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5 - The Hollow Men: The Complacent ‘Achiever’ in Nayak, Aranyer Din Ratri and Seemabaddha

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2023

Devapriya Sanyal
Affiliation:
Mount Carmel College, Bangalore
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Summary

By the time we come to the 1960s and 1970s, the newly emergent class is an indigenous segment that may be seen as an offshoot of the class under observation in the last chapter – the anglicised postcolonial bourgeoisie. The era was, however, different from the previous one, with more disaffection. While the early 1960s, dominated by the Sino-Indian War and alarming food shortages – when the Green Revolution was initiated with massive investment in agriculture – was politically ‘stable’, the last years saw the rise of Maoism. This was a radical period around the world and culminated in 1968 in Paris, even being described as a ‘World Revolution’ by political thinkers. Maoism in the late 1960s was associated with a village in North Bengal called Naxalbari, and for this reason has been called ‘Naxalism’ ever since. It was only in the early 1970s when Naxalism was finally suppressed through the concerted efforts of the then Bengal government – the United Front – but it keeps reappearing in one form or another. It is therefore impossible to deal with the Bengali cinema of the period without invoking Naxalism.

A strategy used in this book is to invoke the popular Hindi cinema of the period to which Ray's films in the chapter pertain, and that is not because the two kinds of cinema are similar. It is rather because the two are different responses to the same socio-political reality which needs to be understood first. Looking at that reality from the perspectives of the two cinemas may be helpful. It is interesting to note that the decades under examination here produced Hindi films that were held to be ‘escapist’. Foreign location and hill stations were the norm after the Sino-Indian War, read as an escape from the Nehruvian nationalism of the 1950s, but the trend continued after 1965 when India had fared better in a war against Pakistan. The years immediately after the military disaster against China were dominated by food shortages, but the Green Revolution, with massive investment in agriculture, also mitigated conditions. Whereas farmers were indebted and poor in the earlier cinema (Ganga Jumna, 1961), the progressive farmer is the motif in Upkaar (1967), in which the war of 1965 is also invoked and agrarian want is less of an issue.

Type
Chapter
Information
Failed Masculinities
The Men in Satyajit Ray's Films
, pp. 89 - 104
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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