Director: Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray explores the conflict between fanaticism and free will in Devi (“The Goddess”), issuing a subversively modern challenge to religious orthodoxy and patriarchal power structures. In rural India in the second half of the nineteenth century, after his son (Soumitra Chatterjee) leaves for Kolkata to complete his studies, a wealthy feudal landlord (Chhabi Biswas) is seized by the notion that his beloved daughter-in-law (Sharmila Tagore) is an incarnation of the Mother Goddess—a delusion that proves devastating to the young woman and those around her. The elegantly stylized compositions and the chiaroscuro lighting by cinematographer Subrata Mitra heighten the expressionistic intensity of this domestic tragedy, making for an experience that is both sublime and shattering.
Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta in 1921. Son of Sukumar Ray, one of the leading figures of the Bengali literary scene, in 1940 he graduated in economics from the University of Calcutta and went to work as an illustrator at Tagore University in Viswa-Bharati. He made his directorial debut in 1955 with the eponymous adaptation of the 1928 novel Pather Panchali (“Song of the Road”), which began his trilogy on the life of the young Apu, followed by Aparajito (“The Invincible”, 1956) and Apur Sansar (“Apu’s World”, 1959). This was the basis for the rise of his reputation as one of the country’s best filmmakers. In addition to being a director, he was a screenwriter, composer of the soundtrack, editor and designer of the credits and publicity material for his films. Throughout his extensive film career, Ray received as many as 36 Indian National Film Awards, a Golden Lion, two Silver Bears, as well as the Bharat Ratna, India’s most prestigious civilian award. Almost a month before his death, he became the first Indian to receive an Honorary Oscar in 1992.