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The Hero The Criterion Collection
Criterion Collection, Special Edition
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In this psychologically rich character study, written and directed by Satyajit Ray, Bengali film star Uttam Kumar draws on his real-world celebrity to play Arindam Mukherjee, a matinee idol on the brink of his first flop. When Mukherjee boards an overnight train to Delhi to accept an award, a journalist (Sharmila Tagore) approaches him seeking an exclusive interview, which initiates a conversation that sends the actor reeling down a path of self-examination. Seamlessly integrating rueful flashbacks and surreal dream sequences with the quietly revelatory stories of the train s other passengers, The Hero is a graceful meditation on art, fame, and regret from one of world cinema s most keenly perceptive filmmakers.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New, restored 2K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Interview from 2008 with actor Sharmila Tagore
- New program featuring film scholar Meheli Sen
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by author Pico Iyer and a 1980 tribute to Kumar by Ray
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This is one of the many great 20th century movies set on a train -- production began shortly after the debut of "A Hard Day's Night," whose influence can be felt, along with that of "8 1/2." In "Nayak" (The Hero), Uttam Kumar basically plays himself, a superstar of Indian cinema known for heroic roles. He's terrific, delivering a nuanced and naturalistic performance. A celebrity who has gotten over himself, but enjoys his entitlement and suffers no fools. The star finds himself stuck on a train with his public (no plane is available), and their interactions make for some rich comic moments.
Sharmila Tagore plays the heroine, of sorts, a women's magazine journalist with little interest in the work or fame of our macho actor. The actors' chemistry makes for a fascinating film, even though not much happens. (Ray said there wasn't enough time on a train trip to develop a believable romance, probably for the best.) Ray wrote the screenplay and the stars' dialogue is delightful throughout. Tagore is interviewed in Criterion's extra features, talking about this role and her work as a teen in the final "Apu" film.
Solid supporting cast makes the most of limited screen time in a confined space (the train). Lots of fun mixed in with some sketchy backstage drama delivered as flashbacks. In the end, Ray seems to be saying, the heroic part is getting through life with humanity intact. We do our best, with varying degrees of success. For those not familiar with Ray's films, it's not a bad place to start with that astounding catalog.