Satyajit Ray John Coleman - Essay

John Coleman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Company Limited has a bleak, slightly off-key title to British ears and this quality of getting things just that shade wrong is an element in what it is all about. The film takes its place in a trio (the other two, Days and Nights in the Forest and The Adversary) concerned with the effects of what we did to India and Indians. We left them a language, English, and a way of life not unconnected with capitalism. These facts Mr Ray now occupies himself with stressing and, under their impact, he seems to be producing increasingly unnerved and unnerving movies….

If one leans on the pictorial style, it is because it is nearly consistently ugly, harsh, almost as if Ray had decided (and, for heaven's sake, he worked under Renoir and himself made the visually ravishing Charulata) to send up a gamut of Hollywood postures…. Noises, the dialogue, the eerily clumsy or parody appearance of things begin to come together into a statement of sorts. This is Ray's bitterest work: that much is certain. He couldn't otherwise have permitted the visual going to get so rough.

And the script, which is credited to him, based on a novel by Shankar, is more replete with chucked-in English than any other of his I can remember…. Ray, who has no effective audience at home (where it is all song and dance), must make his films for himself or for an audience cautiously sensed as out there, which would be you and me. His predicament as an artist is unenviable and one sympathises with it.

John Coleman, "The Company He Keeps," in New Statesman (© 1974 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 87, No. 2241, March 1, 1974, p. 304.