Dir. Ajoy Kar
Beth's thoughtful discussion of this tender Bengali film dwells mostly on its love story. You should go and read it, because on that subject I don't have a lot to add. As Beth notes, the romance is underscored by a social theme: The cravenness of rich people, and the nobility of poor.
The worst of the rich is embodied in our hero's uncle, who may as well twist his moustache. His rapaciousness is explicit, even in his own words; he as much as asks why he would invite someone to his daughter's wedding who could be of no use to him? And when he rates someone worthy, or potentially useful, he twists himself into knots to please them, feigning interest in their interests, kowtowing and scraping and brown-nosing like a seasoned pro. He is repulsive to watch.
Our hero himself, Ashesh (Soumitra Chatterjee) floats above this plane. While it is clear that Ashesh thinks his uncle's conduct wrong, for most of the film he fails to challenge it, following instead the least-resistance path of doing whatever his uncle asks. Ashesh certainly enjoys the privileges of his station and his wealth, but to his credit he does so without ostentation. He is matter-of-fact about his huge, marble-appointed home, his access to cars and servants. He takes things for granted that are hardly even dreamed of by the girl he falls for, Aloka (a radiantly young Sharmila Tagore), the daughter of a modest schoolteacher who lives with her modest family in a modest home. In one telling scene, Ashesh leaves Aloka alone in a richly decorated room of his sprawling mansion. Aloka grows increasingly alarmed at the perceived abandonment. Ashesh, on his return, is incomprehending of her anger; you don't think I'd leave you alone? he asks her. He tells her that the manservant was around, and the cook, and the driver, a bustling household full of people whom it would not occur to Aloka to turn to for help, who she might not even be aware are present.
But while Ashesh handles his wealth and privilege with a certain amount of nonchalance, while he is naïve and (at least early on) yielding to his uncle's authority, he is nevertheless a good guy, acting gently and without entitlement. Contrast with Ashesh's friend, a young scholar who breaks an engagement with Aloka without so much as telling her. He does this because he has the opportunity to marry a girl with considerably more money and status, Ashesh's cousin, the daughter of Ashesh's awful uncle. Ashesh is disgusted with his friend's venal and cowardly betrayal of Aloka, enough so that it seems friendship-ending. At this point in the film, though, Ashesh keeps his contempt to himself; while we have the sense he knows right from wrong, and has no intention of associating further with that friend, he is not yet ready to speak truth to power.
And so Aloka, serious and proud and alert, presents a contrast to the easy, comfortable wealth of Ashesh and his friends, and their sometimes reprehensible beahvior; Ashesh's conversations with Aloka begin to draw him down the path of standing up to both the petty and grievous wrongs he sees around him. Aloka is bristly and challenges Ashesh's complacency in a way no one ever has before, and Ashesh is both moved and attracted by the challenge. And Aloka's father provides the stark contrast to Ashesh's insufferable uncle. He is the picture of grace and humility, ready to think the best of people and give them second chances, but maintaining his moral standards throughout. And we presume it is the model of Aloka's father that finally inspires Ashesh to challenge his uncle's worldview to his face.
But we must presume, because for some reason this is not shown. Ashesh and his uncle take a car ride together, offscreen, and at the end of this ride the uncle has had a change of heart, offering sincere apologies to the humble and forgiving schoolteacher. Perhaps the message is that public shaming is not an effective tool of social change, but that the seeds of humanity must be sown in private, in one heart at a time.