iinteriors and exteriors


At an intertexutal level, the Victorianism of the interior depicting the nineteenth century penchant for all things plush and patinated, evokes as well the useless expenditure and sensationalism of mainstream Indian cinema, in which both gods and humans are given a high-gloss “Color-by-Technicolor” appearance implicitly critiqued by the film. In contrast to the opulence of the interior, the countryside depicted in Devi has none of the lushness of the panoramic views that characterize the depiction of a mythical India in mainstream cinema–with their hills and dales, waterfalls and sunsets, skies and clouds through which heroes and heroines, gods and goddesses pass.

The distance between the exterior landscapes and the interior of Kalikinkar’s household is only too marked. For there are no elements of relief in the landscape in Devi: no baroque ornamentation, no carapaces or coverings that give the bourgeois nineteenth-century imagination its substance or twentieth-century escapism its content. The modern is coded as the shellacking of the private sphere in which more and more layers are added to protect the “private rooms of our prosaic understanding,” to use [Walter] Benjamin’s phrase, from exposure to the public. In contrast, the countryside in Devi reveals that the poor have no such escape to draw into. Importantly, neither does prakriti (or nature) herself, stripped as she is of vegetation or plenitude. 

Keya Ganguly, Cinema, Emergence, and the Films of Satyajit Ray