Skip to main content

A Modernist Public: The Double-Take of Modernism in the Work of Satyajit Ray

  • Chapter
The Melodramatic Public
  • 183 Accesses


Running against the thematic focus in this book, this chapter will look at a different dimension of the institution of the cinema in post-Independence India through the work of Satyajit Ray. It continues, however, the engagement with the critical discourses that surround the popular cinema after Independence, of which Ray’s writings and work were a key constituent, and also articulates my concern with the idea of the cinema as a vehicle of public address, if one very different from that of popular form. His work of course highlights the question of realism, psychological characterization, and narrative integration. Realism was the pre-eminent feature of the critical discourse instituted by art cinema critics and practices. The criticism appears to emerge from evaluating the status of the narrative form through which the real would be articulated—through what means of representation, styles of acting, aesthetic strategies the real would be invoked. As I have argued in chapter 2, the popular compendium—studio shooting, melodramatic, externalized forms for the representation of character psychology, non- or intermittently continuous forms of cutting, diversionary story lines, performance sequences—was not acceptable within the emergent artistic canon, for they undermined plausibility and a desirable regime of verisimilitude.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 16.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Geeta Kapur, ‘Sovereign Subject: Ray’s Apu’, in Geeta Kapur, When was Modernism: Essays in Contemporary Cultural Practice in India, Delhi, Tulika Books, 2000, 201–33.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ashish Rajadhyaksha, ‘Satyajit Ray, Ray-movie and Ray’s films’, Journal of Arts and Ideas 23–4, 1993, 7–16.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Colin McCabe, ‘Realism and the Cinema: Notes on Some Brechtian Theses’, Screen 15 (2), 1974, 7–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. See esp. Andre Bazin, What is Cinema, vol. II, ed. and trans. by Hugh Gray, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1971.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Ravi Vasudevan, ‘Dislocations: The Cinematic Imagining of a New Society in 1950s’ India’, Oxford Literary Review 16, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Sarkar, Hindu Wife; also Partha Chatterjee, ‘Nationalism and the Woman’s Question’, in Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid, eds, Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History, Delhi, Kali for Women, 1989.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Moinak Biswas, ‘Bengali Film Debates: The Literary Liaison Revisited’, Journal of the Moving Image 1, Calcutta, 1999, 1–13.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Copyright information

© 2011 Ravi Vasudevan

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Vasudevan, R. (2011). A Modernist Public: The Double-Take of Modernism in the Work of Satyajit Ray. In: The Melodramatic Public. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics