ABSTRACT

This essay examines Satyajit Ray’s children’s film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969) to interrogate the ways it signals the utopian. Contending that its utopian desire manifests through the trope of wish-fulfillment (in particular, the granting of boons), it illuminates the trope’s centrality in the film’s imagination and articulation of freedom. Moreover, the essay suggests that the film’s utopianism is also anchored in its irrealist aesthetics. Engaging with the film’s figuration of ghosts and its violation of the narrative structure of the real, the essay illuminates how these formal features inform, and are informed by, a utopian desire. Furthermore, the essay notes that despite its inherent utopianism, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne fails to resolve some of the more obdurate social contradictions in its diegetic world, especially around questions of class, gender, and caste. Arguing that these “failures” are in keeping with its utopian spirit, I suggest they draw our attention to the imperfections of our real conditions of existence and flag the limits of textual utopianism. In so doing, they refer negatively to the social field beyond pointing to the abiding importance of class struggle as the ultimate agent of transformative social change.

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