Remembering Satyajit Ray

Najooka Javier
Saturday, 2 May 2020

In one way, we can all relate to a Satyajit Ray film, and yet it’s rawness can be hard-hitting. 

In Pather Panchali, when Durga and Apu rushed to catch a glimpse of the train, their innocent eyes are stuck with awe at the massiveness and the speed of it. They are driven by the excitement and eagerness of its sight. This train is a reflection of their aspiration to know the unknown. This train is a symbol of the world that existed far away from theirs… and this is how Ray spoke to his audience. 

In one way, we can all relate to a Satyajit Ray film, and yet its rawness can be hard-hitting. 

Creating a niche of his own, Ray’s style of film making was both simple, subtle; yet insightful and elaborate. His work reflected his deep understanding of intellect and emotions, and the effect it has on people. He firmly believed that the best technique is the one that’s not noticeable. 

Looking at his work from the eye of a film critique, Ajit Duara expresses, “his genius comes from bringing the traditions of Bengal renaissance and culture to life. He took the literary traditions and cultural architecture of our nation and bought it to the cinema – to the people.”

“Another aspect that played an important role was Ray’s intuition – it doesn’t come to everyone. Ray also had the gift to understand how to express all of this aesthetically. That is what sets him apart,” he added.

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Ray’s fandom spread worldwide, and he won many awards during his lifetime, including an Academy Award. For his first film Pather Panchali, he was recognised both nationally and internationally. He was also a recipient of India’s highest civilian awards – Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri. 

Known for his versatility, the prolific filmmaker was also a writer, composer and graphic designer. Ray also wrote numerous children’s books, that are still popular. 

Paying an ode to the acclaimed filmmaker, on the occasion of his 99th birth anniversary, the Film division of India has organised an online film festival titled ‘Masterstrokes.' Starting today, the week-long film festival will showcase rare documentaries made by the master alongside films made on him and his oeuvre. 

The films can be viewed on Indian Film Division’s Youtube channel or their website - https://filmsdivision.org/

Films to look forward to

The inner eye (1972): Made on the life of visually impaired artist Benode Behari Mukherjee short documentary follows his life in the form of paintings and photographs. The film traces the journey of the artist from childhood till his blindness along with his work. The inner eye features his painter’s words – “Blindness is a new feeling, a new experience, a new state of being.”

Sadgati (1981): A vicious indictment of the Indian caste system, the film follows the events in the life of a poor Dalit and an upper caster Brahmin priest. Sadgati is based on a short story penned by Munshi Premchand in the same name. 

Rabindranath Tagore (1961): Ray tries to capture the full spectrum of the illustrious writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore through this one-hour long documentary. The filmmaker was himself an admirer of Tagore’s work and adapted his work for many of his creations. He was insisted by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to work on this.

Bala (1976): Based on the life of the revolutionary Bharatanatyam dancer - Balasaraswati, the film features the works of the artist in the form of narration and dance, starring herself. Fondly known as Bala, the dancer’s grace and art reside in the film captured by Ray. 

The festival also features two films featuring the life and work of the filmmaker. 

Ray by Goutam Ghose is based on Ray’s original red notebook - a compilation of sketches and musings. Ghose, in his film, captures Ray not only as the filmmaker, but also Ray the intellectual, illustrator, composer, and even children's book creator. 

Satyajit Ray by Shyam Benegal features interviews of the filmmaker, taken over the course of two years and later compiled into a documentary. 

Revered as a legendary storyteller by the cinematic universe, Ray left behind a legacy of the film. A creative genius, Ray’s works are art masterpieces and timeless in nature.

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