If I had to pick one decade as my favorite for movies, I think I would have to go with the 1960s. Picking my six favorite movies from that decade? That’s a little more difficult. (It’s hard enough to limit myself to six favorites from a single year of the decade.) After much debate, I’ve decided on the following films (listed chronologically), though there are probably about two dozen other titles that could just as easily have made the cut.
After the taxi in which he’s traveling breaks down at the start of Satyajit Ray’s 1965 film The Coward, Kolkata resident Amitabha Roy (Soumitra Chatterjee) finds himself stranded in the countryside, unable to reach his brother-in-law’s house in the town of Hashimara. There’s no chance of leaving before the next day — the car needs a new ignition coil that the local garage doesn’t have in stock, no other taxis are available, the last train has gone — and the only nearby hotel is reportedly a less than pleasant place to stay.
“What’s your line? Tea or forest?” asks a stranger (Haradhan Bannerjee) who has taken an interest in his troubles; after all, why else would anyone be out in the middle of nowhere like this? The stranger himself, Bimal Gupta by name, owns a tea plantation, and he invites the young man to spend the night at his bungalow. As they drive there, Amitabha explains that he’s a screenwriter seeking local color for his next scenario, a romantic tale. “Boy meets girl, boy loses –” Bimal begins, but Amitabha corrects him: “Boy gets.” “Boy gets girl, boy loses girl. Right?” he says. “Exactly,” his guest replies with a laugh. A simple formula — real life proves a bit more complicated.
At the beginning of Satyajit Ray’s 1963 film The Big City, Subrata “Bhombol” Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee) returns home from his job at a Kolkata bank and discovers that his wife, Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), has borrowed tea from a neighbor. In light of their financial difficulties — he’s the sole breadwinner for a household consisting of four adults, a teenager and a child — he finds the act embarrassing. “What choice do I have?” Arati asks. “If you don’t have your tea when you get home, you kick up a fuss.” Subrata has to admit that she’s right, yet he looks and sounds rather dubious when he adds, “You pay no attention to appearances.” It’s a brief exchange, a matter of seconds, seemingly incidental. Shortly thereafter, he prepares to go out again in hopes of collecting payment from a student he tutors. While he combs his hair, Arati can be seen reflected in the mirror, although her image is repeatedly obscured by her husband’s elbow. Again, this is a minor thing, so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable, but like the conversation about the tea, it foreshadows much of what will follow.