The Rays Before Satyajit: Creativity and Modernity in Colonial India

ISBN : 9780199464753

Chandak Sengoopta
426 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Apr 2016
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Although the filmmaker Satyajit Ray is well-known across the world, few outside Bengal know much about the diverse contributions of his forebears to printing technology, nationalism, childrens literature, feminism, advertising, entreprenurial culture and religious reform. Even within Bengal, the earlier Rays are often regarded exclusively as childrens writers. The first study in English of the multifarious interests and accomplishments of the Ray family and its collateral branches, The Rays Before Satyajit interweaves the Ray saga with the larger history of Indian modernity and its contradictions. Whilst eager to learn from the West and rarely drawn to simple-minded nationalism, the Rays, at their best, shunned mere imitation and sought to create forms of the modern that were thoroughly Indian and enthusiastically cosmopolitan. Some of the outcomes of this quest such as Upendrakishore Rays innovations in half-tone photography were even appreciated in the West, though the metropolitan careers of colonial innovators, as the book shows, were inevitably constrained by forces beyond their control. Ranging confidently across the history of religion, literature, science, technology and entrepreneurial culture, The Rays before Satyajit is not only a collective biography of an extraordinary family but illuminates the history of Indian modernity from a bracingly original perspective.


List of Abbreviations
Introduction: The Rays and the History of Modernity in India
1: From the Old World to the New: A Family in Transition
2: New Faith, New Woman, New Society
3: Empire, Nation, Women
4: The Polymathic Artisan
5: Home and the World: Swadeshi and Its Ambiguities
6: Triumph and Tragedy
Epilogue: New Challenges, Old Values
About the Author

About the author: 

Chandak Sengoopta is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

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