Based on a novel by the noted writer, Jatugriha is the first film of Tapan Sinha that concentrates on an individual relationship and is not a commentary on society. The film explores the inner reasons for the break-up a marriage – the deep phobias and tensions that underlies the relationship between two good and sincere but egotistical individuals who love each other deeply but paradoxically cannot build a sustainable relationship. It does this with no melodramatic scenes - there is nno marital violence, no extraordinary events that bring them to a breaking point. Its all calm and civilised on surface, while the tensions build up within. Sinha brings this to us in a series on mundane incidents - such as the husband snapping at not finding his files, and the wife responding with a cold and aloof reproof. Like the wife desperately seeking an anchor, while the husband not realising her need. The wife showing a callous lack of interest in a building project they had started together and in which the husband had showered his attention.
It is a very stylised film, perhaps the most stylised of all of Tapan Sinha's films. The bond between Shatadal and Madhuri is juxtaposed against a very stormy and tension filled marriage of their friend Nikhilesh (Bikash Ray) and his wife (Binata Ray). It also serves to show Shatadal and Madhuri what their lives can become. The senes from their marriage are filmed in a series of flashbacks each structured to show the gradual deterioration of their bonds. Yet there is tenderness, both in the past and the present and this is brought out through snatches of conversation, through reminiscensing about their life together and through a range of cintematic artifices.
Not many remember this film, although it certainly was one of Tapan Sinha's best. Perhaps the theme disturbed many. It was a very bold theme in the ealry sixties - exploring marital discord and advocating divorce as a solution to irreconcileable differences.
Both Uttam Kumar and Arundhati Debi excel in their roles. Arundhati is spot on, playing the role of Madhuri, the estranged wife of Satadal (Uttam Kumar) an archaeologist. She is brilliant as the independent minded woman who starts a new life as a school teacher after her divorce yet retains her affection for her ex-husband. Uttam Kumar matches her frame by frame. Watch for example, the emotions that flit across his face in the very last scene where they talk to each other across while sitting in their own train compartments. I have rarely seen so much longing expressed in a single flleting sequence - and its without any extravagant gestures.
Cinematography is excellent. This was a film that needed close-ups and Bimal Mukherjee does a great job with them. Editing too is very good. The film does not flag for a moment. Music ny Ashish Khan is somewhat less impressive, and Tapan Sinha's use of the Rabindrasangeet "Amar Je shob Ditey Hobey.." is not really on par with is glorious use of tagore's songs in his films - Remember Atithee?
But these are small cribs. Overall this is a film for a mature audience and a film that lingers long after the trains of Shatadal and Madhuri have parted ways.