Sexuality In Ray's Films - II

Sexuality In Ray's Films - II

Chandi Mukherjee17 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 second part I would try to find those subtle areas using some more of his acclaimed works.

Satyajit Ray films: Charulata, Seemabaddha, Pratidwandi, Jana arnayaSatyajit Rays films: (From top to bottom) Pratidwandi, Seemabaddha, Charulata, Jana Aranya

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 second part I would try to find those subtle areas using some more of his acclaimed works.

Case#3 / Charulata

In Tagore′s “Nashtanir” story, Amal was a sheltered person in Bhupati′s place. Though Bhupati and Charu were married, they had no child. Both Tagore and Ray clearly didn′t mention why they had no child. Was Bhupati not able to have sex with his wife? It is not clear. Satyajit clearly showed us Bhupati was not aware of Charu′s mental need. But her physical need was deliberately avoided.

Satyajit didn′t make his Amal a sheltered one, rather here Amal came for a long visit and to practice his writing skills in the meantime. Amal was young, Amal was charming and Amal was attentive to Charu.

Satyajit deliberately made this status change between Amal, so that an illicit relationship between Amal and Charu gets an angle of suppressed sexuality.

In the original story of Tagore, Charu knew she didn′t do any wrong, so when at the end Bhupati requested her to come along with him to Mysore, she sharply replied, “No. Let it be.” She refused Bhupati, as she had no guilt complex, though Bhupati had enough reason to misunderstand her. She had that guts to refuse Bhupati. But in Ray′s “Charulata”, Charu was so guilt stricken, she extended her hand towards Bhupati, but it never could touch Bhupati′s hand. Ray had freezed the shot. Ray knew after what happened between Charu and Amal, the husband-wife relationship could never be what was before.

The need for physical relationship was evident in Charu′s attitude in the film. Her behavior seemed like a girl in love. But as she is married, she is aware of the need of Charu of a physical relationship with a man, which she was not getting from her husband.

Satyajit dealt with this kind of attitude of Charu till the end of the film. This is a kind of sexuality which played much-much beneath the upper layer of the relationship between Amal and Charu. Amal didn′t know this attitude of Charu in the beginning. He came to know when Charu burst into tears keeping her face placed on Amal′s chest. Though only this much closeness was shown between the two, the undercurrent of sexuality was there, especially from Charu′s end. Ray had designed Charu′s character with such a subtlety that her physical need remained always hidden. Only because of this sexuality, Charu-Amal relationship got a very strong base in the film. It was not Charu′s loneliness for which she had come close to Amal, it was for her sexual desire. She could not afford to lose Amal because she created a world of fantasy surrounding him. When she realized her fantasy world was gone for ever, she started crying like a child.

Case#4 / Jana Aranya, Pratidwandi, Seemabaddha

These are three most urban films of Satyajit Ray, and like all of his films these three films also bear the documents of the time. What we saw in “Jana Aranya” is that ultimately Somenath, had to arrange a prostitute for his client. The critics wrote mostly about the dramatic coincidence of Somenath and his friend′s sister Kona who had become a prostitute. They also compared this with the coincidence of Ritwick′s film “Subarnarekha”.

But in Ray′s film the entire body of the film has been designed so meticulously that it could have any other alternative. The journey of Somenath in search of a prostitute starts from the magic pen in the Ambassador Car of his client. The pen shows female figure if it was held in a typical manner. Ray had many alternatives to show what kind of man the client was. But he chose the most titillating way of showing that. He used a pen with a nude female figure. Pen is a phallic symbol in the Freudian analysis. In that phallic symbol a nude female figure is in-built. This was beginning of showing sexuality in “Jana Aranya”. And this continued till the end of search of a prostitute.

In “Pratidwandi” we find incestuous attrition of Siddhartha towards his own sister. In his dream the image of his own sister was so soft and attractive, that it ultimately became an erotic image where suppressed sexuality comes out from beneath the subconscious level of Siddhartha.

Siddhartha was a medical student and to him female breasts are nothing but huge glands. But when the nurse with the cigarette in her mouth comes near Siddhartha for a light we see her breasts from close, which changes into negative.

And again in his dream we see the same nurse in the seaside which metamorphosed into the image of his sister. So, there was a deliberate from Ray′s end to make a statement on the sexual thoughts of Siddhartha.

Siddhartha wanted liberation from those thoughts. The bird was symbol of peace liberation from urban sexuality. And he found that only death is the liberation from this natural sexuality. Ray never criticized this sexuality as he thought it was natural to all human beings.

In “Seemabaddha” the cabaret girl threw the garland towards Shyamalendu. Instantly Shyamalendu becomes morally a prostitute in the eyes of Tutun. Tutun came to Calcutta to meet his elder sister and her husband Shyamalendu. She was attracted towards a younger Shyamalendu during his marriage with her elder sister. This attraction was physically, so, Tutun found the earlier Shyamalendu was no more there his moustache is also gone. The moustache is a symbol of manhood. The absence of it surprised Tutun and ultimately she realized that Shyamalendu had lost his male sexuality too. Shyamalendu has been turned into a spineless creature. She returns the wrist watch that was given by Shyamalendu, earlier.

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Can't agree here with the author. Such a relationship between a man and woman cant be asexual, wasnt it understood without Ray explicitly showcasing it?
Posted by Swati on  Jun 17 2009 11:34PM

Do you agree, it was not Charu's loneliness for which she had come close to Amal, it was for her sexual desire?

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