Ashani Sanket
A poster for Ashani Sanket
Directed bySatyajit Ray
Screenplay bySatyajit Ray
Based onAshani Sanket
by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay
StarringSoumitra Chatterjee
Sandhya Roy
Monu Mukherjee
CinematographySoumendu Roy
Edited byDulal Dutta
Music bySatyajit Ray
Balaka Movies
Distributed byNanda Bhattacharya
Release dates
  • June 1973 (1973-06) (Berlin)
  • 16 August 1973 (1973-08-16) (India)
Running time
101 minutes

Distant Thunder (Bengali: অশনি সংকেত; translit. Ashani Sanket) is a 1973 Bengali film by the Indian director Satyajit Ray, based on the novel by the same name by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay.[1] Unlike most of Ray's earlier films, Distant Thunder was filmed in colour. It stars Soumitra Chatterjee, who headlined numerous Ray films, and the Bangladeshi actress Bobita in her only prominent international role. Today the film features in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.[2] It marked the debut of the theatre star Mrityunjay Sil.[2]


The film is set in a village in the Indian province of Bengal during World War II, and examines the effect of the Great Famine of 1943 on the villages of Bengal through the eyes of a young Brahmin doctor-teacher, Gangacharan, and his wife, Angana. Ray shows the human scale of a cataclysmic event that killed more than 3 million people. The film unfolds at a leisurely pace that reflects the rhythms of village life, but gradually shows the breakdown of traditional village norms under the pressure of hunger and starvation.[3][4]



Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "moving" and "elegiac". He remarks that the film "has the impact of an epic without seeming to mean to" and noted various connections with Ray's own Apu Trilogy (in its casting of Chatterjee and in it being an adaptation of another Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay novel). "It is, however, very different from those early films" he writes, "It is the work of a director who has learned the value of narrative economy to such an extent that 'Distant Thunder,' which is set against the backdrop of the 'manmade' famine that wiped out 5 million people in 1943, has the simplicity of a fable."[4] Tom Milne of Time Out calls the film "[d]istant thunder, indeed; a superb film."[5] Dennis Schwartz gave the film an A− and called it "[a] gentle humanist film that informs the world that over five million died of starvation and epidemics in Bengal."[6] Jay Cocks writing for Time echoes Canby's assessment of it as a "fable", writing: "Distant Thunder has the deliberate, unadorned reality of a folk tale, a fable of encroaching, enlarging catastrophe." He calls the film "superb and achingly simple ... Numbers as huge as ["5 million"] can be dangerous. A tragedy of such magnitude becomes an event abstracted by arithmetic. But Ray's artistry alters the scale. His concentrating on just a few victims of the famine causes such massive loss to become real, immediate. Ray makes numbers count."[7]


In 2012, filmmaker Amit Dutta included the film in his personal top ten (for "The Sight & Sound Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" poll).[8]


Berlin International Film Festival
21st National Film Awards


  1. ^ Ashani Archived 28 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine Satyajit Ray Film and Study Centre, University of California, Santa Cruz.
  2. ^ a b c The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made by the film critics of The New York Times, The New York Times, 2002.
  3. ^ Movie Review - Ashani Sanket By Vincent Canby, The New York Times, 12 October 1973.
  4. ^ a b Overview The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Distant Thunder (Ashani Sanket) (1973)" – via Rotten Tomatoes.
  6. ^ "distantthunder". Archived from the original on 7 December 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  7. ^ Cocks, Jay (24 November 1975). "Cinema: Famine". Time.
  8. ^ "Amit Dutta - BFI". Archived from the original on 18 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Berlinale 1973: Prize Winners". Retrieved 27 June 2010.