Ray has an unmatched feeling for the moments when a situation catches people unawares and minds perceptibly expand or contract when confronted with some infinitesimal stress. Mahanagar is particularly rich in these glimpses into minds at sea. (BFI Notes.)
As we watch the sky-blue figure stroll away to the far side of the field we hear a bunch of drunken Fabians clambering over the wall…
…a microcosm of India today, the 20th century inexorably imposing itself on a way of life still steeped in the taboos of tradition. (BFI Notes)
Mahanagar is deceptively lyrical, yet profoundly insightful examination of modern society: the obsolescence of cultural tradition, the financial instability of an emerging economy, the changing role of women. (BFI Notes)
1. In describing the differences between traditional modes of behaviour and the rational mentality of modern capitalism Max Weber writes:
“The type of backward traditional form of labour is today very often exemplified by women workers, especially unmarried ones. An almost universal complaint of employers of girls, for instance German girls, is that they are almost entirely unable and unwilling to give up methods of work inherited or once learned in favour of more efficient ones, to adapt themselves to new methods, to learn and to concentrate their intelligence, or even to use it at all. Explanations of the possibility of making work easier, above all more profitable to themselves, generally encounter a complete lack of understanding. Increases of piece-rates are without avail against the stone wall of habit.” (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism)Habit here means custom, which in the case of these German girls is closely tied to the feelings - the domestic household an essentially conservative and emotional place.
For the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilisation never before achieved.”)