| 1960, India.
93 min, B/W, In Bengali with subtitles.
||Satyajit Ray Productions
|Screenplay & Direction:
||Satyajit Ray, Based on the
short story - 'Devi' by Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee
||Ustad Ali Akbar Khan
The film is set in 1860 at Chandipur, in rural Bengal, India.
Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore) and her husband Umaprasad (Soumitra
Chatterjee) live with his elder brother (Purnendu Mukherjee), his
wife (Karuna Banerjee) and wealthy father, Kalikinkar Roy (Chhabi
Kalikinkar Roy, the patriarch, is an aging widower. He is a respected
landlord and a devotee of the Hindu goddess, Kali. Umaprasad, Doyamoyee's
husband, is away to study in Calcutta. She looks after her old
father-in-law. She has a soft corner for her nephew Khoka, with
whom she enjoys a fond relationship.
Roy has a revelation in a dream that his daughter-in-law Doyamoyee
is an incarnation of the goddess Kali. He insists she be worshiped.
Then, a dying child is placed at her feet and he is miraculously
cured. As the news spreads, the aged, sick and the poor come in
hundreds; seeking cures and comfort. As Doyamoyee's husband Umaprasad
learns about the events, he returns home to her rescue. Umaprasad
attacks the tradition and tries to reason with his father and tells
him that he has gone insane. The father is unmoved. To him, the
miracle cure demonstrates the truth of the his beliefs.
Umaprasad tries to take her away, but to his surprise finds that
she too has become convinced of her divine status. Doyamoyee's
nephew, the child Khoka, falls ill and is placed in her care. The
child dies for lack of medical treatment in her arms. Her husband
tries again to persuade her but it is too late. The child's death
has shattered her. Doyamoyee, the proclaimed goddess has gone mad.
As he calls her, she is seen running away into a field and vanishing
into the mist.
Doyamoyee looses her mind,
a sketch by Ray ©Ray Family
The film generated some controversy on its release in India. It
was seen as an attack on Hinduism itself by a few protesters, who
tried to prevent the film's international release. However, the
film was eventually released and went on to receive a government
award, the President's Gold Medal. The teen-aged Sharmila
gives an outstanding performance in the title role.
She commented a few years later, "Devi was what a genius got
out of me, not something I did myself".
The film uses many details that create the atmosphere. These details
however, may be lost to a viewer not familiar with Hindu customs
and Indian life. Even Pauline Kael, who greatly admired the film,
wrongly read "startling Freudian undertones" in film.
Probably, referring to Doyamoyee massaging her father-in-law's
feet. Massaging feet, in fact is a mark of respect towards elders,
usually parents and parents-in-law.
What others say
Ray's feeling for the intoxicating beauty within the disintegrating
way of life of the 19th century landowning class makes this one
of the rare, honest films about decadence.
- Pauline Kael
- President's Gold Medal, New Delhi, 1961
Other Online Reviews
by Murali Krishnan
Satyajit Ray Film & Study Collection
Doyamoyee, played by Sharmila Tagore ©Teknica
Kalikinkar Roy and Doyamoyee ©Teknica
A villager brings a dying child for Devi's blessings ©Teknica
Umaprasad and Doyamoyee ©Teknica
Doyamoyee has lost her mind and runs away ©Teknica
poster designed by Ray ©Ray Family