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Charulata (Lonley wife) by Satyajit Ray Screenplay

Updated on April 11, 2015
3.5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Charulata

Charulata is a 1964 bengali drama film by India's most renowned director, Satyajit ray and based on Nastanirh (The Broken Nest) written by India's most renowned writer and Nobel prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore.

The title role, Charulata is brilliantly portrayed by Madhabi Mukherjee. Two other very important characters, Charulata's husband and husband's cousin are brilliantly portrayed by Shailen Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee respectively.

Subrata Mitra, with his camera created one of most artistic and aesthetically pleasing. Not just the look, this film has extraordinary Ophulsian camera movements and most sensible use of zoom. Screenplay and Music are by Satyajit Ray. Most of the film is set in a huge house and a garden. Every frame looks authentic and brilliant. Art direction is by Bansi Chandragupta. With sharp scissors, Dulal Dutta has kept the editing simple but maintained the required pace.

This film is set during Bengal Renaissance which is said to have begun with Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1775–1833) and continued until the death of Rabindranath Tagore in 1941 and explores the lives of the "Bhadralok", Bengalis of wealth who were part of the Bengal Renaissance and highly influenced by the Brahmo Samaj. Nastanirh was written as a critique of men who professed to follow the ideals of the Renaissance, but failed to do so within their own families. This film remains to be one of the favorite films of Satyajit Ray among his own films.


Charulata title
Charulata title
Charulata ignored
Charulata ignored

Titles (0 - 3 mins)

It starts with 3 mins of title sequence with a serene background music while Charulata is embroidering a "B" on a cloth representing a modern woman and ends with a emphasizing zoom out.

Loneliness of Charu (3 - 15 Mins)

After the title follows a sequence that takes you directly into Charu's world. This sequence lasts about 8 mins where Charu is alone, reading Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay book, looking outside world with her opera lens through windows while her husband, Bhupati, is busy with his press without even noticing her as he passes by her. Throughout this sequence, there is no dialogue and music. Camera follows her effortless exploring the geography of the house and her world.

This sequence is followed by 5 mins conversation while having dinner between them. Even during this conversation, he talks about liberal views on which Charu is not really that interested.

Charulata and her sister-in-law
Charulata and her sister-in-law
Charulata meets Amal
Charulata meets Amal

Then comes Amal (15 - 23 Mins)

Charu and her sister-in-law play a card game. When we are getting interested in knowing who the winner would be and once the winner is known, a storm comes. Among the storms enter Amal, Charu's husband's cousin brother. The setting and the way Amal enters makes us fall in love with the character.

Amal takes the blessing of Charu and meets his brother, Bhupati in the Press. Amal has just completed college and tells his brother that he will pursue his writing while Bhupati asks him to work. At the same time, Charu's brother enters who is working in the press. Bhupati shows him as an example.

Bhupati gives the keys in Charulata
Bhupati gives the keys in Charulata
Bhupati and Amal in Charulata
Bhupati and Amal in Charulata

setting progresses (23 - 34 Mins)

Bhupati realises that Charu's brother is really not that motivated to work in the press. He says that more responsibility means more motivation and hands over the keys of the locker to Charu's brother.

Amal sings and have a long conversation with Charu explaining how his life might change after college and how he was enjoying his freedom while Charu tells him to get married which he rejects right away. Amal also goes to the extent of claiming that only a man can understand woman's mind. Satyajit Ray uses food to explain this in a very interesting way.

While Amal picks up a book, his brother Bhupati recognizes the flare to write in him and requests him to invoke that in Charulata as she has a real style in her writing and she is a voracious reader of Bankim Babu. That sets the scene and the motive of Amal.


Charu's Modernism (34 - 51 Mins)

Following this, A five minute long conversation happens between Amal and Charu on modern woman and traditional woman during which a Amal explains that a modern woman knits, reads books and indulges in other arts while a traditional woman's role remains to cook for rest of the family. During this conversation, Charu's sister-in-law sleeps resembling the traditional woman. Charu's ego is now kindled.

The iconic scene starts when a mat is laid in the garden. Charu sits in a swing and says "give me a push". Amal says "New woman. This is going too far". Charu says "Just one push. After that I will manage". Once Amal pushes, Charu manages to keep the swing going and hums a song. Extraordinary camera angles and cuts makes this scene a pleasure to watch. This remains to be a key scene where Amal writes something in Charu's notebook which she asks him not to send anywhere. The scene ends when Charu sees a woman carrying her child through the opera glass and pans towards Amal and the shot stays there for a while. What Charu experiences at that moment is left to audience imagination. Probably, it's the conflict between being a traditional woman and seeing Amal as her child or being a modern woman and seeing him as a potential partner who can take care of her.

Charulata confused
Charulata confused
Charulata's brother and sister-in-law planning
Charulata's brother and sister-in-law planning

Before the stakes increase (51 - 65 mins)

After speaking with Charu's sister-in-law, Amal sends his writing to a magazine which Charu has asked him not to.

Bhupati speaks with Charu about Amal and asks if he has any talent. Charu's face is half lit. In this entire Scene, Charu's confusion is shown through lighting and her complex expressions. Bhupati first asks Amal about his wiring and then tells him that a marriage proposal is there and he should get married for which Amal denies. A sharp zoom out reveals Charu's shock.

Meanwhile, Charu's brother while lying in his bed reveals his plan to his wife. A scene where two people are speaking is shot in such an engaging way. Be it the start of the scene and the way his wife walks and sits on the bed where he is lying and the shot where both the faces are in the frame as they speak. Not just in this scene, but in all the scenes, the actors will naturally be doing something rather than being in one place and telling their dialogue. This is a very effective way to engage the audience in the story. Charu's brother reveals his plan to steal all the money and leave the place.

Amal sing a song on the piano which probably evokes Charu's latent sexual feelings. Another beautifully shot scene. Especially Amal's point of view shot where he jumps and comes towards Charu. The camera comes forward with a jump.

Charulata unhappy
Charulata unhappy
Charulata contemplates
Charulata contemplates
Charulata sobs
Charulata sobs
Meeting in Charulata
Meeting in Charulata

Stakes increase (65 - 90 Mins)

The story which Amal has sent to the magazine gets published. As he runs around the house telling everyone this good news, Charu is not happy. She cringes in her room. She even lies when Bhupati asks why did she take so much time to open the door.

She goes back to the swing. An extreme close up indicates her contemplation. Cuts to a visual feast of her contemplation. She gets her story published and slaps the magazine on Amal's head. She tells him that even she is a writer now, eventually gets emotional and sobs holding him. The dilemma in both the character's minds amplifies.

As liberals have won in London, Bhupati and his friends get together for a party. In the party, they discuss the good days ahead and celebrates the win. Charu's brother is also part of the party. During the end of the party, one of Bhupati's friend who has discovered that Charu has written in a magazine announces the good news to everyone. This comes a surprise to Bhupati as Charu has not told this to Bhupati. Meanwhile, Charu's brother as per his plan robs all the money and tells everyone that he is going out of town for a work. In parallel to this Amal and Charu are engaged in an intimate conversation.


Bhupati cheated
Bhupati cheated
Charulata breaks down
Charulata breaks down
Charulata climax
Charulata climax

Broken Nest (90 - 120 Mins)

Bhupati goes in his horse cart to meet his lawyer when the lawyer reveals all the wrongs of Bhupati's brother-in-law and the big sum that Bhupati owes.

After meeting the lawyer, Bhupati comes back home. Charu is really not interested in Bhupati's troubles. She tells Amal not to leave the house whatever may come. Amal is struck between Charu's love and Bhupati's misery. Bhupati's expresses his frustration in the broken press. He questions Amal how can people who are so close to you break your trust. This pricks Amal.

Next day Amal leaves. Bhupati and Charu have a conversation in Beach when Charu offers to continue the press and she will also help him. This makes Bhupati extremely happy. When they return home, they find a letter from Amal. Charu breaks down. Bhupati sees this and is confused. He roams around the city for a while and returns home. Bhupati and Charu's hand comes close but freezes. This is followed by a few other freeze shots. According to Satyajit ray, these freeze shots indicate the word "Thak" which is the last word in the book.

Overall a true masterpiece and this is a must watch for his emotional and technical values by any film lover.

© 2014 HK


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Makes me wanna watch the movie immediately...... Wonderful.... Truly awesome.

    • Justin Zipprich profile image

      Justin Zipprich 

      4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA.

      It's great to learn about film from other places...


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