Director: Satyajit Ray; Writer: Satyajit Ray, Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee; Producer: Satyajit Ray; Cinematographer: Subrata Mitra; Cast: Chhabi Biswas, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Purnendu Mukherjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Arpan Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Kali Sarkar, Mohammed Israel, Khagesh Chakraborty
Duration: 01:33:59; Aspect Ratio: 1.368:1; Lightness: 0.300; Volume: 0.180; Cuts per Minute: 5.554; Words per Minute: 27.824
Summary: Following Jalsaghar (1958), Ray made a series of period movies featuring strong, well- rounded characters no longer limited to the requirements of melodramatic plot functions. These characters, Bishwambar Roy, Dayamoyee and later Charulata (1964) were adapted equally from Bengali literary stereotypes and from English literature’s notion of psychological realism. Made in the same year as Devi, Ghatak’s classic Meghe Dhaka Tara uses the popular Bengali legend associating young married women with Durga, the mythical provider, to reveal how history and culture create the oppressive social spaces determining women’s lives. Instead, Ray presented a psychological portrait of a young woman and her zamindar father-in-law set in the mid-19th C. The beautiful Dayamoyee (Tagore) is deemed by her recently widowed father-in-law Kalikinker Roy (Biswas) to be the goddess Kali incarnate, disregarding the rationalist arguments put forth by her husband Umaprasad (S. Chatterjee), a university student. The old man transforms her into an icon for prayer in the village, and she soon develops a reputation for miracle cures. Seduced by her role as divinity, she is reluctant to return with her husband to the city. When the death of her son destroys her illusions, Dayamoyee goes mad and disappears bejewelled into the mist. Much of the film dealt with the barely- concealed sexual relationship between Dayamoyee and the father-in-law as she massages his feet while he reclines with a hookah, or even more explicitly in a prayer sequence that juxtaposes her sitting before the Kali icon with shots of the father-in-law descending for prayer. Ray preferred a cultural and psychological reading, enjoining his Western critics to acquaint themselves thoroughly with e.g. the cult of the Mother Goddess, the 19th C. Renaissance in Bengal and the position of the Hindu bride. The film is also remembered for Mitra’s remarkable camerawork, contrasting the purely psychological exposition with two breathtaking crane shots that show the immersion of the goddess during the Puja festival and capture the manic hold exerted by the Durga/Kali legend in Bengal.