Agantuk – Satyajit Ray’s Last Film

– When I read this film’s plotline on IMDB of this film, it just said, 

A well-off family is paid an unexpected, and rather unwanted, visit by a man claiming to be the woman’s long-lost uncle. The initial suspicion with which they greet the man slowly dissolves as he regales them with stories of his travels, tales that are at odds with their conventional middle-class perspective on the world.

– And I thought, “Wtf? How can a movie be made with this plotline?” I was piqued.

– Ray has absolutely no hurry in narrating the story. It’s a relief to watch his films after all the swishes and jittery cuts of modern cinema. The most camera movements you will get in his films are the slow zoom-in or the panning camera. That’s it. The rest is taken care of by the performance.

– The point of this film is to put a mirror in front of ourselves, as individuals and as a society. The doubts that come up in a husband’s mind when an uncle his wife has never seen, arrives at their place, is typical suspicion of a middle-class man. Through the actions that the couple take to verify, Ray is literally showing us a mirror to what we call “civilisation” and how we tend to think.

– Love the expressions of the kids who see the uncle and listen to his tales. The small scene in which the uncle shows them a “magic” trick is brilliant!


– A poignant moment that’s symbolic of Ray’s films. The uncle gives his niece’s son a parting gift. The niece, in typicla fashion, asks the kid to say “Thank you”. But, the uncle contradicts her. Says the smile on his face is more than what words can say. That’s Satyajit Ray’s films as well. The visuals and the performance are immensely more powerful than actual words. And another moment is when the uncle gets the kid to promise that he shall not be a frog in the well. Ray is the uncle. We are all the kids.

– I did feel the acting and the editing in some places were quite jarry. Also felt the climax was a bit overly dramatic. And the tribal dance which several critics have described as a masterpiece was boring for me. We’ve seen it in Aranyer Din Ratri. It’s got me wondering what addiction did Ray have with tribals? But, then I came to know that Ray directed this film almost on his deathbed, and from within an oxygen tent. Man! It’s ok to forgive these little flaws.

– Also, I sat upright when I saw the lady of the house, reading an Agatha Christie novel. I grew up in Chennai in a flat filled with middle-class women, and not once have I seen one of them relaxing with a novel. Maybe they’ll read a magazine. Am in awe of Bengal and the middle-class they had couple of decades ago!

– Liked how there is no single narration of the uncle’s life. We hear bits and pieces here and there and we are left to fit together the puzzle ourselves. Brilliant!

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