Based on Mani Shankar Mukherjee’s eponymous novel, Jana Aranya revolves around Somnath, an educated young man in Calcutta looking for a job. Highlighting the economic crisis of the time, Somnath goes desperately from one office to another and fails to land a job despite his qualifications.
After one such unsuccessful interview, he meets Bishu da, who encourages him to start a business. Though Somnath is initially opposed to the idea, he eventually starts working as a self-employed middleman. He soon finds himself making compromises. His friend Sukumar faces the same crisis, and after being unable to land a job, he becomes a taxi driver. Sukumar’s sister, meanwhile, is forced to take up sex work.
Pandering to a client to acquire a big order, Somnath is caught in a dilemma when he has to provide him with a prostitute. He ends up fixing an appointment with Sukumar’s sister. Ashamed and confused, Somnath offers her the money and asks her to leave. She refuses, however, telling him that she prefers to earn her living rather than taking hand-outs. Somnath ultimately bags the deal but is eaten away by his remorse.
Directed by Satyajit Ray, Jana Aranya (1976) is a part of Ray’s ‘Calcutta Trilogy’, which explore the urban crises of the city.