36 Chowringee Lane

Aparna Sen

This haunting film is one of the best studies of alienation ever brought to the screen. Jennifer Kendal lives the role of Violet Stoneham, an ageing Anglo-Indian schoolteacher in early 1980s Calcutta. There are multiple levels of alienation and loneliness that the protagonist faces — first, she is part of a minority community in decline; second, she is growing old and increasingly out of touch with the young people around her; third, she has no family to speak of and faces a lonely future; fourth, her professional, social and economic status is headed downhill. Jennifer’s portrayal is pitch-perfect and is one of the great performances of Indian cinema. The last scene, when she realises the full extent of her isolation as she comes to terms with the callous treatment meted out to her by the young people she had trusted and helped, is one of the most poignant scenes imaginable and is absolutely unforgettable.