My initial reaction to Jai Santoshi Maa was a good one. I thought that the film transcended any baggage surrounding typical devotional movies and did so by bringing the female goddess Santoshi Ma to light. I found that the movie did an excellent job of exemplifying Santoshi Ma, and her ability to provide “Satisfaction” through devotion. (Lutgendorf 2) The way the director represented her as a desirable figure of power and success with the less-than-mentionable special effects was what I have come to expect. The unrealistic, God-Like ability exhibited by Santoshi Ma is effective and is a typical representation of God’s or Goddess’s in Indian cinema. I am sure the cheesy effects and constant expulsions of “Narayan, Narayan!” only contributed to the success of this film. It was still stuck in my head the day after our viewing.
The relationship Satyawati has with Santoshi Ma is a devout one to say the least. I have to agree with Stephen in that the film is not only a mythological, but a devotional film as well. (Watkins 84) Satyawati endures a living hell after Birju leaves out of disdain for actions his family had done. Satyawati is taken advantage of by her sister-in-laws and constantly knocked down emotionally and physically through the labor of her work. They deem her responsible for all of their chores and she has to work hard to earn her meager ration of stale bread. Her devotion to Santoshi Ma, which is expressed by her exhibition of a period of ritual fast or ‘vrat’ is, as Sarah stated, a reminder of a continuing form of oppression for Indian women. (Lutgendorf 9) This oppression is overcome by the devotion to Santoshi Ma, which becomes very apparent in the final hour of the film. I agree that by understanding how the readings relate to this film brings an unbiased scope to the viewer, which brings the movie to you in a different ‘mantra’.
I was also impressed to see how Birju so devoutly worships and adheres to the goddess’ desires. After much time away from Satyawati and the development of a relationship with another woman he still listens to Santoshi Ma’s cry for him to return to Satyawati. I believe that this represents a will for women to overcome oppression, formed by religion or man. By using Birju as a character of devotion the director portrays Santoshi Ma as having the final answer to his troubles. This female deity provides an inspiration to women in India, and contributed to the local and widespread success of Jai Santoshi Maa.
I think it is interesting to note how westerners receive mythological films like Ja Santoshi Maa. As Lutgendorf states in his article, “On an aesthetic level, their cheap production values and special effects, evoking the staging conventions of rustic folk theater and lower-class notions of opulence, are perceived as gaudy kitsch by wealthier and more educated people. “ This I find to be for the most part true, but he later goes on to state, “Such portrayals pose little problem for rural and more traditional audiences, for whom even laughter at the gods can coexist comfortably with feelings of awe and devotion.” These statements allow you to see that the visual boundaries westerners have trouble crossing are exactly what make the success of this film in Indian Cinema.
In conclusion I thought the movie was great. I have come to expect a three hour, visual experience that for the sake of character development and inclusion of all the typical Bollywood touches cannot be shortened. I would not mind getting a little extra bang for my buck in American theaters. I thought the movie did exactly what it what supposed to; emote a feeling of worship for Santoshi Ma.