Sunday, June 07, 2009
A Scene from NAYAK (Bengali; 1966)
There's a superb sequence in Satyajit Ray's Nayak (Bengali; 1966) where the film-star (played by Uttam Kumar) is talking to a young (and inexperienced, at least where cinema is concerned) female journalist in a railway dining car; the train has stopped at a station, and there is a crowd with its faces pressed against the window, clearly unnerving the journalist (played by Sharmila Tagore); Ray even adds an inspired touch, the ceaseless tapping of the fans' fingers on the window, that not only affects Tagore's character, but also gets under the audience's skin, preventing the scene from being a "comfortable" one for it. Through it all, Kumar's character feigns indifference, the sort of Olympian reserve that, one imagines, might well add to his fans' yearning; and is amused at his female companion's discomfort. Many gazes are in play here: the theatre audience watching the crowd at the train station; the latter itself clamoring for the star's attention; and the celebrity, enjoying the attention, watching the journalist's discomfort; and the journalist herself, hitherto perhaps a bit smug at (what she has imagined is) the shallowness of the celebrity's life, embarrassed by the attention, and feeling the weight the star bears every public moment. I cannot think of a better cinematic representation of the star's aura, of the star's position vis-a-vis the audience.
Satyam commented on the same scene here.