Nayak: The Hero

1966 [BANGLA]


IMDb Rating 8.4 10 4072

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by gbill-74877 8 / 10

On success in life

This film from director Satyajit Ray reminded me a little bit of Ingmar Bergman's 'Wild Strawberries', as in each case a protagonist takes a trip in order to receive a big award, and thinks back on his life with some regrets. In this case, it's not an elderly professor, it's a middle-aged movie star (Uttam Kumar), and instead of a car ride with a daughter-in-law, it's a train trip where he meets a young journalist (Sharmila Tagore). She serves as his conscience and mirror over a series of discussions the pair have, and what she reflects is often not very pretty.

At the film's outset the famous star seems to have it all with his success and good looks, and Kumar looks pretty damn cool in shades and when he blows smoke rings. It's soon apparent that he's so worried about someday losing his fame that he's lost bits of his humanity along the way. Via flashbacks we find that he's done some petty things to others, abandoned the altruistic cause of a friend, and taken advantage of women who want to get into films. There is something empty and pathetic about his life that those who get to know him see, including the journalist and a mother and daughter in his compartment who are adoring fans, but see how he pops sleeping pills and gets plastered. And yet, he's always cast as a hero (a 'nayak'), and to the legions of fans who crowd around him in the train stations, he is one.

The meaning of that is pretty clear, but it's not as simple as just showing us how someone on a pedestal may be unworthy of being there. More generally, the film shows us how the most outwardly successful people may be damaged or flawed within, and carry a lot of insecurity. It does this in a thoughtful and reflective way, avoiding simple black/white characterizations. Ray adds depth to the story with a subplot in which a salesman wants his wife to be friendly to another man in order to help win him over. It adds to the overall question, to what lengths should one go in order to be (financially) successful? And regardless of whether one can stay on top, he reminds us via a powerful dream sequence featuring skeletal arms poking up out of mounds of cash, that death will come for us all.

The performances are all fantastic, including an old curmudgeon who eschews "modern movies", and Tagore, who is intelligent, sassy in a reserved way, and beautiful too. I liked how Ray didn't have her succumb to the movie star's charms, as a weaker director/writer might have done. He also uses the train very well, both in moving the action around its various compartments and aisles, and in giving us the scenery outside. In one moment Kumar stares down at the adjacent rail track streaming by with a glint of light on it, and it made me wonder if he was wishing he could be like that rail, staying straight as the train of life rumbled along, and always in the light. The film also made me wonder if the main character reflected a little of Ray himself, who by this time was famous (ala Fellini's 8 ½). It's a film that I might rate higher with a second viewing, and may have held back a little here because I have a slight aversion to stories involving the problems of famous people. It was memorable and had a strong ending.

Reviewed by SAMTHEBESTEST 8 / 10

A Classic Train Journey by Satyajit Ray which shatters all the illusional and realistic insights of Film Industry.

Nayak / The Hero (1966) : Brief Review -

A Classic Train Journey by Satyajit Ray which shatters all the illusional and realistic insights of Film Industry. Being a filmmaker yourself, you need guts to show some devastating and bitter facts of Film Universe and Satyajit Ray did just that daring thing with Nayak and don't ask how and on what level. It is on a level which can't be matched by other Indian filmmakers, at least it's not been matched yet in last 5 decades. I remember watching Hollywood Classic Sunset Boulevard (1950) where genius director Billy Wilder showed many secrets of Hollywood industry and made a personality driven psychological drama on it. But here, Satyajit Ray has gone one level up by showing the actual iniquities of the industry and eventually proved that it's not a clean space as it seems to normal people. How dare did he do it? I mean being director himself he added so many shackling quotes about the actors and filmmaking in the film. "There is lot of glamour in the films but they have no connection with art", this dialogue is there in the film and i was like, this guy is beyond any barrier. I mean he didn't fear to tell so many bad things about the film industry THROUGH a film, yeah that's something. En route to Delhi to receive an award, a Bengali film star reevaluates his success through his fellow passengers, dreams and past experiences and also learns the falsism behind the glamour world. Uttam Kumar is a acting genius and this film is yet another milestone in his legacy. Sharmlila Tagore is brilliant as artist an beautiful as an actress and i don't think i could've asked for more. A grand salute to Master Satyajit Ray for this timeless Classic with never seen before Realism on Film industry and it's stars. This is Pure Art and much more than what you call gutsy.

RATING - 8/10*

By - #samthebestest.

Reviewed by robert-temple-1 10 / 10

One of the great classic train journey films

This early film by the Great Master, Satyajit Ray (Ray should be pronounced 'rye', by the way, which few people seem to realize), has the original title of NAYAK, and was also released as NAYAK: THE HERO. It has recently been released by Artificial Eye as a Blue-Ray in high definition, clearly made from the negative, and the film is as crisp as new, without any scratches or faults at all. Most of the action of the film, set in the late 1950s or early 60s, takes place in the first class carriages of the Calcutta to Delhi Express train. This film takes its place in the pantheon of great train films, alongside Jerzy Kawalwerowicz's NIGHT TRAIN (POCIAK, 1959, see my review) and Josef von Sternberg's SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932). The first few minutes of the initial scenes in the film do not at all suggest the fascination of what is to come, so impatient people need to rest easy until the real action commences. Once everyone is on the train and the long overnight journey commences, Ray's mastery of pace and style creates another of his masterpieces with seemingly effortless ease. The subtlety and sophistication of the film is truly astonishing. But then, Ray always takes one's breath away. This is one of the few Ray films I had never seen before. It features an exquisite and restrained performance by Sharmila Tagore (distant relative of Rabindranath Tagore), who had made her screen debut with Ray in his masterpiece THE WORLD OF APU (1959) seven years earlier, and appeared in other Ray films later on. The lead role is brilliantly played by Uttam Kumar (1926-1980, dying young at only 53, but after appearing in an astonishing 157 films). As a troubled young movie star of vacuous popular films, he knows that he has betrayed his inner self for money and fame, and he pours his heart out on the train to Sharmila Tagore. His good looks contorted into such earnest, thoughtful expressions reminded me so much of Lawrence Harvey towards the end of his life. Many characters are on the train, and their parallel stories run alongside the main one of Kumar's, who is known as 'the hero' in his films and give this film its title. The casting is superb, as usual, the directorial magic of Ray casts its usual spell upon the viewer, and we are lost in this moving world of the train and its stories, a transcendental caravan making its way across the Indian landscape ('it is harder and dryer now that we have crossed the border of Bengal'; 'you are harder and dryer too') in a kind of dream. Kumar has dreams on the train which are excellently filmed, and the train journey itself becomes one as well. Ray's films were all made in the Bengali language, which is incomprehensible to the inhabitants of other parts of India, so that Ray is surprisingly unknown to India as a whole. Most Indians are wholly lost in the make-believe world of 'Bollywood' musicals and have no interest whatsoever in serious or meaningful films. I have never met any Indian from the west of India who has ever seen a Ray film. They would have to have subtitles, and would find Ray's films too thoughtful and would consider them unentertaining. This is a great pity, because Ray was an artist of international stature, and for some decades his portrayals of Indian life and culture experienced worldwide success and acclaim, and gave India a huge cultural reputation. India should pay more attention to him. But we also must keep reviving and studying his masterpieces, the most famous of which are of course THE APU TRILOGY, though my own personal favourite apart from that wonderful trilogy is THE MUSIC ROOM (1958), a mesmerising film about a man obsessed with music, which is almost forgotten today. This film, THE HERO, has much to say, and it achieves some profound insights into human character and motivations. It is also spell-binding in its quiet peeling away of the layers of conceit and deceit in our human affairs.

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