(Last Updated on : 19/09/2014)
Teen Kanya (1961) is a film by Satyajit Ray and it is a collection of three different stories where the protagonist is a woman. Teen Kanya was based on the 3 short stories by Rabindranath Tagore; Postmaster, Monihara, and Samapti. The screenplay and the music for the film were provided by none other than Satyajit Ray. The ace director has from time to time taken inspiration from Tagore for his films. Apart from the stories Satyajit Ray films had beautiful Rabindra sangeet
that suited that particular situation.
As far as the plot of The Postmaster is concerned it revolves around Nandalal (Anil Chatterjee) and Ratan (Chandana Banerjee). While Nandalal is a young man from Kolkata Ratan is a child who works as a maid at his home. Born and brought up in a city the village is boring to him. In fact as a pastime he starts teaching Ratan to read and write. While for Nanadalal it is just another work, Ratan becomes attached to him. An orphan she has hardly known love and care. But the postmaster's kind gesture touches her heart. With time a tender bond develops between the two.
In the meantime Nandalal is bedridden with malaria. It is Ratan who looks after him and cures him with her efforts. However the suffering has already led Nandalal to make a decision; to leave the village. Going by his own decision he resigns. Ratan feels emotionally battered. On the other hand Nanadalal prepares to leave the village without even realising how attached Ratan has become. In the final scenes as he leaves he offers money to Ratan for her services. Ratan is heartbroken but she is too proud to show her emotions to someone who cannot comprehend them. She refuses the money. A new postmaster has arrived and she busies herself with doing his chores infront of Nanadalal.
In the last scene Nandalal stands with the money in his hands, overwhelmed by emotions, he puts it back in his pocket and leaves forever.
Monihara (The Lost Jewels) deals with a woman who is obsessed with jewelries. The film begins with the village schoolteacher (Gobinda Chakravarti) narrating a story to a strange whose face is covered. The story is about an affluent man, Phanibhusan (Kali Banerjee) and his wife Manimalika (Kanika Majumdar). They resided in the neighborhood long time back. Manimalika was obsessed about ornaments. Childless the only thing she dreamed about was expensive jewelleries and ornaments. She increased her treasure by nagging her husband. Phanibhusan fulfils her demands in the hope that she will care and love him in return. In fact Manimalika is quite cold to Phanibhusan.
Apart from collecting such valuables she is also immensely possessive about them. She is under the constant threat that somebody will take away all her jewels. Unfortunately Phanibhushan's business gets destroyed because of a fire. Manimalika, now fears that he will probably ask for the jewels. To test him she places the suggestion of selling her jewels. As he a little bit of interest in the idea she panics. She calls up a cousin and decides to run away from the house with all her money. The last time when the audiences see the wife she is leaving the house with all her possessions. On returning home Phanibhushan is perplexed at his wife's absence. One learns from the story that Manimalika is killed and she returns as a ghost to haunt the house. As the story telling session of the schoolmaster comes to an end the hooded figure says that although he enjoyed the story it has many slips. When the teacher expresses his surprise he reveals that he is the husband, Phanibhushan and disappears.
The last part of Teen Kanya is Samapti (The Conclusion). This heart-warming story revolves around Amulya (Soumitra Chatterjee) and Mrinmoyee (Aparna Sen). The plot opens with a tomboyish Mrinmoyee who wanders around the village throughout the day playing pranks and getting spanked by her mother in return. Enters Amulya, an educated young man from Kolkata, who comes to the village to spend time with his mother. His mother has arranged a match for him and he is asked to go and see the girl. On returning from the visit he loses one of his shining shoes. Amulya catches the culprit, its Mrinmoyee.
Against everyone's wish he marries Mrinmoyee as he falls in love with her. Mrinmoyee, on her part is too immature to comprehend his feelings or even the marriage. She is angry and wants to free herself from this shackle. On the wedding night she flees by climbing a tree and goes to riverbank to swing and look after her squirrel. Her mother in law is scandalized. She is locked in the room. Enraged she throws things at Amulya. Disappointed Amulya returns to Kolkata and she is sent back to her mother's house. As Amulya goes away Mrinmoyee is shown to grow up slowly. She starts missing him and awaits his return. She also writes an amateurish letter to Amulya.
Satyajit Ray beautifully shows the metamorphosis of a child to a grown woman through the episode where her pet squirrel dies. She remains unfazed by the news of its death. She is no longer interested in the squirrel or the life she had been spending so long. On the other hand Amulya is called back from Kolkata by his mother on the excuse of false illness. Amulya makes a last try by going to look for Mrinmoyee in heavy rain. Unable to find her he returns home but is taken aback when he sees her in the room. The film ends on a happy note.
Teen Kanya marked the debut of another female Bengali actor
; Aparna Sen. She is brilliant as the madcap Mrinmoyee. However amongst the three stories The Postmaster is definitely most touching. It is also considered one of the finest works of Satyajit Ray. The narrative is simple with an equally simple way of narration and the performances are outstanding. Chandana Banerjee immortalised her character of Ratan. The scene where the postmaster and Ratan part ways has very little dialogue. Rather it is the silence that portrays the emotions. Truly it is cinema at its best.
Teen Kanya is a journey into women's hearts. Through the three films three different kinds of women are shown with myriad of emotions. Teen Kanya received several accolades and awards nationally and internationally.
President's Silver Medal, New Delhi, 1961 (for Samapti)
Golden Boomerang, Melbourne, 1962
Selznik Golden Laurel Award, Berlin, 1963