Saturday 10 March 2012

Devi (The Goddess) [1960]

Coming right after the massive international acclaim of Apur Sansar, Ray’s immediate follow-up ended up remaining criminally underrated and under-watched. Adapted from a literary source, like a major proportion of his films were, Devi was so deeply rooted in the Indian milieu and traditions, that it was difficult for a Westerner to fully appreciate its various nuances and subtexts. Yet, as far as its principle theme went one might not find a movie with a more international appeal that is relevant even in today’s context (despite it being based in rural Bengal in 19th century), as it was a full-blooded indictment against religious dogmatism, blind faith and superstitions – reasons that earned it fierce oppositions during its time of release. Kalikinkar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), the devout patriarch of a rich zamindar family, has a “vision” while he’s asleep that his young and gullible daughter-in-law Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore) in an incarnation (avatar) of the goddess he worships, and install her as a goddess – all this while Umaprasad (Soumitra Chatterjee), her husband, is away in Calcutta engaged in higher academics. When Umaprasad, who is a liberal-minded young man bereft of overt religious influences, is apprised of this shocking turn of events, he immediately returns to free her wife, who he loves very much, of this ordeal, but despite his best intents and efforts he finds himself engaged in a losing battle. The movie, which wonderfully explored the fine line between faith and fanaticism, comprised of powerful turns by the three leads, and a memorable, albeit deeply tragic, climax.

Director: Satyajit Ray
Genre: Drama/Religious Drama/Family Drama
Language: Bengali
Country: India


Sam Juliano said...

Beautifully-written capsule on one of Ray's greatest films of all. Yep, it is a film that speaks a universal language!

Shubhajit said...

Yet, quite unfortunately, it also tends to get lost amidst Ray's other masterpieces. Thanks Sam for sharing your appreciation.