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DEVI (THE GODDESS)(director/writer: Satyajit Ray; screenwriter: story by Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee; cinematographer: Subrata Mitra; editor: Dulal Dutta; music: Ali Akbar Khan; cast: Chhabi Biswas (Kalikinkar Roy), Soumitra Chatterjee(Umaprasad), Sharmila Tagore (Doyamoyee), Arpan Chowdhury (Khoka), Purnendu Mukherjee (Taraprasad), Karuna Bannerjee (Harasundari); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Satyajit Ray; Mr. Bongo Films; 1960-India-in Bengali with English subtitles)Ray’s lyrical images reflect on how the fervor of Hinduism can sometimes lead to misplaced worship.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Satyajit Ray (“The Adversary”/”The Chess Players”/”The Music Room”)debunks religious superstition, idol worship and unquestioning belief in miracles, as he tells a simple tale of falsely worshiping the Hindu goddess Kali as an icon. It’s based on a story by Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee. It’s set in 1860 at Chandipur, in rural Bengal, India.

Umaprasad (Soumitra Chatterjee)leaves his respected landlord old-fashioned father’s rural mansion and the father’s looked after by his beautiful 17-year-old wife Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore) as he goes to study English in Calcutta. The elderly ailing widower,Kalikinkar Roy (Chhabi Biswas), has a vision one night that Doya is the reincarnation of the goddess Kali and bows to her in devotion. He also insists everyone else in the household worship her as a goddess, as Roy’s weakling oldest son (Purnendu Mukherjee) and sharp-tongued wife (Karuna Bannerjee) feel humiliated. Doya also looks after her young nephewKhoka (Arpan Chowdhury), whom she finds irresistibly cute.

One day a desperate father shows up with his dying son, and begs for Doya to cure him. Miraculously the child is cured. Word spreads and the ailing from all over India come to Doya to be cured, and she begins to like being thought of as Kali and goes along with it. The concerned Umaprasad returns home, and tries to rescue her from the superstitious belief but can’t reason with her or his fanatical father. When Khoka falls ill, he’s placed in Doya’s care. Without proper medical attention, he soon dies. Khoka’s death shatters Doya’s fragile psyche and she goes insane. The last shot has her running away in a field and disappearing into a mist, as hubby desperately calls for her return.

Ray’s lyrical images reflect on how the fervor of Hinduism can sometimes lead to misplaced worship. His reflections on Hinduism are similar to Bunuel’s on Christianity.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”