Thanks to the wonderful ILL scheme (Inter Library Loan), I ended up watching Satyajit Ray’s “Devi”, at a nominal rent . I should confess I imagined that the movie will be too complicated for me to understand. All the Ray movies I saw and liked so far are not really the movies people mention about when they write about him. Most of them have been satires, children’s movies and detective stories (Excepting Mahanagar and Pather Panchali). In this backdrop, I just loved the experience of watching Devi!
Perhaps, I will really watch it again – especially for that amazing screen presence and performance of the then 14 year old Sharmila Tagore! And Soumitra – After seeing him as a relatively old Feluda and as Hirak Rajar Deshe’s Udayan, it was amusing to see this almost boyish looking Soumitra Chatterjee! But then, there was so much of silent-action between the lead pair, that conveyed so much more than the dialogues. Loved it.
I am surprised that the movie was actually considered an attack on Hinduism in its times. What it really attacked was blind fanatically superstitious beliefs, in my view. I think there are no serious accusations against any religion including Hinduism, anywhere in the movie. Its not really an “attack” either, because there are so few of those sermonizing discussions that are characteristic of such “attack” on anything by anyone. After watching the movie, I went back to “Deep Focus” and re-read parts of Ray’s essay titled “The Film-maker’s craft”. Here is what he says on Devi:
“…. Devi was widely condemned in India as an attack on Hindu religion when what it really attacked was fanaticism. This is one instance out of many of the obstacles faced by the serious film-maker in India….”
I feel so tempted to read Nanduri Ramamohana Rao’s editorial on Satyajit Ray (upon the latter’s death) again. In my limited world view, I consider it the best essay written on Satyajit Ray amongst those I read