(Last Updated on : 28/03/2014)
Directed by Aparna Sen and produced by Shashi Kapoor
, 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) stars Jennifer Kendall, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Debashree Roy, Geoffrey Kendall, Dina Ardeshir, Soni Razdan, Fae Soares, Reny Roy, Sylvia Philips and others. The music in 36 Chowringhee Lane has been provided by Vanraj Bhatia.
36 Chowringhee Lane is one of those few English films in India
that deals with the culture and problems of a minority community, the Anglo-Indians
. In this Aparna Sen film Violet Stoneham represents this community and plays the character to the hilt. The film presents the cultural outsider who belongs to the Western civilization that the British have left behind. They are probably the primary link to the tradition of English language. In 36 Chowringhee Lane Aparna Sen presents the angst of those people who are crushed down by the weight of dual cultural.
The plot of 36 Chowringhee Lane revolves around an English teacher, Violet Stoneham (Jennifer Kendal). This is post-independent India. Violet lives an uneventful life at 36 Chowringhee Lane, Kolkata
. She teaches Shakespeare despite the fact that her students are least interested in her teachings. Her only companion at home is Sir Toby Belch, her cat. The name of her pet is a clear indication of her love for literature. At school she is close Wendy McGowen (Dina Ardeshir) and the other person is Rosemary (Soni Razdan), her niece. The latter migrates to Australia but keeps in touch through letters.
A visit by her ex student Nandita (Debashree Roy) and her boyfriend Samaresh (Dhritiman Chatterjee), an author, provides her a welcome break from her mundane life. She is elated when Samaresh declares that he wanted to work on his novel in her apartment. As they get married and move into their own home they completely forget about the poor old woman. On a particular Christmas
Violet Stoneham drops in at their new home with a baked cake only to find that the newly wed are having a party and have not even bothered to remember her. Heart broken, she leaves.
The isolation of Stoneham is suggested throughout 36 Chowringhee
Lane. For instance at school she is marginalised by the teaching staff. She is given the charge of teaching grammar to the junior sections whereas she used to teach literature (Shakespeare) to the higher classes. She suffers the nightmares that result out of her loneliness and single life. Her alienation is also visible through the language she speaks. Hers is the colonial language which the masses hardly speak or care about. She, too, has never tried to learn the Bengali language
. This is India, its multiculturalism. But within this framework the likes of Violet Stoneham face tragedy that is imminent in the modern urban Indian society.
The prominent theme in 36 Chowringhee Lane is Christmas. The time span presented in 36 Chowringhee Lane is one year-from one Christmas to another. It is a leitmotif as well. The movie creates brilliant effect in its movement from past to present and vice versa. At one point of time these two time frames converge into one.
Besides these the loneliness of an old woman is also shown. Violet is desperate for companionship. She, however, does not realise it until Samaresh and Nandita arrive. In a scene from 36 Chowringhee Lane Violet is shown to return from school and looks for her keys in the bag. Suddenly she realises that she has given them away to Samaresh. Smiling pleasantly she rings the doorbell. At last she has someone to come back home to.
As far as performances are concerned Jennifer Kendall, wife of Shashi Kapoor, literally lives the role of Violet Stoneham. Her spontaneity is evident the way she shoulders her role in 36 Chowringhee Lane. As far as Dhritiman Chatterjee
and Debashree Roy
are concerned they are perfect as the hypocrite urban educated youth. 36 Chowringhee Lane was Aparna Sen's directorial debut and it proved to be a pathbreaking film. Its subject, narrative, treatment and ideation were completely unprecedented. 36 Chowringhee Lane was widely appreciated nationally and internationally.
36 Chowringhee Lane won National Awards
for Best Director and Cinematographer. Apart from these the Indian movie also won awards at International Film Festival, Philippines and Jennifer Kendall won the Best Actress Award at Evening Standard British Film Awards.