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"The fruits of independence": Satyajit Ray, Indian nationhood and the spectre of empire

Sengoopta, Chandak (2011) "The fruits of independence": Satyajit Ray, Indian nationhood and the spectre of empire. South Asian History and Culture 2 (3), pp. 374-396. ISSN 1947-2498.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19472498.2011.577569

Abstract

Challenging the longstanding consensus that Satyajit Ray's work is largely free of ideological concerns and notable only for its humanistic richness, this article shows with reference to representations of British colonialism and Indian nationhood that Ray's films and stories are marked deeply and consistently by a distinctively Bengali variety of liberalism. Drawn from an ongoing biographical project, it commences with an overview of the nationalist milieu in which Ray grew up and emphasizes the preoccupation with colonialism and nationalism that marked his earliest unfilmed scripts. It then shows with case studies of Kanchanjangha (1962), Charulata (1964), First Class Kamra (First-Class Compartment, 1981), Pratidwandi (The Adversary, 1970), Shatranj ke Khilari (The Chess Players, 1977), Agantuk (The Stranger, 1991) and Robertsoner Ruby (Robertson's Ruby, 1992) how Ray's mature work continued to combine a strongly anti-colonial viewpoint with a shifting perspective on Indian nationhood and an unequivocal commitment to cultural cosmopolitanism. Analysing how Ray articulated his ideological positions through the quintessentially liberal device of complexly staged debates that were apparently free, but in fact closed by the scenarist/director on ideologically specific notes, this article concludes that Ray's reputation as an all-forgiving, ‘everybody-has-his-reasons’ humanist is based on simplistic or even tendentious readings of his work.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Embargoed by publisher copyright until October 2012. This is an electronic version of an article published in South Asian History and Culture 2(3), pp. 374-396, available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19472498.2011.577569
Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Satyajit Ray, anti-colonialism, Bengali liberalism, fiction and ideology, politics and film
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2011 08:59
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2013 11:42
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/3757

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