The Expedition



The Expedition

directed by Satyajit Ray
Feature film

View a still from the film

Narsingh is a taxi driver, an expert in his trade. His assistant, Rama, rides shotgun, helping customers and minding the car. While Rama radiates affable enthusiasm, Narsingh’s bitterness betrays deep dissatisfaction. He appears to be frustrated by his patrons' lack of respect, and we learn that he has been acutely wounded by his wife's abandonment. But there is a gap more painful than status or romance: the rift between the life that Narsingh leads and the destiny that he yearns to fulfil.

Framing the opening credits, a trio of objects sit on a dashboard. A photograph of Narsingh is flanked by images of heroes on horseback, adorned in majestic finery. Confidently positioned for all to see, they affirm to clients that the driver is a member of the warrior class. Esteemed blood may flow in Narsingh’s veins, but the illustrious path of his forebears eludes him. Although his journey draws him closer to prestige, Narsingh’s ageing valour faces corruption from the darker corners of post-Partition Bengal.

Words by Hugh Maloney

The first scene of The Expedition features an exchange between two men, shot at an uncomfortably close angle. The head of the right-hand figure dominates the frame; the other is seen only within a nearby mirror. The setup of the shot seems purpose-built to disorientate the viewer, and serves to underline the meeting’s claustrophobic intimacy. Spectating from an awkward vantage point, we are unsure where our allegiances lie. We are not welcomed into the conversation, but nor are we entirely excluded from it.

Such obstructed viewpoints lend the film an unchoreographed spontaneity, which reveals the protagonist, Narsingh, to be flawed but relatable. A fistfight that takes place between Narsingh and a group of drunken men is clumsy and confused. The group are unfit and unready for combat, and the resultant fracas is a laughable scuffle. Yet the action holds our attention; its inelegance is rich with suspense, which builds with each lumbering attempt to land a punch.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

More to discover

You can view a trailer for The Expedition here, watch a video on the film by Dilip Pasu here, and read an article about the film on Let's Talk About Bollywood.

Question of the day

Does narrative film rely on empathy?
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Not always. Many times there are unreliable narrators or storytelling that does not induce empathy from the audience. And that can be amazing.

– Leah Hayes, bestselling graphic novelist and musician (via The Brief →)

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