conveys a palpable sense of despair, and Jaya an equally palpable sense of both empathy for and discomfort with that despair. It's remarkable stuff. Anyway, very glad you like this one. It was one of the first Hindi films I ever saw and remains a favorite even now. It is the kind of movie that one sometimes sees criticized for too much talking and not enough showing or doing, but I find it thoroughly compelling, and especially so the way Brati's parents each respond differently to his death - as you mentioned, Anupam's character wanting to suppress and forget it, and Jaya's character inspired by it first to solve the mystery of it and then to pick up Brati's work. There is a whole lot going on in all of that talking.On Anupamji - another relatively recent film of his you might like is Khosla ka Ghosla - don't know if you've seen that one. It's a wry movie in the "beating the corrupt Indian system at its own game" vein, but it's also a movie about a strained relationship between a man and his adult son, and their efforts to connect with each other. carla (filmi geek)http://filmigeek.net
Funny you should mention Seema. My very first reaction was disappointment. I'm a bit sensitive to loud high-pitched noise, and I remember thinking, "this is Seema, and all they give her to do for her first few minutes on screen is wail?" Of course, she did it very well, and after that her part gained more substance, but it was only in her final exchanges with Sujata, the one with her resentful daughter hovering, that I felt we were given a glimpse of her true talent. That conversation was an important part of Sujata's education, and of course it was a tribute to Seema's skill that she could so authentically portray a helpless victim light-years removed from Phoolan Devi. I have seen, and very much enjoyed, Khosla ka Ghosla. A wry blackish comedy, perhaps in a similar spirit to Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, without the bleak ending.