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Ray@100 Lecture 3: The Desiring Woman in Satyajit Ray’s Cinema

June 6, 2020 | By

There have been a few distinct and unique female characters in the cinema of Satyajit Ray. In the 3rd episode of Ray@100 Video Lecture Series, Silhouette editor Amitava Nag looks at Arati of Mahanagar and the women characters in The Calcutta Trilogy.

Silhouette Magazine presents Ray@100 Lecture Series Episode 3:

There have been a few distinct and unique female characters in the cinema of Satyajit Ray. There are significant mother figures as Indir Thakrun and Srabajaya in the Apu Trilogy apart from a few others in the later films. There are heroines as well, wives mostly, in Ray’s classics including Charulata, Mahanagar, Ashani Sanket, Teen Kanya and others. In addition there are a few ‘daughter’ characters in the form of Durga (Pather Panchali), Manisha (Kanchenjungha), Neelima (Mahapurush), Indrani (Ganashatru) and Anila (Agantuk) and daughters-in-law viz. Jaya (Aranyer Din Ratri), Kamala (Jana Aranya) and Uma, Tapati (Shakha Prasakha) to name some. In a few case Ray’s camera had observed the repressed sexual desires of his female characters and their quests for love beyond marital boundaries.

In this video lecture, Silhouette editor Amitava Nag looks at Arati of Mahanagar and the women characters in The Calcutta Trilogy. While Arati represents a lack of personal desire for service of the larger familial and social expectations, Sutapa or Kauna of the trilogy stand for desire of the self. Ray uses mirror and window as two metaphorical tools to bring out the aspects of the desiring and confident woman of middleclass Bengali household in the ’70s. In the final take whereas the men become victims of middleclass morality and constraints, the female characters are strong-willed and confident, they go out to work and to win the choices that life has to offer them with.

Silhouette editor Amitava Nag explores several such interesting and unique elements of the DESIRING WOMAN in Ray’s cinema in the THIRD episode of RAY@100 Lecture Series Brought to you by Silhouette.  Watch this space for more episodes!

Click here for exclusive features on understanding Satyajit Ray’s films coming up as part of Ray@100 Centenary Series.

Don’t Miss

Ray@100 Lecture 1: Acting in Satyajit Ray’s Cinema

Ray@100 Lecture 2: Glimpses of the City in Satyajit Ray’s Cinema

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Amitava Nag is an independent film critic based in Kolkata and editor of Silhouette. His most recent books on cinema are Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee, 16 Frames and Smriti Sattwa o Cinema. His earlier writings include the acclaimed books Satyajit Ray’s Heroes and Heroines published by Rupa and Beyond Apu: 20 Favourite film roles of Soumitra Chatterjee published by Harper Collins India. He also writes poetry and short fiction in Bengali and English – observing life in a platter. He can be reached at
All Posts of Amitava Nag

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4 thoughts on “Ray@100 Lecture 3: The Desiring Woman in Satyajit Ray’s Cinema

  • Piu Mahapatra

    A fascinating watch for any Ray lovers . Not just a dry critical analysis or narrative descriptions of scenes but a very interesting comparative study between the different women characters and their desires, muted, hidden or bold, and/ or when looked through the men’s eyes. The analysis of the dream sequence and the wicked connection of the purposeful repetition of similar composition of frames in Mahanagar and in Calcutta trilogy, sets this video apart from many from the rest which crowds the digital world! Well done Amitava

  • Kunal Chatterjee

    Very interesting and comprehensive analysis on Ray’s heroines. He was a Master at crafting “Designer” women characters in his heroine-oriented films. I thoroughly enjoyed Amiav Nag’s in-depth critique of women characters in Ray’s movies.

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