Swami is one such story from the master's collection depicting an array of human emotions and family setup in rural Bengal. It starts off showing Saudamini in a set up where her mind has been nourished by a sea of knowledge through the books her maternal uncle has been getting for her. Despite the backwardness of her village, Mini, as she is lovingly referred to by her uncle (Utpal Dutt in a very small role) keeps herself engaged with Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy and the like. She is progressive, a dreamer and someone who doesn't mince words. Her incessant clashes with her mother are good-humoured but it also reflects the conflict between her modern thoughts and the widow's jaded beliefs. The middle path is attained by the uncle who keeps supporting Mini's ways and admonishing his own sister for being so old-fashioned.
Mini feels dejected after marriage and maintains an aloof distance from her husband who is a saint soul. She does not get too involved in the domestic operations as well because for her this marriage is a punishment. But there is a time when Mini does change. She realises that for Ghanshyam she is the only near one and he does love her. He might not say it too often but the feelings are reflected through his actions.
Mini is extremely perturbed by the disparate behaviour meted out to Ghanshyam (played with
While the story is a small one, I feel the director should have invested more time in developing the bond between the leads because then Mini's reconciliation would have been justified. For a girl who is erudite and well-read, self-esteen and honour should be a bigger issue than slight and insult. This thread is underdeveloped here.
Also, if Ghanshyam was aware of Mini's nubile romance, how come he continues to be so calm all the time even when Narendra walks into his house and is seen holding Mini's hands clandestinely. Why does he insist Mini take care of his basic needs when he comes visiting? Is he testing her? And then he believes his mother and orders Mini to apologise? Why?
Questions galore. Guess the times were different then.
I was really disappointed that Girish Karnad's role wasn't meaty enough. He is too straightjacketed and one-dimensional. Let me rummage through my library to find a better Girish Karnad classic. Because this actor is capable of fireworks...