Sexuality In Ray's Films - I

Sexuality In Ray's Films - Part I

Chandi Mukherjee04 Jun 2009

Satyajit Ray's films have already been analyzed from various possible angles. But least have been written or discussed about the sexuality, hidden or subtle or expressive, of his films. In the most of the cases he has used sexuality in a very subtle manner. In this article I would try to find those subtle areas.

Satyajit Ray′s films have already been analyzed from various possible angles. But least have been written or discussed about the sexuality, hidden or subtle or expressive, of his films. In the most of the cases he has used sexuality in a very subtle manner. In this article I would try to find those subtle areas.

Case#1 / Apur Sansar:

Satyajit Rays films Charulata, Seemabaddhha,Jana Arnaya

If we study the pre-marriage statement of Apu, the marriage, and the post-marriage life of Apu, we would find that its only sexuality which led Apu to marry Aparna.

Before marriage Apu′s dream was to become a successful writer. His father also wanted to be become a writer, but of a “palagaan”. This time Apu reminds us of his father Harihar in Pather Panchali. When his old friend Pulu came to meet Apu, he found Apu had no interest in finding any job, as he knows that he won′t get any respectable job, so Apu never thought of marriage even in his bad dreams. Apu′s lifestyle and economical condition was not suitable for any marriage.

Satyajit Ray has categorically expressed this to the audience.

Now the question is when Pulu approached Apu and asked him to marry his cousin Aparna though he preliminary rejected the idea saying, “Are you still living in the dark ages?”, but offer of a job by Pulu earlier, he then agreed to marry Aparna if Pulu could arrange the job that he promised earlier.

What is the reason of changing this stance? Ray knew his western audience would laugh at this decision of Apu. So he subtly introduced sexuality in Apu′s mind. He designed the entire thing from the idea that Apu was sexually attracted to Aparna. Before this Apu was not physically or mentally attracted to any woman. According to Andrew Robinson, “Ray made it clear to Soumitra Chatterjee in a long resume of Apu′s character that sexual curiosity would be in Apu′s mind.”

Now, if we study carefully the scene of “phulsajya” shot compositions and the dialogues all will support this sexual curiosity of Apu towards Aparna. And only for this curiosity of Apu, he agreed to marry Aparna. Ray never considered any other reason. The erotic sexuality of their relationship does not achieve full play until they return to Calcutta. In depicting this eroticism Ray used the myth of Krishna and Radha the ultimate pair of Indian eroticism. Ray must have watched the images of Radha and Krishna which were mostly used by the painters of 13th 14th of Kamasutra.

So, right from the beginning we find Apu with a flute like Krishna. The way he poses with his flute in his door while Aparna was busy in doing domestic work reminds us nothing but modern Radha and Krishna. According to critic Robin Wood, “The series of scenes in the two lovers are one of the cinema′s classic affirmative depictions of married life?” The use of hairclip of Aparna in Apu′s hand is nothing but expressing their physical intimacy, which results in birth of their son Kajol. So layers of hidden sexuality and subtle eroticism are the two pillars of Apur Sansar which arouses a certain kind of sexual pleasure in the spectator′s mind.

Case#2 / Debi:

Almost all the critics have described Ray′s Debi as the protest against the barbarian religious fanaticism. Nobody has mentioned the underlined sexuality between Kalikinkar and his daughter-in-law Dayamoyee.

Kalikinkar′s wife is dead that has been established by the director. Though Kalikinkar is old, his body is still erect while his young son Umanath is weak evidently. The selection of Chhabi Biswas and Soumitra Chatterjee is only to create this physical contrast.

 

Now think about the sequence just the evening before the night Kalikinkar dreamt that Dayamoyee is goddess Kali the naked “debi”. Umanath was in Calcutta. In the evening Dayamoyee was rubbing oil in Kalikinkar′s feet. The graphic image of Kalikinkar and Dayamoyee is very important. The way he was sitting was like a dominating male. As Dayamoyee was rubbing oil, it reminded Kalikinkar the memory of his wife. Somehow, the pleasure in being rubbed oil by a female was evident in the face of Kalikinkar and it reminded him his wife, his sexual partner. Kalikinkar categorically told Dayamoyee that he decided to leave the family after the death of his wife, but after seeing Dayamoyee, her charm and her beauty didn′t allow him to leave.

It sounds like a father-daughter unique dialogue, but the image and the action of rubbing oil is diametrically opposite of this.

And that night Kalikinkar dreamt. We didn′t see the beginning of the dream. We only find that Kalikinkar is in uneasy condition in his sleep. Was he dreaming about his daughter-in-law? We don′t know. But get into his dream of goddess Kali which fits in with the eyes of Dayamoyee. Psychoanalyst always say dream only justify your own guilt. Here Kalikinkar is away to suppress himself from his own desire was faced to create a goddess out of innocent Dayamoyee.

If Satyajit wanted to make a simple film against religious fanaticism, he could have easily avoided that oil rubbing scene. He deliberately wanted to imbibe some sexual tones behind this barbaric art of Kalikinkar.

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man, this is awesssome! But sexual curiosity is too modest a term though!
Posted by Amit on  Jun 4 2009 11:46PM
sensational piece of analysis Mr Mukherjee. will be eager to see the upcoming parts too.
Posted by Making things happen :) on  Jun 5 2009 12:42AM
Very interesting piece. Would also like to mention the intellectual wave length matching and subtle attraction between the male protagonist and his wife's sister (Sharmila) in Seemabaddha (one of my all time Ray favourites).
Posted by Paromeeta on  Jun 5 2009 11:44AM
Great article. The author handled a very serious topic in a sensitive manner, with due respect to the maestro, and not in a sleazy way. A piece, trully befitting Ray's standards.
Posted by Pritam on  Jun 7 2009 1:10PM

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