The Goddess Kali has been seen as that of a destructor, a master of death but she is also the mother of all beings who protects and nurtures her children. Once she was described as a dark and terrible mother and worshiped by questionable people in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But this story is no gimmicky action blockbuster, this is a strange and at times soulful look at a what happens when irrational beliefs take over and destroy a family.

When Umaprasad leaves for Kolkata to complete his studies, he leaves behind his beloved wife, Doyamoyee. His wealthy landowning father enjoys Doyamoyee’s presence and welcomes her company in the house. Then one night he has hallucination, seeing an image of her face, he becomes convinced that she is the reincarnation of the goddess Kali whom he worships. This delusion proves to cause a devastating sequence of events to Doyamoyee and her family around her resulting in a tragedy that could have been prevented.

It has been said that this film is poetry in motion by some, but rather than poetry, it is more like a cautionary tale. Blending into the story about family and religion, faith is tested by all members of the family in various ways. This creates the tension between sisters-in-law, husbands and wives and even with Doyamoyee and her beloved nephew when he becomes too scared to go near her once she becomes ordained as the goddess. The father, Kalikinkar, the head of the family disrupts these happy unions with his own wild beliefs based on visions he had on one ordinary night shows just how powerful a patriarch can be. Kali is said to be destructive and it is as if the real goddess does have a presence in the home but it isn’t through the innocent and obedient Doyamoyee, it is through him and his ultimate blind obsession rather than faith that ruins his own family. The caution in the tale is not to blindly follow one person’s ideas, that way leads to madness and in this case, tragic death.

It is refreshing to see a different perspective on religion and irrational beliefs explored by such a director as Satyajit Ray. This genre is often explored by Western filmmakers usually with a horror element added to them, but here it is about one family and one man’s visions forced upon others who trust and love him. For this subject, sometimes it’s better to looks back at what filmmakers thought rather and reflect on what stories can be told in the future. Ray creates a beautiful homely atmosphere making you believe this story will go a certain way but subverts expectations by turning to religious hysteria and at the core, a tragic love story between a husband and wife.

Devi is released on Blu-ray on 22 November from The Criterion Collection

By KatieHogan

Katie has been writing about film for 10 years and joined the FH team back in 2016. Having been brought up on the classics from Empire Strikes Back to Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera, Katie has been obsessed with film since she was young and turned to writing about film after she immersed herself in her 6,000 word essay about the Coen Brothers.

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