The action takes place in 1860 at Chandipur, in Bengal, in a rural setting. Kalikinkar, the master of the house and local zamindar, has a revelation during a dream: his daughter-in-law Doyamoyee has manifested herself to him as an incarnation of the goddess Kali. Installed in the family temple, she cures the sick child of an itinerant man who seeks her help. Her husband Umaprasad, who has received a western-based education at a Calcutta university, finds himself dispossessed of his wife who has become a “goddess.” In a critical scene, Umaprasad attacks tradition and tries to reason with his father, although unsuccessfully. The cure seems a miracle which demonstrates the truth of the traditional beliefs, and a crowd of worshippers comes to venerate her. Doyamoyee’s beloved nephew, the child Khoka, falls ill. He is placed in the care of his aunt, but she is unable to save him. His death shatters her and she is overwhelmed by madness.
In this film, as well as in Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1964) and Ghare Baire (The Home and the World, 1984), Ray explores the cultural emergence of the idea of the “modern woman” in the upper class of colonial India, showing with striking sensitivity the pressures this new ideal placed on individual women whose self-identities were also molded by traditional expectations. –Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center
Satyajit Ray is one of cinema’s truest Renaissance men. In addition to his films, he is a reputed writer of short stories, a music composer (scores for his own films and other film-makers, notably Merchant-Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah) and a painter and graphic designer of considerable skill. Appropriately enough, Ray derived from a background of great culture, the son of poet Sukumar Ray who died when he was three years old. His interest in fine arts, literature and painting led him to reside at Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan (an intellectual retreat for artists and thinkers) for a significant period of time. Ray’s true love however was the cinema. The cinema of 30s Hollywood, which included Fred Astaire musicals and comedies by Ernst Lubitsch; Russian films he devoured in repeated viewings at the Calcutta Film Society (which he co-founded in 1947) and later the Italian neorealist films which he discovered in London.
At the time of the Second World War, and the final period of… read more
After completing his much loved Apu Trilogy, Ray next turned his attention at the beginning of a new decade to this beautiful and somewhat disturbing fable of deification and devotion in which a young wife is convinced by her father-in-law that she is the goddess Kali reincarnated. The carefully nuanced story mounts a lucid argument against the potentially destructive nature of superstition. Extremely impressive..
This is a very honest and realistic film. Very few people have the guts to declare openly that the dogmas behind religion are well... nonsense. I do not know Ray's religious views, but it would be interesting to understand if he made this film in accordance to them or in spite of them.