7th February, 2014 / 11.00am - 4.00pm
14th February, 2017
(1951, 99mins, English & Hindi, dir. Jean Renoir)
Renoir’s first colour feature, a languid romance shot around the Ganges in Bengal. Set during the last days of the Raj and based on Rumer Godden’s semi-autobiographical novel, the film recounts episodes in the lives of a colonial English family and their Anglo-Indian neighbour Melanie (Radha Burnier). Criticized for purported Orientalism, the film’s construction of a pan-Indian cultural composite can lend itself to alternative readings. The implied romance between mixed-race Melanie and a white American visitor, Captain John, challenged prevailing racial taboos, while Burnier’s remarkable Bharatanatyam dance, choreographed by KN Dhandayudhapani Pillai, is electrifying and vital in the context of the colonial ban on temple dancing. The film is notable also for its extraordinary actuality footage of fishermen at work, with extended sequences of labouring bodies that are blended but not subsumed into the fictional narrative. Sustaining a tension between myth and documentary, action and contemplation, the film significantly impacted the development of neorealism in Indian cinema – most notably for Satyajit Ray, Renoir’s uncredited assistant.
The film will be introduced by Professor Ginette Vincendeau.