Dipen Guhawrote on Oct 8 2009 10:33PM
"Abhijjan"(1962) represents a depurture in Ray's career which can only be explained in terms of his periodic urge to break out of the confines of what he is best reputed to do, and to try hand at something unfamiliar. The world of taxi drivers and smugglers and kept women as far removed from Ray's middle-class experience as anything could be.
Narsingh, the taxi driver, owns a 1930 Chrysler and runs it in a small town area of West Bengal. His ancestors had come from the distant state of Rajasthan and belonged to the warrior caste. Narsingh ( Soumitra Chatterjee) tries hard to act up to heroic antecedents, and suffers what he considers his fallen state with an aggressively stony silence. He gets involved with a smuggler who tempts him to join him as a partner in a transport company. Meanwhile, the smuggler's mistress Gulabi ( Waheeda Rehman) finds herself attracted to Narsingh, who in turn falls for a Christian schoolteacher ( Ruma Guha Thakurta) from a family that comes from the same town as his. She is, however, committed, against her family's wishes, to a one-legged, pious-looking son of a Christian priest, and eventually uses Narsingh, whom she considers a friend and no more, to elope with her lover. Meanwhile, Narsingh has grown used to, and fond of, the smuggler's mistress. When his ambition of learning English from, and perhaps gaining the hand of, the Christian girl are foiled, and the smuggling activities of the merchant about to be exposed , Narsingh takes the option offered by Gulabi to go away and set up a farmstead, and finally accepts her into his life.