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Abhijan (The Expedition)
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Produced by Abhijatrik
Written by Satyajit Ray, adapted from the novel Abhijan by Tarashankar Bandopadhyay
Starring Soumitra Chatterjee
Waheeda Rehman
Ruma Guha Thakurta
Gnyanesh Mukherjee
Charuprakash Ghosh
Rabi Ghosh
Arun Roy
Release date(s) 1962
Running time 150 min.
Country India
Language Bangla

Abhijan (অভিযান) is a 1962 Bengali film directed by the Indian parallel filmmaker Satyajit Ray.



The filming of Abhijan began by the first half of 1961 when Bijoy Chatterjee asked Satyajit Ray to write a script on a popular Bengali novel of the same name by Tarashankar Bandopadhyay. Ray took up the job happily as he wrote scripts (or directed music) for various Bengali film for money. At the time his one of the most intriguing film Kanchenjungha was being shot at Darjiling. After the heartbreaking box office failure (both in home and away ) Ray found himself "anxious to reach out to a wider audience." Even at this point it was for Bijoy Chatterjee the script was being written, Ray had no idea of making the film himself, much like the other notable film not wholeheartedly made by Ray, Chiriyakhana.

Ray got involved into the film when they went to the famous hill-spot Dubrajpur in Birbhum not much away from bolpur shantiniketan. It was then that the looming (almost as a recurring motif ) Mama Bhagne pahar was assimilated into the films backbone. As a result we see that the motif of human being with their baggage of sin and adultery will be symbolised into the stone pillar. When Ray further went into shooting the fist few sequences it was obvious that the script will be too much for the ability of Mr. Chatterjee, and as a consequence Ray was to direct his one of the most box office successful film in Bengal.

The protagonist Narasingh is an uprooted man, who with a long heritage and social dignity packed into his simple world view, finds himself betrayed frequently in a faraway land. He will take up a journey with Rama and the beloved car. The set up immediately reminds us of the Ritwik Ghatak masterpiece Ajantrik (1958), the much above the macine relationship of a cab driver with his car. His hero Soumitra Chatterjee fails to impersonify a rowdy taxi driver who is very fond of his machine, much due to the fact the Ray himself had no experience of driving and mechanical instruments. Yet the film is very important for the Ray enthusiasts for reason innumerable like it is the first film in his career which comes out of the social class of old Bengali families. And his boldness to describe physical relations should also be noted. Gulabi of course sleeps with Narasingh even in the middle of an emotional crisis on both sides.

The film gives the famous Ray flavour in its composition, flow and dialogues, and use of symbols. The protagonist Narasingh (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) is seen as a prototype for the character of the cynical cab driver Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976).[1] Scorsese himself has credited Satyajit Ray as a major influence on his work.[2][3]


Soumitra Chatterjee plays Narsingh, a taxi driver. Narsingh is a proud and hot-tempered Rajput with a passion for his car, a vintage 1930 Chrysler and his Rajput heritage. Being a descendent of the royal family of rajput his self esteem is reflected through his inability of accepting insult and defeat, as a result he even takes part into samll race with his car. He does not want to be the one who falls behind and develops a strong hatred of women and human being in general. As a result of reckless driving which was actually overtaking the same car which carried the district inspector, his licence was sacked. He was utterly destroyed by it, since the cab was his life after his wife had left him for good, deep into the gloom of the insult and a feeling of rootlessness he decided to go back to the land of rajput where the true rajput blood will be respected. While on the way for an aimless journey, Narasingh was picked up by Sukharam who is a local Marwari businessman with a record of smuggling and trafficking of village girls.

A scene from the film depicting Soumitra Chatterjee (right), Gnyanesh Mukherjee

Sukhanram (Charuprakash Ghosh) offers him a handsome fee to transport some goods which is nothing other than opium. The realisation of the immoral trade puts Narshing into position of compromising his faith to proud Rajput blood. But he decides to join hand with Sukhanram, after all no one he saw was truly following the law and morality not even his ideal and beloved Neeli (Ruma Guha Thakurta).

Neeli runs away with the crippled lover of hers and the deep distrust in Narshings mind for women deepens. As a result even after knowing that Gulabi is a victim of Sukhanrams trafficking he forces her to sleep with him without any emotional involvement. At this point he is almost on the verge of becoming the one he used to hate, the lawless ones who are also coward to face the world.

Gulabi on the other hand is a melancholy, demonstrative and beautiful village widow, Gulabi (Waheeda Rehman). Gulabi is instinctively drawn to Narsingh. Who even after losing so much of her dignity looks at the bright side of life and has trust that Narshing is not immoral. She right from the beginning is attracted to him and ready for a physical relationship, thoguh not as a prostitute which Sukhanram wanted to make her in time, but as a village girl.

After he decides to join the gang of smugglers consisting of a legal deal and selling his car he finds that all of his frineds who still were there with him Rama, and Neeli's brother are no longer with him. He got the money and social status he wanted but became like Mama Bhagne a symbol for human being carring the baggage of its own sin on top of its head, ready to topple anytime and be reduced to mere pebbles with no dignity. He changes, and rescues Gulabi just in time she was to be sold to the same lawer who was a member of the smuggling racket he thought of joining.

The tension of the good and evil collapses and the old car makes another journey into nothingness but a definite halo of light ahead of it, the light of love.



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