Ajantrik (Pathetic Fallacy/More than a Machine). 1958. India. Directed by Ritwik Ghatak. Screenplay by Ghatak, based on the novel by Subodh Ghosh. With Kali Banerjee, Gangapada Basu, Satindra Bhattacharya. 35mm. In Bengali; English subtitles. 102 min.
Presented in an exceedingly rare 35mm print, Ajantrik is a bittersweet comedy by Ritwik Ghatak, one of India’s greatest filmmakers. Based on a fantastical story about a taxi driver’s undying love for his broken-down car, Ajantrik stars Kali Banerjee, a favorite actor of Ghatak, Satyajit Ray, and Mrinal Sen, who infused his provincial everyman roles with pathos and humor. The relationship of man and anthropomorphized machine, a theme made comical and modernist in the films of Jacques Tati and Charlie Chaplin, is here told through impressionistic and ethnographic episodes along the Ganges delta and a musique concrète of automotive sound effects. Although the first few minutes of Ajantrik are believed lost, this is a screening you should not miss. Print courtesy of the National Film Archive of India.