Neeta (Choudhury) is a bright, hardworking young woman who lives in poverty with her refugee family in Calcutta. She becomes the family’s primary breadwinner working as a tutor, a responsibility she undertakes even as she hopes (and studies) for college. Normally, it would fall to her older brother Shankar (Chatterjee) to support the clan, but he is committed to becoming a famous musician and spends his hours practicing and dreaming. Over time, the family’s fortunes take a turn for the worse, and Neeta’s hopes for a brighter future recede, as she becomes overwhelmed with the burdens she has willingly carried for so long.
Ghatak’s stunning, melancholy masterpiece has only recently become available again, thanks to the Criterion Collection. This rediscovered classic endures as a powerful contemplation of poverty and its corrosive effects, as we witness Neeta’s selfish, desperate family take shameless advantage of the strongest among them, with devastating effects. What elevates “Star” is how subtly Ghatak unfolds the narrative, which never descends into histrionics or excess melodrama. Dinen Gupta’s gorgeous, striking cinematography only adds to the film’s impact. The luminous Choudhury breaks your heart in the lead, and the other players are equally fine. Undeniably sad but immensely satisfying, this “Star” represents filmmaking at its finest.