Cinema, Emergence, and the Films of Satyajit Ray

Cinema, Emergence, and the Films of Satyajit Ray

KEYA GANGULY
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 274
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppj5q
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  • Book Info
    Cinema, Emergence, and the Films of Satyajit Ray
    Book Description:

    Although revered as one of the world’s great filmmakers, the Indian director Satyajit Ray is described either in narrowly nationalistic terms or as an artist whose critique of modernity is largely derived from European ideas. Rarely is he seen as an influential modernist in his own right whose contributions to world cinema remain unsurpassed. In this benchmark study, Keya Ganguly situates Ray’s work within the internationalist spirit of the twentieth century, arguing that his film experiments revive the category of political or “committed” art. She suggests that in their depictions of Indian life, Ray’s films intimate the sense of a radical future and document the capacity of the image to conceptualize a different world glimpsed in the remnants of a disappearing past.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94604-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Note on Romanization
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: The Light of the New Moon
    (pp. 1-31)

    A short scene inCharulata(1964) depicts Bhupati, the heroine Charulata’s husband, discussing the vocation of the writer with his cousin Amal. The latter has given the fanciful title ofAmabasyar Aalo(The Light of the New Moon) to one of his impassioned bits of writing. Amal and Charu (Charulata’s abbreviated name) share a love of literary essays, and the intimacy it sparks between them leads to the romantic complication that is at the core of this classic film in Satyajit Ray’s wide-ranging oeuvre. In this scene, as well as throughout the film, the practical and rational Bhupati, a newspaper...

  7. 1 Catastrophe and Utopia: Ghare Baire, or the Household Goddess
    (pp. 32-62)

    On July 25, 1915, theNew York Timesreviewed a biography of Rabindranath Tagore that quotes the poet advancing the following contrast between European and Indian women:

    In Europe homes are disappearing and hotels are increasing in number. When we notice that men are happy with their horses, dogs, guns, and pipes and clubs for gambling, we feel quite safe to conclude that women’s lives are being broken up. . . . Our women make our homes smile with sweetness, tenderness, and love. . . . We are quite happy with our household goddesses, and they themselves have never told...

  8. 2 The (Un)moving Image: Visuality and the Modern in Charulata
    (pp. 63-91)

    If the Irish critic Vivian Mercier’s assessment ofWaiting for Godotas a play in which “nothing happens, twice,” has passed into the annals of the most quotable quotes in criticism, then Kenneth Tynan’s allusion toCharulataas a film full of “unpregnant pauses” and Howard Thompson’s description of it in theNew York Timesas following the pace of a “stately inchworm” or “majestic snail” should not be far behind.¹ These remarks notwithstanding, critics were mostly favorable toward the film, so the question is: What, aside from the now-standard complaint that Ray’s films are slow, can explain the persistence...

  9. 3 Devi: Documenting the Decadent, Incarnating the Modern
    (pp. 92-126)

    In a book published in 1997 to wide acclaim, the historian of religion Richard Davis recalls the destiny of the “Didarganjyakshi,” an intricately carved statue of a voluptuous femaleyakshi(spirit). Estimated as dating to the Mauryan period of the third century BCE, this spirit-statue’s existence in the Patna Museum in India today belies her past lives—from being unearthed in a stone heap on the banks of the Ganges in the early twentieth century to her removal to a temporary site where she was set up by local villagers as a goddess and, subsequently, to her rescue by...

  10. 4 The Music Room Revisited: Jalsaghar, Attraction, Perception
    (pp. 127-152)

    The termattractionhas become something of a commonplace in film-critical discussions. It is attached, first, to Sergei Eisenstein’s proposition from the 1920s that cinema be conceived as a “montage of attractions” geared toward producing an active emotional and psychological response to the synthesis of image and action on the screen.¹ From this early, revolutionary imperative to provoke spectators into action in real life through the dynamic sublation of the two-dimensional oppositions of sight and sound or shot and meaning, the term has since traveled to its more current deployment as an aspect of cinematic spectacle. This use, popularized in...

  11. 5 Take Two: Mahanagar and Cinematic Imperfection
    (pp. 153-178)

    References to the “lower middle class” are quite common in the English spoken in India. People routinely represent themselves as belonging to this social stratum, and others do so as well without offending the person labeled as such. To Western ears it may seem vaguely derogatory to refer to someone as lower middle class in the same way that to describe a person as petit-bourgeois always smacks more of the “petty” than the “bourgeois.” But whether invoked as lower middle class or petit-bourgeois, the economic, social, and, to some extent, psychic anxieties of this class fragment are at the crux...

  12. 6 Cinema and Universality: Apur Sansar as Critique
    (pp. 179-196)

    In his 1953 reflections on Vittorio De Sica, André Bazin tells us that De Sica resisted any comparison between his films and Franz Kafka’s writing. Unlike Kafka, whose heroes seem to suffer transcendentally determined fates, De Sica emphasized that tragedy was social, not metaphysical. In a film likeLadri di biciclette(Bicycle Thieves, 1948) his goal, according to Bazin, was not to portray the evil ascribed to the “heart of man” but that which existed in a degraded world, “somewhere in the order of things.” The lesson ofLadri di bicicletteis that, “if there were no unemployment it would...

  13. Conclusion: Lateness and Cinema
    (pp. 197-216)

    Our memory of the twentieth century has already begun to fade as we move forward into the twenty-first; by that very token, we confront our thoroughly belated entry into the debates about modernism and the avantgarde. As I have tried to demonstrate, this delayed recognition does not render those debates irrelevant or represent an overcoming of the problems they made visible (a comment that returns us to my reference to Raymond Williams in the introduction). Indeed, as Williams suggested, the question of modernism remains of value even now because we have yet to emerge fully from the period associated with...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 217-240)
  15. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 241-252)
  16. Index
    (pp. 253-258)