Archive for the ‘Amartya Sen’ Category

Taken from Amartya Sen’s THE ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN (Page 108-109)

Tagore’s criticism of patriotism is a persistent theme in his writings. As early as 1908, he puts his position succinctly in a letter replying to the criticism of Abala Bose, wife of the great Indian scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose: ‘Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.’ His novel GHARE BAIRE (The Home and the World) has much to say about this theme. In the novel Nikhil, who is keen on social reform, including women’s liberation, but cool towards nationalism, gradually loses the esteem of his spirited wife, Bimala, because of his failure to be enthusiastic about anti-British agitation, which he sees as a lack of patriotic commitment. Bimala becomes fascinated with Nikhil’s nationalist friend Sandip, who speaks brilliantly and acts with patriotic militancy, and she falls in love with him. Nikhil refuses to change his views: ‘I am willing to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a God is to bring a curse upon it.’

As the story unfolds, Sandip becomes angry with some of his countrymen for their failure to join the struggle as readily as he thinks they should (‘Some Mohammedan traders are still obdurate’) . He arranges to deal with the recalcitrants by burning their meager trading stocks  and physically attacking them. Bimala has to acknowledge the connection between Sandip’s rousing nationalistic sentiments and his sectarian – and ultimately violent – actions. The dramatic events that follow (Nikhil’s attempts to help the victim, risking his life) include the end of Bimala’s political romance.

This is a difficult subject, and Satyajit Ray’s beautiful film of The Home and the World brilliantly brings out the novel’s tensions, along with the human affections and disaffections of the story. Not surprisingly, the story has had many detractors, not just among dedicated nationalist in India. George Lukacs found Tagore’s novel to be ‘a petit bourgeois yarn of the shoddiest kind’, ‘at the intellectual service of the British police’, and ‘a contemptible caricature of Gandhi.’ It would, of course, be absurd to think of Sandip as Gandhi, but the novel gives a ‘strong and gentle’  warning, as Bertolt Brecht noted in his diary, of the corruptibility of nationalism, since it is not even-handed. Hatred of one group can lead to hatred of others, no matter how far such feeling may be from the minds of humane nationalist leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.


SAMAPTI is the most romantic film of Satyajit Ray IMHO. Based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore, this film shows the maturing of a childish mischevous girl into a woman.

This is the first pairing of Soumitra-Aparna later seen in many successful films from AKASH KUSUM, CHUTIR PANDEY, BASANTA BILAP to the relatively recent film PAROMITAR EKDIN.

Both Soumtro and Aparna act credibly. Though the humorous sequences doesn’t always evoke a laughter, but overall the small duration film succeed in delivering the central theme quite forcefully.


From Amartya Sen’s THE ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN (Our Culture, Their Culture, Pg 124-125)

Words, too, have a function that goes well beyond the information they directly convey; much is communicated by the sound of the language and special choice of words to convey a meaning, or to create a particular effect. As Ray has noted, ‘in a sound film, words are expected to perform not only a narrative but a plastic function’, and ‘much will be missed unless one knows the language, and knows it well’.

Indeed even the narrative may be inescapably transformed because of language barriers, especially the difficulty of conveying nuance through tradition. I was reminded of Ray’s remark the other day, when I saw TEEN KANYA again, in Cambridge, Massachusetts,  where a festival of Satyajit Ray’s films (based on the wonderful reissues produced by the Merchant-Ivory enterprises) was being held. When obdurate Paglee – in the sparkling form of Aparna Sen – decide to write, at last, a letter to her spurned husband, she conveys her new sense of intimacy by addressing her in the familiar form ‘Tumi’ (as he has requested), rather than the formal and overly respectful ‘apni’. This could not, of course, be caught in the English subtitle. So the translation had to show her as signing the letter as ‘your wife’ (to convey here new sense of intimacy). But the Bengali original in which she still signs as ‘Paglee’ but addresses him in the familiar form ‘tumi’ is infinitely more subtle.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5