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Satyajit: Ray of Brilliance Sunday, 22 February, 2009

Posted by ~uh~™ in Satyajit Ray, World Movies.

Young Ray at Shantiniketan
Young Ray at Shantiniketan

There’s one person who has influenced me the most since my childhood, since I have learnt to read, learnt to draw, leant to use a camera & learnt to appreciate cinema & music.

His name is Satyajit Ray. As a kid I dreamt to grow up to be like him.

I love his works so much that I probably won’t dare to write a “review” on this maestro. I can probably write more than 100 reviews on him. Still, I would never ever be done with talking enough about of his works.

To me he will remain a True Indian Legend, much more than a Regional Icon, as he is sometimes classified by certain Indian intelligentsia , to take Indian Regional Cinema in a global platform. He was loved by legendary Directors like Kurosawa & Fellini.  Kurosawa once said “Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon”. Directors like Wes Anderson are so heavily influence by ray’s work, that he even uses ray’s music in his movies !  He couldn’t have been more right. Making movies in Bengali & still being counted within the best dozen directors of World cinema is something all Indians can boast. World’s two greatest awards, The Legion of Honour by the President of France (1987) and honorary Oscar (1992) for lifetime acheivement was late but well deserved. Ray elevated Indian cinema to a global audience.

I will always be on awe & respect him for his amazingly original works which can compete with any international authors/ creators of fame.

I personally feel Ray was one of the Best Creative Genius India has ever seen & I admire him for his contribution, some of which I believe as follows:

~ Taking Indian cinema to the global audience & proving what great Indian cinema is made of.
” Satyajit Ray is among the world’s greatest directors, living or dead… Isn’t it curious that the newest, the most modern of the arts, has found one of its deepest, most fluent expressions in the work of an artist like Ray, who must make his seamless films – many have been masterpieces – in a chaotic and volatile corner of one of the world’s oldest cultures, amidst the most stringent shortages of today’s advanced movie-making material and equipment? ” – James Ivory, Film Director, 1991

Great literature, humanity & relationship. Blended with perfectionist direction & experimentation with light & music.Pather Pachali, Apu Triloogy, Charulata & Ghare Baire– such literary classics emerge with a new meaning in Ray’s cinema. He is admired worldwide for his simple & humanist approach. Each of his movies involved characters & a strong message hidden in the underlying complexity. His movies made me think & rediscover new facets of relationship every time I watched them.

~ His movies were ahead of its time in terms of technical brilliance, music & styling.

See Sonar Kella, Joi Baba Felunath, Piku’s Diary, Kanchenjungha, Abhijaan to believe how strong characterization  & storey telling can be experimented in various ways & unfailingly leaving the audience in awe, every time. His movies live.

~ No other Indian director ever worked on the details as he did.

the butterflyThose who have seen GGBB, Nayak, Aranyer Din Ratri, Mahanagar, Jana Aranya, Kanchenjungha may agree with me. The design of the royal palace in GGBB, the pistol shaped lighter in Abhijaan, the dagger in Soner Kella, the way Sharmila keeps the pen in her blouse, the way the comforter is used by Pahadi Sanyal in  Kanchenjungha, the small bone china container for candies in Aranyer Din Ratri are glimpses of Ray’s eye for fine detailing. Ever noticed the central decoration of the floor of grand darbar in GGBB ? Or the printed Shirt of Kamu Mukherjee showing spread out playing cards in the train scene of Sonar Kella? Note how the camera zooms out & created a first impression about Kamu’s character! The shirt of course was designed by Ray himself. It’s Ray’s works which taught me the meaning of the phrase “God is in the details”.

~ He created true children’s literature continuing the legacy of his forefathers Upendrakishore & Sukumar Ray.

Ray’s  detective character Feluda is immortal with his quick wit, razor sharp intelligence & lucid analytical reasoning skills. His sidekick brother Topse and friend Jatayu are conspicuous with his unconditional hero worship & comical presence, respectively. Soumitra Bannerjee & late Santosh Dutta were handpicked by Ray for two main characters. What more, Ray changed the characterization of Jatayu (Lalmohan Ganguy) to suit Santosh Dutta’s persona. Those who have read Sonar Kella, the book may notice Jatayu was clean Shaven with spikey hair, which later changed to a baldie with moustache after the movie was made ! This is what is called putting life to a character. Other than Feluda, Ray created Professor Shonku the scientist, Tarinikhudo– the well traveled hunter with stock of his adventures with the Rajas and nawabs in the deepest jungles of India. Other than regular characters he wrote books like Phatikchand and Sujon Harbola which,  even after three decades appeals the child within me.  I was happy to see the DVD of Phatikchand (1985) is out in the market  after 25 years of Sandip Roy‘s Directorial debut under Ray’s screenplay and music.

~ He is one of the rare film makers whose films meant for children amazes people of all ages.

Sonar Kella, Goopie Byne Bagha Byne & Hirok Rajar Desheb does exactly that. I saw those movies with my dad & I see those movies with my son. His movies appeal to generations. I really wish my sons to learn Bengali; else they would be deprived of a goldmine of childhood excitement & adventure.

~ His sketches/ illustrations are as amazing as his detective novels are.

I cant describe this much, its has to be seen to be believed. He would have easily make Frank Miller learn a thing or two about graphic novels.

~ He is one of the best science fiction writers with amazing originality.

Prof. Shonku with his inventions & globe trotting adventure diaries are just another perspective of Ray’s way to describe the world & his travelogues. Imagination blends with  real places to take the reader to a dreamworld with Anihylin to vanish the evil & Luminimax to fight the darkness, Note, the names of such imaginary products speaks about the creativity of the Advertising genius here. Remember his first job in life was with D.J. Keymer, a British advertising agency. He joined as a “junior visualiser”, earning just eighty rupees a month in 1943. The other day, I was shocked to discover that the Hollywood movie called ‘Evolution’ is complete based on one of the Shonku short story Prof. “Shanku O Aashcharjo Golok”. The story was about a small planet about a size of a tennis ball, reached Shonku’s garden through a meteorite strike and how Shonku observed the evolution of the planets lifecycle inside a flask in his laboratory. It was in this short story Ray foretold that the furure of life ends with a lifeless, unmovable mass before destruction. The Hollywood movie used all the concepts in the movie and it is difficult to believe it’s a mere coincidence. However, it is not new. Earlier similar influence has been observed in Spielberg’s E.T from another short story ‘Bonkubabur Bondhu”.

~ His “Dozen’ series short stories still takes me to my childhood when I used to read them on a lazy winter afternoon accompanied with Aachar. Those short stories have a mysterious charm of the unknown, the uncanny & the undiscovered. I don’t know how good they are after translation in English but each of his stories have brilliant scope of transformation to films, & some meek efforts has been made, both in English & Bengali language TV serials. Some critics say, the short story called “Bonku babur Bondhu” where the spaceship lands on a village & the alien helps a simpleton clerk Bonkubabu, is where Spielberg got his idea of E.T. from. Obviously the due credit was never given to Ray.  Please see the complete  list of Ray’s Literay Works which must be read to understand his creative genius, progressive and scientific bent of mind and most importantly appeal to readers beyond the age boundary. .

~ He is one the best music director to use indigenous instruments only. Those who had seen Sonar Kella & the typical Rajsathani music or Kanchanjungha with the rustic vocals of the mountain song may get hold of the double album ‘Music of Satyajit Ray’. I have the casettes & looking for the CD now.

~ He has been one of the best Scriptwriter, lyricist, Cinematographer & talent hunter of our times.

All the songs of GGBB are written & composed by him. Those are the most amazing numbers I have listened in contemporary Bengali music as far as the bonding of lyrics & music goes in a cinematic context. The singer Anup Ghosal, rose from anonymity to fame after release of GGBB music. Goopy, played by a Tapen Chatterjee, then a greenhorn actor did an amazing portrayal of the character that was again discovered by Ray himself. Unfortunately Tapen was never so successful after GGBB.  Today’s iconic personalities like Sharmila & Simi Grewal has been subjects of Ray’s experimentation in Aranyer Dinratri & Devi. I can bet only Ray could have used Simi as a tribal woman, dark, drunk & free of any inhibition! Similarly lesser known actors like Karuna Bannerjee (the famous Sarbojaya in Pather Panchali & lead character in Kanchenjungha).

However, I must confess I also started smoking in the hope to switch to pipe after growing up; influenced by Ray & Sherlock Holmes. During my early years my brand used to be Plain Charminar (read filter less poison), same what Feluda used to smoke 🙂

Ray lives in me, he always will. Today, on his 87th birth anniversary I remember him. I still dream to do something like he did. Some dreams never die. Some Ray never fade.

Ps: I started this article to post as a diary in mouthshut.com, as I never liked the ‘category’ Satyajit Ray is classified there, but it became too large to fit in. It was never meant to be a review backed by thorough research. I was sad to see the responses, Ray is yet to be acknowledged by most  who boasts to understand movies. If there’s any disappointment after reading the writer of this article is to be blamed solely, not the personality on whom it’s written.



1. gauri - Wednesday, 25 February, 2009

Wonderful. Yes, what holds me riveted is his attention to detail & nuances in mundane things. And it’s amazing how he depicts the deepest of human emotions with so much simplicity!

Apu Trilogy & more so Charulata educe so much passion despite the absence of any explicit expression, verbal or otherwise – or perhaps I find it so articulate because of the (s)implicity.

Nice post.


~uh~:Good to know you too like Ray’s work. Do read some of his literature, if you have a scientific & logical bent of mind, you will love them.

2. Ranjeet - Tuesday, 24 March, 2009

dude-you forgot to mention that he revived-edited/wrote inSondesh Mag for a long time.
The mag was started by his grandfather.But then,as you said-you don’t have time to read. 😛

~uh~: Yeah, Sondesh was a miss out. When I was a kid i used to read and I have huge bound volumes of Sandesh 🙂
I have read the complete works of Sukumar & Upendrakishore too !

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[…] above potrait is of Sukumar Ray, father of Satyajit Ray. For bongs no indroduction for this genius is necessary or required. I have great infuence of  […]

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