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Conclusion: Moving Away from the Nation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2023

Devapriya Sanyal
Affiliation:
Mount Carmel College, Bangalore
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Summary

The two aspects of Satyajit Ray's films covered in this book pertain to his position as a filmmaker vis-à-vis the nation and his portrayal of male characters as national subjects. Masculinity is a key notion with regard to which the British, and those they colonised, had entirely different civilisational perspectives, and with the stabilising of British control over India there was a grading of masculinities in the colonial space. By the late nineteenth century, the politics of colonial masculinity was organised along a descending scale: senior British officials associated with the administration and military establishment, and elite non officials, those not directly related to the colonial administration, occupied positions at the top of the scale. Other groups and classes that made up colonial society supposedly shared some, though not all, of the attributes associated with the figure of the ‘manly Englishman’. In this colonial ordering of masculinity, the politically self-conscious Indian intellectuals occupied a different place; they represented an ‘unnatural’ or perverted form of masculinity. Hence this group of Indians, the most typical representatives of which at the time were the middle-class Bengali Hindus, became the quintessential referents designated as ‘effeminate babus’. A thread in this book has been how colonial masculinity, in the context of the changes in the imperial social formation in the late nineteenth century, produced and furthered such categories.

The portrayal of the English in Shatranj Ke Khiladi, who are pitched against the Indians, is a particularly significant one in this context through the characters of General Outram and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. While Premchand, from whose short story Ray adapted his film, holds the Nawab culpable on this account, Ray, aware of the complexities of colonisation, and himself being the product of a postcolonial society, takes a different stance. Wajid Ali Shah's is an androgynous presence, but only due to the civilisational contrasts between British and Indian societies noted by Ashis Nandy. To reiterate whatever has been said already, bisexuality in India has been taken to be an indicator of saintliness and spiritual accomplishment, which is also associated with singing and dancing. The person close to godliness is expected to show a little less concern for the worldly division between the sexes and more ability to transcend the barriers imposed by his own sexual selfhood. He subscribes to values that are unfettered by society's prevalent sexual identities.

Type
Chapter
Information
Failed Masculinities
The Men in Satyajit Ray's Films
, pp. 159 - 164
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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