Abstract: In their introduction to the anthology Cosmopolitanisms, Breckenridge et al. describe cosmopolitanism as “ways of living at home abroad or abroad at home” (2000: 587). Cosmopolitanism, in these two dimensions, is enacted in Satyajit Ray’s film Agantuk (1991) as well. While the dominant tendency in the film’s reception has been to draw a dichotomy between parochialism and cosmopolitanism – with each proclivity identified with a different branch of the same family tree – this paper shall attempt to problematize this binary. Rather than articulating a tension between the home and the world, this paper proposes that Agantuk illustrates two different cosmopolitanisms – a way of “living at home abroad” and a way of “living abroad at home”. While both cosmopolitan approaches diverge significantly, the film makes a strong case that they emanate from a common space of middleclass privilege and access, by contextualizing them against the economic liberalization reforms of 1991 India. Globalization is seen as fostering a banal, consumerist variety of cosmopolitanism – a means for a financially stable middle class to garner cultural capital, and to produce itself as “modern” on a global scale. It is this consumption-oriented cosmopolitanism that bears the brunt of the film’s critical as well as recuperative efforts. Melted and recast, it has the potential to produce a “thicker”, more inclusive form of local, everyday cosmopolitanism – a cosmopolitanism that is equipped to resist the impulse to flatten and commodify alterity, and to open itself to plural, co-existing modes of inhabiting modernity.
Keywords: Satyajit Ray, globalization in India, cosmopolitanism of consumption, middle class, modernity.