I watched Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi recently. IMDB summarizes its plot as follows.
A young college graduate is struggling to find a job. He lives in a flat with his younger, employed sister, revolutionary brother and widowed mother. The strain of the situation ultimately causes him to hallucinate.
The film opens up with the protagonist’s bus ride to an office he is interviewing with. And there are several visuals of bus travel that are intercut in the title sequence.
The aim of these visuals is to give the audience a sense of instability, a sense of crowdedness of the city. The tight shots are also meant to give a feeling of claustrophobia, to prepare us to enter the mind of the protagonist.
But, the visual that stands out for me is one showing a close-up of the hands of passengers, clinging onto the rail within the bus.
To me this shot seemed symbolic of life in the city. Of people clinging onto something steady, in a world where things move fast and anything could topple any moment. And the protagonist too is someone seeking such a stability in his life – a job. Something that will let him stay grounded. Will make him feel at peace and in control of things.
Whether it is a job that finally lets him have his peace is another matter. You’d know if you watched the film. But, this visual keeps popping up in my mind again and again, whenever I think of the film.