Out of the blue, Anila receives a letter from her uncle Manmohan. After 35 years abroad, he wants to stay a few days with his only living relative. While Anila prepares for his arrival, her husband Sudhindra remains suspicious: what is the nature of this man who invites himself to their home? How can they even know he is who he claims to be? Manmohan's arrival hardly clarifies matters. Cultured and intellectually superior to his perplexed hosts and their friends, he is prepared to play devil's advocate when they quiz him about his past and his motives. Like much of his late work, Ray's final film has a rigidly functional visual style and a rather old-fashioned trust in dialogue ('It's a Bengali invention, discussion,' says Manmohan). For all that, it's a pleasingly graceful last testament, both engrossing and emotionally revealing. Manmohan is clearly Ray himself - a traditionalist yet a stranger in his own land, an anthropologist 'with Shakespeare, Tagore, Marx and Freud in my bloodstream'. The film, which is beautifully played, reflects Ray's ambivalence about the nature of civilisation. It works as a mystery, and as a satire on bourgeois mores - the perpetual struggle between faith and good form. It ends on a subtle, touching, grace note.
Cast and crew