Chhabi Biswas, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Purnendu Mukherjee, Karuna Bannerjee / Fiction / Bengali
Satyajit Ray is the most feted of the directors paid tribute by our retrospective; in his films we glimpse the Bengali renaissance of the 19th century in all its richness. His movies are a portal to Bengali literature, poetry, music, philosophy, painting and architecture. Ray came from a family of great publishers, writers and illustrators; these influences are more than apparent in his work. Photographed by the legendary Subrata Mitra in creamy white and velvet black, Devi ranks with Black Narcissus and Mizoguchi’s Sancho the Bailiff as one of the most beautiful films ever made, as well as one of the great works of anti-clericism. A teenager’s father dreams that she is a Devi (goddess) and spreads word of her healing powers. Crowds flock, and she becomes the eye of a storm. To those who claim that Indian acting can be showy and exuberant, teenager Sharmila Tagore’s study in stillness here is a fitting counter: she sits as though on a Raphael canvas. The tiniest of eye movements acknowledges the arrival of her husband to discover she is the object or the villagers' worship. R ay, a great dramatist, changed the ending from the original short story by Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhya, and the result is fleeting and luminous.
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