- 1 hr 33 min
Devi is a 1960 Bengali-language drama film directed by Satyajit Ray. The movie stars Sharmila Tagore, Soumitra Chatterjee, and Chhabi Biswas in lead roles. The movie explores the theme of religion and blind faith, revolving around an old aristocrat named Kalikinkar Roy who worships his granddaughter Dayamoyee as a goddess. Devi is a movie that showcases the director's command on his craft and the skills of the actors who bring their respective characters to life.
The plot of Devi revolves around the aristocratic family of Kalikinkar Roy (Chhabi Biswas). The patriarch of the family is a devotee of a local goddess, and after a dream, he starts to believe that his daughter-in-law, Dayamayi (Sharmila Tagore), is the re-incarnation of the goddess. Despite the protests of his son Umaprasad (Soumitra Chatterjee) and others in the family, Roy treats Dayamayi as a Devi (goddess) and insists that she should be worshipped by everyone in the village. These events cause a stir in the village, and the locals flock to the Roy mansion to catch a glimpse of the goddess.
As the story progresses, Dayamayi's mental state deteriorates under the pressure of being treated like a Devi. She loses her grip on reality and becomes more and more consumed by her newfound 'divine' status. In the climax, the situation reaches a tipping point, and the truth behind Dayamayi's mental state is revealed, taking the story down a path that is both shocking and poignant.
One of the most unforgettable facets of Devi is the performance of Sharmila Tagore, who was only 14 years old when she made her debut with this movie. In her portrayal of Dayamayi, she was able to bring out the character's innocence and purity, beginning to erode under the unrelenting strain placed on her by her 'godly' status. The experience that Sharmila gained while working with Ray propelled her towards superstardom, and her portrayal of Dayamayi in Devi remains one of her most iconic roles.
Soumitra Chatterjee, who went on to become a legendary actor and frequent collaborator with Ray, also delivers a standout performance in this movie. In his essay on Devi, the reviewer Geoffrey MacNab notes how "Chatterjee's role offers a gentler, more refined counterpoint to Biswas's blustering patriarch. He is the voice of rationality in the household but also the victim of the family's stubborn traditionalism."
The director, Satyajit Ray, is on top form with Devi, using his signature technique of capturing the rhythms of life in the village and the complex social structures that govern it. The movie's most striking images are those of the villagers making their way to the Roy home, eager to catch a glimpse of the goddess. The scenes are chaotic, with seemingly endless throngs of people pressing in around the mansion, but Ray manages to capture the atmosphere with his trademark care and attention to detail.
In conclusion, Devi is an evocative and heartfelt movie that gives a glimpse into the workings of Indian society and its obsession with religion and superstition. The story is well-paced and engaging, and the performances by its lead actors are nothing short of stunning. Satyajit Ray's direction is masterful, and the movie remains a testament to his genius. Devi has its rightful place in the canon of Bengali and world cinema and is a must-see for any cinephile.