Review: Mahapurush (The Holy Man, 1965)

the holy man

I fear all holy men, it’s a simple principle I live my life by!

Screenplay By: Satjyajit Ray
Directed By: Satyajit Ray

Brevity makes for great comedy, but I’m not sure if it makes for great social commentary. It can make for good social commentary, even decent social commentary. Great social commentary, that needs more depth than brevity. Mahapurush is barely over an hour, and that’s the greatest flaw in the film. The social issue being tackled in this film needed more of an in-depth treatment. I don’t usually call for movies to be longer, but
Mahapurush would have benefited greatly from some added length.

It was easy for me to like Mahapurush, my experiences in life have made me very distrusting of religion. I’m especially leery of religious figures who promise things, or make statements pertaining to, powers and such. The whole blood of Christ thing always wigged me out when I was a Catholic, and as I’ve aged and become more comfortable with being an Atheist I’ve grown even less trusting of religion and religious figures. I’m not sure if Satyajit Ray is completely on my boat, but he’s pretty darn close. It’s clear from Mahapurush that he advocates a questioning of religion and is fearful of the blind obedience that religion can bring about. I appreciated the social commentary on religion in Mahapurush, but I did want more of it than the film was willing to provide.

Mahapurush is also funny, in an observing sort of way. It’s not laugh out loud funny, or comedic in a modern Western sense. However, Mahapurush is funny in the banter it provides and the situations the characters are placed in. The character of Birinchi Baba is funny in the way he is presented as his character is kind of obvious. Srimoti Ray never hides the obviousness of how fake the Baba or his nephew are. That creates a knowing funniness to their actions and attempts at deception.

I’ve made it a mission of mine to discover new, read well respected, directors in the coming months. This is the first film I’ve seen from Srimoti Ray and I’m glad I was able to discover him at this time. Mahapurush is far from a bad film, but it does feel a tad rushed and cut short. Looking at the run times for a few of Srimoti Ray’s other films I know he isn’t averse to making longer films. This entry in his filmography was interesting, and kind of fun, but I have the feeling Srimoti Ray is capable of a lot more. I’m still gonna be avoiding religious figures though, Mahapurush helped cement that fact.




4 responses to “Review: Mahapurush (The Holy Man, 1965)

  1. Its Satyajit Ray. Not Srimoti Ray. Watch his Apu Trilogy and Calcutta Trilogy. His movie Pather Panchali is often considered among the greatest films of all time. Best

  2. I’m well aware of his name, but I use honorific titles in my reviews, and that’s a version of Mr.

  3. Bill , Srimoti is an honorific all right, but you have made a mistake about gender. the proper version of Mr. in Bengali is Sri, not srimoti.

  4. Thanks for the heads up then. 🙂

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