Days and Nights in the Forest


India 1969, 115 minutes

Programme Notes

Four young men drive out from Calcutta for a short break in the country. Losing their way, they come across an unoccupied rest house, bribe the caretaker to let them stay, and set out for the local village in search of fun. The friends are the Indian manifestation of a widespread type: westernised yet still held by tradition; comfortably off but avidly pursuing careers that do not necessarily interest them; self-centred and thoughtless, with a good opinion of themselves based on lack of experience and insight. All are high-caste and, while they don’t boast about it (it’s just a fact of life), they regard the poor with indifference and use money to manipulate them. The theme of power and money used thoughtlessly runs through the film, entwined with casual jokes, absurdities and sharp observation of their relationships with each other and the outside world.

Despite such unpromising protagonists director Satyajit Ray keeps a light touch, commenting on a multitude of human weaknesses with wit and compassion. The film follows them through boozy nights, social embarrassments, encounters with village girls and well-bred city ladies, through tentative romance, innocent games and outright seduction. Ray, like his master Renoir, with whose work this film has often been compared, has a way of creating a relaxed atmosphere that frees his actors to respond to each other; the result here is a natural ensemble performance. The photography is masterly, portraying the peace of a forest clearing on a still summer day, then moving quickly and lightly around the group, picking up fleeting but significant looks and gestures like the eyes of an alert, intelligent observer.

At the end one of the friends has achieved a degree of self-knowledge, while the others at least have self-doubts. The holiday over, real life has to be faced again, but perhaps it won’t be quite the same again.

Hari: Samit Bhanja
Sekhar: Rabi Ghosh
Asim: Soumitra Chatterjee
Sanjoy: Subhendu Chatterjee
Aparna: Sharmila Tagore
Jaya: Kaveri Bose
Director: Satyajit Ray
Photography: Soumendu Roy, Purnendu Bose
Music: Satyajit Ray
Screenplay: Satyajit Ray
from a novel by: Sunil Ganguly


“Charming …. Delightful!”

“What a rich microcosm!”

“A very dynamic film. It went a lot deeper than I imagined it would do at first”

“Gentle, inconsequential & redolent of the British raj: becoming unexpectedly deep towards the end”

“Slow to start but it improved (as it went along)”

“Lots of lovely moments but a bit too evenly paced – tending towards flatness”

“Interesting study of attitudes & customs from a bygone era”

“It’s Chekhov deep in the country !! (where Calcutta = Moscow)”

“Ingenuous yet gripping – and thanks again for Black & White!”

“Thank goodness cinema technology has improved ….”

“Who needs 35mm ??”