Failed Masculinities: The Men in Satyajit Ray’s Films
Devapriya Sanyal
153 x 228 mm
Year of Publishing
Territorial Rights
Orient BlackSwan

In his career as a filmmaker, Satyajit Ray consistently created characters that he adapted from literature, often novels written after 1947. One therefore recognises in his films Indians from the post-Independence era, members of the middle-class intelligentsia conscious of their worth as subjects of the Nehruvian nation. We can see them as models for the kind of educated citizenry that newly independent India was producing, as suggested by film critics such as Pauline Kael in her review of Aranyer Din Ratri (1970) in The New Yorker.

Categorising these characters and relating them to the changing milieu is what Failed Masculinities sets out to do. The rationale behind the book is the argument that Ray’s portrayal of men paints a picture of India’s trajectory, from the colonial period to contemporary times. Ray brought in a certain kind of detachment to his study of men, an approach that differed from the one he employed for his women characters. Since he was dealing with a patriarchal society, his feminine portrayals are overlaid with a sense of what is socially desirable for a democratic independent nation, while his men are entirely products of his detached yet incisive observation. His male characters are people who have actually been created by independence, their masculinity problematised in the films. 

This book will interest scholars of Film and Media Studies, History, Gender Studies, Visual Culture, and Postcolonial Studies. 

Devapriya Sanyal is Assistant Professor of English, Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru.

List of Figures

Introduction: Satyajit Ray’s Films, his Men and the Inscription of the Nation

  1. The Colonial and the Premodern: Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Jalsaghar and Devi
  2. An Uncertain India: Early Nationalism in Charulata and Ghare Baire
  3. Breaking with the Past: The Apu Trilogy
  4. ‘For all we have and are’: The Post-Independence Bourgeoisie in Kanchenjungha and Kapurush
  5. The Hollow Men: The Complacent ‘Achiever’ in Nayak, Aranyer Din Ratri and Seemabaddha
  6. Trying Times: Aspiration and Failure in Kanchenjunga, Mahanagar, Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya
  7. At Odds with the Nation: Joy Baba Felunath, Hirak Rajar Deshe and Sadgati
  8. ‘An Essay on Man’: The Wise Person in Ganashatru, Shakha Prosakha and Agantuk

Conclusion: Moving Away from the Nation



1. Notice | Published in The Telegraph, Kolkata, 29 December 2023.
2. Book Review | Published in The Telegraph, Kolkata, 27 October 2023.
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