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2 - An Uncertain India: Early Nationalism in Charulata and Ghare Baire

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2023

Devapriya Sanyal
Affiliation:
Mount Carmel College, Bangalore
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Summary

In the previous chapter the focus was on the incursion of colonial modernity into Indian society and the advent of the modern Indian. This incursion gave rise to a socio-cultural movement in the nineteenth century, generally called the Bengal Renaissance, and consequently to a spiritual sense of a ‘nation’ and helped prompt the struggle for freedom, culminating in Independence, alongside the painful events of the partition. This chapter deals with the genesis of the nationalist struggle, which to my mind, began with the East-West interaction, creating a special breed of Indian men who would later take up the mantle of the freedom struggle. The two films dealt with here – Charulata and Ghare Baire – deal with these aspects and are linked by protagonists who are subjects of the British empire; the films depict important moments in the narrative of Indian history as it unfolded. Gender is an important part of the significance of these films, since both of them are about women/wives who are torn between loyalty to their husbands and extra-marital relationships. Needless to add, the extra-marital relations featured have socio-political ramifications.

In today's political India, nationalism has come to occupy a central position in the discourse around India's past. This is ironic since in the nineteenth century, Indians did not yet have a sense of what ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ or nation or even nationalism meant. And yet in the span of less than 100 years, nationalism has come to mean so much. It has come to mean what Benedict Anderson acknowledged as ‘profound emotional legacy’. However, even before discussing nationalism, a definition of the nation needs to be repeated and Anderson describes it as ‘an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign’.

Non-Western nationalisms, according to Anderson, were entirely applications of Western models of nationhood, national identity and nationalist agitation. Before Anderson, however, Bruce McCully had asserted that nineteenth-century Indian nationalism was an ‘exotic growth implanted by foreign hands and influence’ and the great Indian nationalist figures of the time had invented little or nothing in the way of ideology.

Type
Chapter
Information
Failed Masculinities
The Men in Satyajit Ray's Films
, pp. 41 - 58
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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