Sunday, October 14, 2012

Utpal Dutt's 'Ray, Renaissance Man?'

Over at The Big Indian Picture (which is, by the way, a must-read) is a magnificent rant by the actor Utpal Dutt, on many things Ray & GoI related. It is even more extraordinary when one realises that this speech was delivered at a Sahitya Akademi/Lalit Kala Akademi/Sangeet Natak Akademi seminar on Ray, shortly after Ray's death.

In contrast, I am thinking of the recent SA Young Writers' Festival, where the general tone was self-congratulatory and unjustifably optimistic.

Utpal Dutt, in his own words:

Already in Pather Panchali, Ray’s protagonists suffer not because gods have willed it so but because of poverty created by men. They are evicted from their home by a power that is stronger than gods— a social system that condones exploitation. And this revolt against a concept of gods who crush human beings reaches fruition in Devi, where a girl, a common housewife, is declared a goddess incarnate and is expected to heal and cure every sick villager, until the boy she loves more than her life is dying and is placed before her so that she can touch and heal him. She dare not play with this boy’s life and tries to flee, her sari torn and her mascara running all over her face. One has merely to compare this film with dozens churned out from the cinema-machine of this country, where a dying child, given up for dead by medical science, is placed before the image of a goddess—and, of course, there is a lengthy song glorifying the goddess—be it Santoshi Ma or some such forgotten local deity. Then the stone image is seen to smile, or to drop a flower on the boy’s corpse, and lo and behold, what the best doctors could not do, the piece of stone achieves in a second! The corpse opens its eyes, even sits up. This is followed either by another unending song of thanksgiving, or the boy’s parents weeping and rolling on the ground to show their gratitude. This kind of brazen, shameless superstition is peddled by film after film in this country every year. Are they any less dangerous than drugs? If drugs destroy the bodies of our young men, these films destroy their minds. A proper tribute to Ray would have been to make it impossible to make such filth and, instead, to make arrangements for Devi to be shown all over the country at cheaper rates. Devi is a revolutionary film in the Indian context. It challenges religion as it has been understood in the depths of the Indian countryside for hundreds of years. It is a direct attack on the black magic that is passed off as divinity in this country. Instead of the vulgarized Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Indian TV could have telecast Devi again and again; then perhaps today we would not have to discuss the outrages of the monkey brigade in Ayodhya.

1 comment:

km said...

Awesome link.

I pray to the Lord Almighty that I turn into a codger like Utpal Dutt. He was the man.