Dilip Basu is research professor of humanities and founding director of the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Collection at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
(a.k.a. The Goddess). A teenage Sharmile Tagore delivers one of her most riveting performances in Ray's tale of idolatry and obsession, set in rural Bengal circa 1860. Amidst the luxuries and fineries of his aristocratic home, a wealthy man has a vision that his beautiful daughter-in-law (Tagore) is none other than the incarnation of the goddess Kali. Torn from her husband, she is soon placed like a deity on an altar outside his home, and because of a "miracle," the peasants and the girl come to believe in her divinity. Gorgeously recreating nineteenth-century Bengal through painstakingly detailed, lavish sets and costumes, Devi unveils a sensual tale of spiritually corrupted by fanaticism, and was first criticized as an attack on Hinduism by some protestors, who tried to prevent the film's international release. For Pauline Kael, “Ray's feeling for the intoxicating beauty within the disintegrating way of life of the nineteenth-century landowning class makes this one of the rare, honest films about decadence.”