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SATYAJIT RAY : The true Indian legend

SHUBHAMSG IF-Dazzler
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 4:48am | IP Logged

Satyajit Ray

 

 


Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray.
Born
2 May 1921
Kolkata, India
Died
23 April 1992
Kolkata, India

Satyajit Ray (Bangla:????????ž ????) (May 2, 1921 - April 23, 1992) was an Academy Award winning Indian film director whose films are perhaps the greatest testament to Bengali and Indian cinema. He is mostly known for his Apu trilogy - the films Pather Panchali (Song of the Road), Aparajito (The Unconquered), and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu). - but has a large collection of works that are widely acclaimed. A Bharat Ratna, he was also noted for his literary works in Bengali.

He has been called one of the four greatest directors of cinema in the world, and Kurosawa famously said of Ray:[1]

"Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon."

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Ray on a postage stamp
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Ray on a postage stamp

Satyajit Ray was born into a relatively wealthy and highly influential Brahmo family in Kolkata. His father Sukumar Ray was one of the leading Bengali writers, in the vein of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, and his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray (Ray Chowdhuri) was a renaissance man with many interests ranging from writing to typography. Likewise, Ray was well-educated, attending the Presidency College, Kolkata, where he studied Economics, and the Vishwabharati (Santiniketan) established by Rabindranath Tagore. At Santiniketan, he studied visual arts under the tutelage of the renowned blind artist, Benode Behari Mukherjee, on whose life and work he later went on to make a documentary, named "The Inner Eye". Thereafter, he spent many years as a layout artist in a publishing house (Signet Press) and worked with a reputed advertising agency (D.J.Keemer). Inspired by the novel Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, he decided to adapt it into a film and shoot it on location using friends as actors, putting up the initial funding himself.

He was married to Bijoya, a distant cousin, with whom he had a son, Sandip, who is a film director of some repute in his own right.

Ray died on 23 April 1992, at the age of 71, at Calcutta.

Creative career

A screenshot from pather Panchali
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A screenshot from pather Panchali

In 1949, before he decided to make films, Ray met the great French director Jean Renoir who visited Calcutta to scout locations for his film The River (1950). Renoir encouraged Ray to make films and this was part of the motivation that led to the making of Pather Panchali.

Partway through filming he ran out of funds; the Government of West Bengal loaned him the rest, allowing him to finish the film. The money was loaned on record for 'roads improvement' (Pather Panchali translates as 'song of the road'). The film was successful both artistically and commercially, winning kudos (Best Human Document) at the 1955 Cannes film festival and heralded a new era in the Indian film industry. After a Cannes screening, Franois Truffaut is reported to have said: "I don't want to see a movie of peasants eating with their hands."[2]

Most of Ray's work, especially his early work including the Apu Trilogy or the three films entitled Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1957) and The World of Apu (Apur Sansar) (1959), seems to have been influenced by the Italian Neorealist movement in Italian post-war cinema. In fact, the one film which moved Ray the most before he started scripting Pather Panchali was Italian Neorealist film-maker Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief, which he reportedly saw 55 times.[3] Two of the actors from the Apu Trilogy, Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore (the great-grandaughter of Rabindranath Tagore) would appear in a number of his other films.

Ray's work tends to be both realistic and subdued; his early work is compassionate and touching; his later work, while more political, is also at times cynical, but still infused with his typical humour. Ray's first film outside of the Apu trilogy was the comic Parash Pathar (The Philosopher's Stone), in 1958. It was soon followed by Jalsaghar (The Music Room), which generated critical praise in the U.S. and Europe.

As the Apu trilogy was completed, it was followed by a creative period that won Ray continued acclaim at home and internationally - several of his most popular films (Charulata, Mahanagar/ The Big City, Devi, and Teen Kanya/ Three Daughters) were made at this time. In 1962, Ray directed Kanchenjungha, which was his first original screenplay and colour film. Kanchenjungha is notable as one of the few films to be shot in real time. Beginning with Teen Kanya, Ray also took over responsibility for musical composition within his films.

Later projects

A poster of Seemabaddha
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A poster of Seemabaddha

Other notable works in Ray's career include Nayak (1965), Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures Of Goopy And Bagha), a children's film from 1969 featuring Ray's own songs based on a novella by his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray, and 1970's Aranyer Dinratri (Days And Nights In The Forest). During the 1970s Ray completed the Calcutta trilogy : Seemabaddha (Company Limited), Pratidwandi (The Adversary) and Jana Aranya (The Middleman), three films which were conceived separately, but whose thematic connections form a loose trilogy. Each generated further acclaim, with Jana Aranya winning additional awards.

In 1977, Ray completed Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players), an Urdu/Hindi movie about chess players of Lucknow. This film starred Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Amjad Khan, Shabana Azmi, Victor Bannerjee and Richard Attenborough. Apart from a later short film in Hindi, Sadgati, starring Om Puri and the late Smita Patil, this was his only feature film in a language other than Bengali. Both these films were based on original stories by Munshi Premchand, the giant of Hindi literature.

Literary adaptations

Ray adapted some well-known Bengali books for films, for example, the Apu trilogy and Ashani Sanket (Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay); Kapurush (Premendra Mitra); Mahanagar (Narendranath Mitra); Mahapurush and Parash Pathar (Parashuram); Chiriyakhana (Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay); Charulata, Teen Kanya and Ghare Baire (Rabindranath Tagore); Jana Aranya and Seemabaddha (Shankar); Aranyer Dinratri and Pratidwandi (Sunil Gangopadhyay) etc. He had also adapted Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People in his film Ganashatru.

Unfilmed

In 1967, Ray wrote a script for a movie to be entitled "The Alien," with Columbia Pictures as producer for this planned US/India co-production, and Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando as the leading actors. However Ray was surprised to find that the script he had co-written had already been copyrighted and the fee appropriated. Marlon Brando dropped out of the project and though an attempt was made to bring James Coburn in his place, Ray became disillusioned and returned to Calcutta.[4] Columbia expressed interest in reviving the project several times in the 70s and 80s but nothing came of it. When E.T. was released in 1982, many saw striking similarities in the movie to Ray's earlier script - Ray discussed the collapse of the project in a 1980 Sight & Sound feature, with further details revealed by Ray's biographer Andrew Robinson (in The Inner Eye, 1989). Ray believed that Spielberg's movie "would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies." [5]

Literary achievements

Cover of a collection of Satyajit Rays short stories
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Cover of a collection of Satyajit Ray's short stories

Satyajit Ray was also a prolific writer in Bengali. He created two of the most famous characters in Bengali literature, namely Feluda, a sleuth, and Professor Shonku, a scientist. He also wrote quite a number of short stories which were published as volumes of 12 stories. He received France's Lgion d'honneur for his short stories, in 1987.

Most of his writings have now been translated into English, and are finding an eager second generation of readers.

A sketch of Feluda,the private investigator
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A sketch of Feluda,the private investigator

Ray wrote his autobiography encompassing his childhood years, Jakhan Choto Chilam (1982) and essays on film: Our Films, Their Films (1976), along with Bishoy Chalachchitra (1976), Ekei Bole Shooting (1979). Most of his novels and stories in Bengali have been published by Ananda Publishers, Calcutta; and most of his screenplays have been published in Bengali in the literary journal Eksan edited by his close friend Nirmalya Acharya. During the mid-1990s, Ray's film essays and an anthology of short stories were also published in the West. Ironically, while certain writings are available in the West, few if any (depending on country) films are.

Trivia

  • Satyajit Ray was known as Manikda to near and dear ones as well as the people of the film-world in India.
  • Satyajit Ray himself was the composer, writer and producer of many of his films.
  • Sikkim (film) - the documentary was commissioned by the King of Sikkim when he saw the sovereignty of Sikkim under threat from China and India. Satyajit Ray's documentary captures exactly that - the sovereignty of Sikkim. After the Indian annexation of Sikkim in 1975, the documentary was banned by the Indian government, and all existing copies of the documentary destroyed. The only piece of the film left is a scene-by-scene written reconstruction of the film by the remaining film team members. However, rumors flame of a copy of the film being present with the royal family in exile, and another copy in the film library of an American university. As a postscript, India and China agreed to mutually recognize Sikkim and Tibet as legal parts of the other nation, a sad story for the South Asian diversity which this film projected.
  • Ray spent many years as a layout artist in a publishing house (Signet Press) and worked with a reputed advertising agency (D.J.Keemer). He had drawn the covers of many famous books,including Chander pahar by Bibhutibhushan Banerjee.
  • Ray drew the covers and illustrations of most of his fictions and short stories.
  • Satyajit Ray was a Tintin fan, and had shots of Tintin comics in some of his movies.
  • Satyajit Ray had plans to make a film about the Mahabharata.
  • A project to restore all of Ray's films was launched in the early 1990s, with many individuals in India and the United States participating (including noted filmmakers Martin Scorsese, James Ivory and Ismail Merchant). A theatrical retrospective of the restored films toured internationally in the 1990s, generating press and new audiences.

Personal awards

This lists the Personal Awards Ray achieved apart from several distinctions his films earned worldwide.

Year Award Award giving body
1958 Padma Shri Government of India
1965 Padma Bhushan Government of India
1967 Ramon Magsaysay Award Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation
1971 Star of Yugoslavia Government of Yugoslavia
1973 Doctor of Letters Delhi University
1974 D. Litt. Royal College of Art, London
1976 Padma Vibhushan Government of India
1978 D. Litt. Oxford University
1978 Special Award Berlin Film Festival
1978 Desikottam Visva-Bharati University, India
1979 Special Award Moscow Film Festival
1980 D. Litt. Burdwan University, India
1980 D. Litt. Jadavpur University, India
1981 Doctorate Benaras Hindu University, India
1981 D. Litt. North Bengal University, India
1982 Hommage Satyajit Ray Cannes Film Festival
1982 Special Golden Lion of St. Mark Venice Film Festival
1982 Vidyasagar Award Govt. of West Bengal
1983 Fellowship The British Film Institute
1985 D. Litt. Calcutta University, India
1985 Dadasaheb Phalke Award Government of India
1985 Soviet Land Nehru Award
1986 Fellowship Sangeet Natak Academy, India
1987 Lgion d'Honneur Government of France
1987 D. Litt. Rabindra Bharati University, India
1992 Oscar for Lifetime Achievement Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
1992 Bharat Ratna Government of India

Filmography

Main article: Filmography of Satyajit Ray

 

    Just got this article . Thought I'd share it with you all. SmileSmile

luvmusic Goldie
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 4:52am | IP Logged
Thanku Shubham....Indeed a person India shud be proud of...
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 4:56am | IP Logged
thnx shubham
after seeing pather panchali i cried like anythin
i hav 2 say bengalis hav suffered an immense lose after his death
look at da present bengali movies n look at satyajit ray's movies-heaven n hell difference
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:01am | IP Logged
Not only the films , but also the songs.Did you hear the songs of the present BENGALI films of JEET ?? This one is the worst :

PAAGOLE KI NAA BOLE
CHHAGOLE KINA KHAY ....

This is a total insult to the BENGALI FILM INDUSTRY . Angry
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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:07am | IP Logged
Western Influences on Satyajit Ray

Abhijit Sen


The contributions of Satyajit Ray to the Bengali and to Indian cinema in general has not been matched by any other filmmakers, both past and present. The Apu Trilogy itself would be enough to place him on the pedestal of filmmaking and there would be no doubt about the genius of Ray's talent in the film world after the Trilogy. Ray's niche in the hall of fame of international cinema is firmly secure. The number of awards apart, Ray now shares the dizzying heights where only a handful of film makers sit. As Lindsay Anderson, the British filmmaker and critic once said: "I would compare Satyajit Ray to Eisenstein, Chaplin, Kurosawa, Bergman and Antonioni. He is among the greatest in world cinema." In 1978, the Berlin Film Festival committee adjudged him one of the three all-time masters of the cinema, a rare honour he shared with Chaplin and Bergman, the same year Oxford University conferred on him an honorary doctorate. Many critics called him the complete filmmaker who wrote his own scripts, composed the film scores, made sketches for the costumes and sets and even designed the posters of his films.

Ray grew up in Calcutta, which in 18th/19th c. was the seat of the British Empire in India. The merger of the East and the West gave birth to the Bengali Renaissance and to the educated middle-class of which Ray and his family was an integral part. This fusion of the East and the West is deeply embedded in Ray's art-- the same kind of fusion one can find in Rabindranath Tagore's humanistic fusion of classical Indian tradition and Western liberal thoughts. Tagore himself was the principal architect and guiding spirit of the Bengali Renaissance and at one time Ray was a pupil of Tagore's art school at Shantiniketan. This kind of upbringing and education imbued Ray with traditional Bengali/Indian culture along with significant aspects of Western art and culture. Ray knew his cultures very well. David Ansen (Newsweek, 1981), the film critic of the Newsweek once wrote that few film artists could equal "the Renaissance man" for sheer cultural depth, which Ray possessed innately. How, when and where did he pick up such influences which eventually impacted on his art and craft, is an intriguing and an interesting question.

One major factor appears to be that Ray had learnt his art mainly from the Western cinema. The directors he repeatedly referred to, while talking about filmmaking, were Jean Renoir, Vittorio De Sica, John Ford and Frank Capra to name a few. He had also expressed admiration for directors as diverse as Bergman and Hitchcock. Ray met the French director Jean Renoir who was filming The River in Calcutta and it was Lindsay Anderson who asked Ray to write about Renoir for a Cine magazine called the Sequence, which Ray did by interviewing Renoir.

Earlier in his younger days, his two passions were films and music, in fact music preceded films in terms of his interest. He had grown up in an atmosphere of Bengali songs and Brahmo hymns where he participated in the family choir. But Ray hankered for something more dramatic than the vedic chants and Tagore songs, which he found in the symphonic music of the West. As he himself said: "At the age when Bengali youth almost inevitably writes poetry, I was listening to European classical music." (Sumit Mitra, 1983; p.73)

At the age of thirteen, Ray went looking for bargains in music shops of Calcutta with one of his school friends, and one of the treasures he found was Beethoven's 5th Symphony, and then he stumbled upon Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. According to his friend, after the great discovery he lay awake the whole night. The logic, symmetry and the beauty of Mozart's music was not lost on Satyajit Ray. Ray once said : "As a small boy I had read about Beethoven in the Book of Knowledge, now I was listening enraptured to his sonatas and symphonies." Later in his professional life he learnt to play the piano which he played with "professional ease". His expertise in Western classical music was well recognized. Adi Gazdar, the Calcutta- based classical pianist once confirmed, that Ray was "one of the best connoisseurs of Western classical music in the country."

Jean Renoir was a major influence on Ray. Renoir was the first European director who warned Ray against Hollywood influence in Indian films. Renoir had noticed how the Indian film industry was churning out melodramas to cater to the taste of ever-enthusiastic Indian public. But he was optimistic that better films were going to be made and he blamed the current state of affairs on the Indian directors who found more "inspiration in the slick, artificiality of a Hollywood film than in the reality around him." Of all the films of Renoir, Ray admired La Regle du Jeu the most, a personal favorite of Renoir himself. Regarding filmmaking Renoir said that a filmmaker need not show a lot of things in a film but to show only the right things. Ray diligently followed the same advice that Renoir offered him in 1952: "You don't have to have too many elements in a film, but whatever you use must be the right elements, the expressive elements." From Renoir, Ray learnt that there was nothing more important to a film than the emotional integrity of human relationship in the film. No doubt technique was important but he said that it should not become the dominant force. "In America," Renoir said, "they worry too much about the technique, and neglect the human aspect."

       
Apart from Renoir, it was the Italian Neo-Realists who gripped Ray's imagination next. Ray noted in his book that his trip to London as an art director of an advertising agency was to seal the fate of his advertising career. He said that within three days of his arrival he had seen The Bicycle Thief by Vittorio De Sica which furthermore strengthened his resolve to make his first feature film Pather Panchali using natural locations and unknown actors as was the case with The Bicycle Thief. Ray says: "All through my stay in London, the lessons of The Bicycle Thief and neo-realist cinema stayed with me." Ray's praise for The Bicycle Thief knew no bounds as he says: "BT is a triumphant discovery of the fundamentals of cinema and De Sica has openly acknowledged his debt to Chaplin." He found that the universality of the theme, the effectiveness of the treatment and the low-cost production made it an ideal film to be used as a model by the Indian filmmakers.

Curiously, one of Ray's earliest introduction to sound films and one of the earliest influence in filmmaking was Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise. Ray pointed out that with the introduction of sound on film it was Lubitsch who integrated a story and the song to form a whole new work of art. Ray admiringly talked of Lubitsch as a director with "all wit and elegance and innuendo," "a director who had a permanent influence on all future filmmakers of sophisticated comedy." Incidentally, Lubitsch was also one of the few top rated European directors to really succeed in Hollywood.

In Calcutta, Ray often used to drop by Jean Renoir's hotel-room during the evenings to discuss Europeans films and filmmakers. Renoir would point out the distinctive and specific features of the landscape of Bengal which symbolised the essence of Bengal. For instance, a clump of banana trees, a small pond in a village or a waving paddy was quintessentially Bengal to Renoir. Like in Renoir's The River, the placid Ganges is a recurrent symbol in Ray's films including Aparajito. The film, shot in Benares, continuously shows man's dependence on the river as a source of life. Renoir even told Ray that if Indian filmmakers could get Hollywood out of their system, they would be making great films. (Marie Seton, Satyajit Ray, OUP, 1974; p. 145)

True to Renoir's advice, Ray focused on details which typified the city and the village in Bengal. The vast plains of Bengal, the rivers, the monsoon rains, and heavy moisture-laden clouds formed the backbone of Ray's earlier films.

In Pather Panchali, Ray introduced the neo-realist tradition of using non-actors and actually shooting on location while using an unadorned style of photography. The details of speech, behavior, habits, customs, rituals, substantiated the very simple structure and the narrative line. The film, almost a documentary, was simple enough to be comprehensible at all levels. Incidentally, the novel Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, from which the movie was adapted, was a sprawling saga whose slow speed, leisurely denouement caught the perfect rhythm of the rural Bengal.

At an interview given at the AFI (American Film Institute), Ray told the interviewer that the slow pace of the narrative in his films developed out of necessity -- the necessity of portraying the subtle and complex relations among the human characters. The relationship between Apu and his mother is so carefully and diligently handled that we realize, in due course of time, where the two stand in regards to each other. Apu's wonder at modern inventions and amenities like electricity, the printing press, and automobiles is like a great discovery. It is from such minute observations that a convincing picture of Apu's transition to maturity and independence is built up in Aparajito. This application of details and the focus on human-relationship is an aspect prevalent in the films of Italian neo-realists like De Sica, Rossellini, Fellini and others. In Aparajito, Benares is seen through the eyes of the curious Apu -- the narrow lanes, the sacred monkeys, the muscle builders, the boats on the river, the priests chanting their hymns, and the daily cleansing of bodies on the banks of the holy river Ganges. A parallel could be drawn between De Sica's The Bicycle Thief where much of the city life and city activities could be viewed through the wandering Bruno's eyes and Apu's wonder-filled eyes on his arrival in Benares.

       
European traits and facets are in abundance in Ray's films. Ray claims that, "they have been brought up to my notice that I can actually name them: irony, understatement, humor, open endings, the use of leit-motifs and a fluid camera and so on. I only try to tell a story in the best possible way balancing the needs of Art with the need to reach an audience. By no means a unique pre-occupation for a filmmaker, but perhaps involving more risks than usual in the context of India. The Western elements often perturbs the Indian viewer in the same way as the indigenous elements perturb the Western viewers." (Sight & Sound, sp. 1982 vol. 51; #2) Then later Ray adds: "What is attempted in these film is of course a synthesis. But it can be seen by someone who has his feet in both cultures. Someone who will bring to bear on the films involvement and detachment in equal measure" (Sight & Sound, Sp.1982; vol. 51, #2).

Pertaining to cinema techniques and cinematography, Ray claimed to be in debt to Godard and Truffaut of the French. New Wave for introducing Western technical and cinematic innovations. The new cinema techniques introduced by Jean Luc Godard in films such as Breathless certainly had an effect on Ray who once said: "all artists owe a debt to innovators and profit by such innovation. Godard gave me the courage to dispense largely with fades and dissolves, Truffaut to use the freeze." (Sight & Sound, Vol.51 #2, Sp.1982)

But what impressed Ray the most was the innovation, "-- subtle, almost imperceptible kind of innovation that can be felt in the very texture and sinews of a film. A film like La Regle du Jeu - I defy anyone to give it a label. This is the kind of innovation that appeals to me," he said. (Sight & Sound, vol.51; #2, Sp.1982)

Ray's love of Western classical music has already been mentioned. Furthermore, Ray not only wrote his scripts, designed costumes and clothes, he also composed musical scores for his films. For Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Jalsaghar he used well-known Indian classical musicians to score but progressively he felt the creative urge to control the sound-track of the movie. He devised his own music for Teen Kanya and at one time he told Goerges Sadoul that he thought (Seton, 1974) endlessly of Mozart in connection with Charulata, and for that he himself had composed four musical motifs. Ray at one time claimed that his films had been influenced by the musical forms of a symphony and sonatas, and he was highly impressed by Sergei Profokiev's scores of Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible; by Cicoguini's music for The Bicycle Thief and Miracle in Milan. Although Ray had no formal music education, he could pick out a tune or a melody by humming whistling or by tinkering on the piano and his scores for his films were usually very simple and straightforward, mainly with the use of a single instrument. Nonetheless, he also loved using Bengali folk songs and ballads as he did in Kanchenjungha, Charulata and later in the fantasy story Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne.

Western cultural behavior and mannerisms surface in quite a few of Ray's films. The depiction of life in the city, as in Mahanagar, appears fast paced, modern and contemporary. In his urban films, the themes appear to be universal and a part of any city life: rat race, unemployment, the working woman, and when dwellers behaving in much the same way as any other city folks the world over. The use of English language in some of his films itself indicates the influence of the British culture. English words and phrases used in the movies convey feelings and nuances for which Bengali language may have no equivalence. The use of English by the actors in Kanchenjungha for example actually indicates the degree of Westernization undergone by a set of characters in the film, consequently their class, social background and status in the society, as pointed out by an observer. There is ample eveidence to show that the elites of the Bengali society, who attended English-medium schools were in general more Anglicized and westernized than their counterparts from other social backgrounds. That the characters would break into English once in a while in the film clearly indicated their urban sophistication and the degree of westernization undergone by the characters. In the era when this film was produced such pronouncements were rare occasions but it is all too common nowadays.

       
In dealing with the subject of religion, superstition, and even death Ray stood squarely on the side of the Western rationalists. In general, Ray tended to avoid overly melodramatize and avoid sentimental approaches when dealing with these issues. In Devi, dealing with superstition and religiosity, Ray balanced the orthodox notion of a woman possessed of a great spiritual and psychic power with a rational and progressive household of a scientific-minded professor in Calcutta. The conflict between reason and superstition was approached with a deliberate sensitivity by Ray, avoiding what could potentially have become a bizarre situation. Instead of heightening the drama, the camera was used to contemplate the tragedy in a deliberate and a purposeful manner and gravity. In scenes of death there is no excessive show of grief. When the father/priest died in Aparajito we did not see his wife and son wailing but a beautiful symbolic shot of a flock of pigeons taking off in a soaring flight across the cloudy sky -- as if the soul had been freed from the body to now roam the universe as it pleased. When Apu's mother died, Apu was shown, briefly, crying with his head down under a tree -- and we moved on to the next scene. The discipline of Ray's inner self, not given to undue emotionalism, is reflected in his films and the structured images influenced by the Western classical music and some Western films, made Ray a true classicist and an integrated filmmaker according to some critics and scholars. (Seton, 1974).

By reviewing his films obvious questions arise and some of them have been clearly articulated by cultural critics like Ashish Nandy. He basically questions Ray's authenticity as an Indian filmmaker -- was he an Indian who was highly westernized, fully cosmopolitan but dealt with Indian themes merely because he happened to live in India? Or was he an Indian with Western aesthetic values even though the subject matters of his films remained Indocentric? Nandy hypothesizes that Ray's guiding principles of aesthetics and core values of his life were intrinsically drawn from the European Enlightenment of 17th-18th century.

Ray, no doubt, was a product of a "cultural implosion" that took place in Bengal in the 19th c., triggered by the British colonial intrusion and the European rationalism and values were a part and parcel of his consciousness. Nandy expounds that as a creative person Ray probably lived internally with a plurality of selves -- that a part of him was Indian and the other part was Western, imbuing his personality with a "bi-cultural component." Thus, true to his cultural and middleclass heritage, Ray was essentially a Calcuttan "babu" whose true cultural self expressed itself bi- culturally even in art. The peaceful co-existence within the two cultures, Bengali and English, once learnt as a technique of survival has now become a character trait of Bengalis and Indians in general, according to Nandy. If this is the case, then Ray was certainly open to Western and European ideas and thoughts throughout his life and related to Western filmmaking very strongly.

Many of the examples cited in this paper illustrate Ray's need to explore Bengal and the Bengali society both externally and internally, giving full vent to his multi-cultural self and exposing in its entirety the evolving post-colonial pluralistic society of Bengal and India. To do so, Ray not only took the story-telling techniques via celluloid from both the European and the Hollywood masters but also their music, narrative style, languages and other aspects of filmmaking.

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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:12am | IP Logged

Originally posted by SHUBHAMSG

Not only the films , but also the songs.Did you hear the songs of the present BENGALI films of JEET ?? This one is the worst :

PAAGOLE KI NAA BOLE
CHHAGOLE KINA KHAY ....

This is a total insult to the BENGALI FILM INDUSTRY . Angry

ya i agree

i hate all da movies of prosenjit n jeet n all da present movies

how can ppl go n watch themAngryAngry

the way they act it seems they r doin jaatraAngry

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Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:13am | IP Logged
OUR RAY OF THE 70's and 80's

Somjit Dutt




We who grew from childhood to youth and young adulthood in the city of Calcutta during the course of the 70's and 80's of the 20th century had the rare opportunity to refer to one of the Titans of the screen, Satyajit Ray, as almost one of us : he was very much our Ray. By the word our we of course never signified any equality of creativity with him; for, we were then merely children or adolescents. We merely felt proud in believing that he belonged to us, and was not, like other great Bengalis of the bygone years a remote figure, Olympian in its isolation. At any given point of time during the day, Ray could be counted upon to be seated at his study in his spacious and old-fashioned apartment on Bishop Lefroy Road, writing a script or story, casting roles, sketching scenarios, or musing abstractedly, his pipe held at a pensive angle by his third molar.

When I was a child, I became conscious of this man not through his films primarily but through his stories and the monthly magazine Sandesh of which he was one of the editors. Very early in their lives, almost all Bengali children of our generation came in contact with Sukumar Ray's book of nonsense rhymes Aabol Taabol; he was truly the Edward Lear of Bengal. Sukumar's father Upendra Kishore Ray Chaudhuri had bestowed on us his immortal fairy tale duo Goopy Gyne the minstrel and Bagha Byne the drummer. Our early childhood was touched by the magic wand of the literary creations of all three men, though Satyajit's detective novels and stories of science fiction began to appeal to us only a few years later. Sandesh was the vehicle through which the writers of the Ray clan reached our callow minds and created for us a world to live and delight in, removed as it was from the wordly world of school, homework and parental control.

Professor Shonku, the septuagenarian Bengali scientist, profusely bearded, and bespectacled, strode into our imagination and created there a niche for himself. Ray created the character in the 60's and by the middle of the 70's, it had secured a devoted clientele amongst the children and adolescents of our generation.

But it was Ray's own Holmes - Pradosh C. Mitter, Private Investigator - popularly known as Felu-da, that had a more powerful appeal to us, for he came to life, as it were, in Ray's film Sonar Kella released in 1975. Felu-da, along with his trusted lieutenant Topshe, and their credulous and perennially good-humoured friend Lalmohan Ganguly, a writer of bizzare mystery novels of immense popularity and proportionately low intellectual content, unravels a criminal case amidst the pituresque Rajput fortresses nestled amidst the desert expanses of Rajasthan. The film was a revelation to our young minds and it so happened that the child artist who played the role of a boy with memories of an earlier birth in the film was a student of Patha Bhavan, the school to which I went; in fact, he was a classmate of my elder brother and I       
later came to know him socially. Ray's son Sandip had also matriculated from Patha Bhavan, and its authorities were well known to Ray. Whenever Ray needed child artistes for his movies from the mid-70's onwards, he contacted some young teachers of our school with a view to recruiting a photogenic face with an intelligent mind behind it.

Meanwhile however, a re-run of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne had conquered our hearts, once and for all. In 1969 the film had been released and had run to packed houses; if my memory serves me, it ran for a record fifty one weeks -- almost a year -- and was by far the most commercially successful movie that Ray ever made. It was probably around 1973 that I watched this film for the first time. The film version was an elaboration of Upendra Kishore's original fairy tale and many features were added to it in the production, making it a sort of a world of its own, as real in our nimble imagination as that of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry or Jeeves and Wooster was for us later to be. Few characters in Ray's oeuvre have been so compellingly portrayed as those of the disarmingly foolish minstrel Goopy and the far more intelligent and witty friend, philosopher, guide and accompanist on the drum -- Bagha. Tapen Chatterjee, then a greenhorn actor, played admirably the role of Goopy and the inimitable Rabi Ghosh, by the end of the 60's an experienced performer, was Bagha -- a role which Providence seems to have reserved for him and him alone -- one which in its portrayal has become legendary in the history of Bengali cinema. All this has gone into Bengali folklore and delightful it was for us to to see before our very eyes the creation and evolution of this musical world inhabited by boon-giving ghosts, kings warlike or peace-loving, crafty ministers, soldiers, magicians, generals, courtiers, princesses, horses, tigers et. al. -- all tied into a whole by the bewitching storyline and the immortal music which was hummed by one and all who watched the film.


Alongside directing these movies, Ray kept producing a raft of stories and novels that were published first in Sandesh and other frontline magazines such as Desh and Anandamela and thereafter as books. We waited eagerly for every one of these and I later came to know that anything which his young readers found less satisfying than usual provoked them to deluge Ray with angry letters, to some of which the busy film director patiently replied, mollifying the fury of young and innocent hearts with promises of future thrills, which rarely failed to come. It was in the mid-70's that I first had the opportunity to see the man in the flesh : it was, if my memory serves me, a prize-distribution ceremony and Ray was the honoured guest; it was held in the residence of his cousin Nalini Das, who was one of the editors of Sandesh and the sister-in-law of the poet Jibanaananda Das. I was amazed by the remarkable physique of Ray and did not fail to notice his keen, incisive eyes, which always appeared to have a slight squint. And of course, his stentorian voice reverberated in our ears even after we had left his presence.

From then onwards, his impressive physical appearance became a sort of icon, a symbol of Bengali cultural imperialism. Bengal, of course, had never commanded a vast political empire like Britain, but in the cultural sphere her superiority over other regions of the Indian sub-continent was firmly established ever since Bankim Chandra Chatterjee emerged as a stalwart of literature, and Ray was to us a figure in which that noble tradition continued into the last decades of the 20th century; in fact, many have hailed him as very much a Renaissance man. He was in his fifties and sixties in the two decades that I discuss here, and physically he was perhaps no less impressive than the aging and wayfaring Tagore at the height of his powers. And whenever his booming voice was on the air, radio or television, ears turned from miscellaneous noises and the common din and became focused on his words with rapt attention.

In the last half of the 70's he followed Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne with its sequel Hirak Rajar Deshe, Sonar Kella with Joy Baba Felunath; throughout his life Ray had been interested in children and teenagers and perhaps no other major filmmaker of India has devoted so much time and effort to making movies targeted at a young audience. We were all very excited with both of these films and Hirak Rajar Deshe was visually more attractive than its predecessor because the latter was not in Eastmancolour (except the last scene).

Ray made his first feature film in Hindi Shatranj Ke Khilari in the late 70's and I remember that I was a little disappointed with the denouement, for I had expected that there would be a war; I was not yet 10 and the delicately nuanced ending went over my head. Many years later, watching the film on television I was able to appreciate its message and especially the memorable performances of Amjad Khan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Saeed Jaffrey and Sir Richard Attenborough.

The 80's rolled in with Ray's son Sandeep making a film on the novel Phatikchand which Ray had published a few years previously. The film was enjoyable and I still remember how greatly impressed we had all been by the performance of Kamu Mukherjee in the role of Harun-al-Rashid the juggler; Biplab Chatterjee's performance in the role of the criminal who kidnapped Phatikchand was very polished and skilful and I overnight became something of a fan of his after watching the film.

I cannot resist here the temptation to recall an interesting detail : the distributors of Phatikchand had not clearly stated in the advertisements that the senior Ray's short film Piku would be shown before the interval. A hall full of parents, with their children seated beside them, were somewhat disturbed to find that their children were exposed to the decidedly adult theme of Piku without their being able to do anything about it. I can recall vividly how my father, disconcerted, discussed with a stranger seated beside him (doubtless a father, too) in discreet whispers, how unadvisable and unjustifiable it was on the part of the distributors to show such a film before a children's movie. I always suspected, but never knew for sure, that the whole thing was a mischievous prank pulled off by the distributors, perhaps not without Ray's consent.

Piku and Sadgati were the films with which Ray began his journey into what turned out later to be the last complete decade of his life. Sadgati was a deeply moving film and the powerful array of performers consisting of Om Puri, Smita Patil and Mohan Agashe lent an additional dimension to the strong storyline and since it was in Hindi, reached an India-wide audience directly, as Shatranj Ke Khilari had a few years ago, as opposed to his masterpieces in Bengali, which could only reach non-Bengalis through sub-titles.

But the beginning of the 80's also saw the deterioration of Ray's health. He fell ill with heart disease and the shooting of Ghare Baire was postponed . He had a bypass surgery and all Calcutta was anxious for his speedy recovery. In due course of time Ghare Baire was released and Victor Banerjee took young female hearts -- perhaps also some middle-aged ones -- by storm; there was hardly a girl in our school who did not fall under the spell of his mesmeric performance. The film was variously appreciated and some of my more conservative relatives saw in it an excess of liberality; the theme itself was perhaps too sensitive for some people's comfort. But Victor Banerjee as Nikhilesh stole the show; of this no one seems to have had the slightest doubt.

Earlier, on a visit to a shooting session, I had discovered that watching Ray direct a film on floor was perhaps no less a moving experience than watching his films on screen. The scene being shot was the one in which Soumitro Chatterjee, as Sandip, was being carried in a chair by his young followers on their shoulders, into the courtyard of Nikhilesh's ancestral manor house, thereafter to deliver a political speech. Ray in action on the floor resembled a great hurricane, sweeping and reordering all in its trail and wake. When his voice boomed "Silence!" and "Action!", a sudden and pervasive hush fell on the floor, and the actors began moving as though in a trance, under the magic wand of a conjuror. It was a memorable sight, forever to remain etched on my mind.

Ghare Baire created ripples which were dampened by news of Ray's heart disease and we all were concerned with his recovery; he was in his mid-sixties and physically still impressive, but his heart was malfunctioning. He was flown to the US and a bypass surgery was performed; he returned to Calcutta to a warm welcome. I still remember the milling crowds receiving him at the airport. He was erect and to our relief he showed no signs of frailty : the operation had been successful.


* * * *
The mid-80's saw Ray struggling to keep himself active enough to be able to keep making films. By the mid-70's television had arrived in Calcutta and about a decade later I reached the age at which one could begin to appreciate, albeit in a tentative and fitful manner, the films that he had made in the 50's, 60's and early 70's, when they were shown on weekends on television. One may write volumes of his immortal earlier films, but here I address only those that he made in the 70's onwards : after the making of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Ray's attention had turned to stories authored by young writers such as Sunil Gangopadhyay and Shankar : soon he made Aranyer Dinratri which he once placed amongst his three greatest films, though commercially it had not fared well in its first run. It is one of my favourites too, and somehow ties in with the theme of his last film Agantuk which though cinematographically rather restricted, is probably his most deeply thought-provoking film.


Pratidwandi ('The Adversary') was based on a story of Sunil, as was Aranyer Dinratri; it addressed the pressing problem of unemployment that had begun to bedevil Calcutta and Bengal from the second-half of the 60's onwards. The early 70's had been a time of unrest, and Ray could not remain aloof from the contemporary scene around him without making his own statements through his films.

Seemabaddha was a delicately crafted film based on the corporate world, and in it, Ray was unforgiving in his implied verdict; doubtless, his own earlier experience in working with D. J. Keymer had planted seeds in his mind to germinate, which grew into this film eventually.

He went back to the immortal Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay with Ashani Sanket ('The Distant Thunder'); and once again, Soumitra Chatterjee, Ray's favourite lead actor put up a memorable performance. He was a few years later to be cast into the role of Felu-da, the detective, and we who were in our childhood in the 70's always saw Chatterjee as Felu-da and none else; it took me quite a few years to accept him wholeheartedly in his major roles in Ray's adult movies.

Jana Aranya was based on a story by Shankar; it too was concerned with the contemporary life of Calcutta; about a decade ago, Ray had made, Mahanagar, on a similar theme. Though it had ended on a note of hope, Jana Aranya ended on a shatteringly negative one: by the mid-70's, the ruthless world of commerce had impressed itself upon the mind of Ray with a harshness that was perhaps known less starkly to the younger Ray of the 60's.

Thus it was that I got to know the Ray of the early 70's only in the 80's, through repeated viewings of his films made in that period on the television.


* * * *
However, in the mid-80's we all remained saddened by the fact that he was not being able to keep up his usual rate of a film a year and he was having to obey the restrictions imposed upon his movements by a team of doctors, which a man of action such as he was bound to find irksome; but he had no choice. He also had to cut down on his heavy smoking of earlier years and sadly, or perhaps amusingly, he was allowed to use his pipe only as an aid for thought and reflection : he held it between his teeth when working or musing, unlit and with a bowl totally destitute of tobacco.


By the end of the 80's because of his medical condition he had to choose subjects which could be dealt with predominantly through indoor dialogue. Ganashatru, an adaptation of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People carried a message which, in the Bengali cultural and religious setting, was powerful and compelling. It was followed by Shakha Proshakha which is likely to remain memorable for its remarkable prformances and dynamic dialogue. Ray had been concerned for long with the evolution of values in Bengali society in particular and modern society in general and in the 70's had voiced observations through Seemabaddha, Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya; Shakha Proshakha was a sequel to that series of films.

Ray's health was failing by the end of the 80's; it was at this time that he became deeply concerned with making a statement of his observations on civilization itself, and its contrast with barbarism, that must have floated around in his mind ever since his youth. These were profoundly philosophical considerations and not even the heights of success as an artist had dulled or deadened in him the keen edge of an invincible skepticism. Many aspects of the fabric of civilized human existence had provoked certain fundamental doubts in him and the primitive customs of aborigines began to hold an appeal to him as never before. Sadly, he seems to have realized that given the state of his health, it was perhaps unlikely that he could keep making films well into the 90's and probably realized that time was running out for making a clean breast of his critically philosophical speculations through a film : Agantuk was the result.

It is here that the informed chronicler of Ray's working life in the 70's and 80's must take his leave of his audience; for Agantuk deserves an entire detailed essay in its own right. Anyone who wishes to know Ray's mind must meditate upon this film carefully and a cursory account can only do it injustice.

As it happened, Ray did not survive well into the 90's. Years ago he had been asked in an interview how long he intended to keep making films; he had replied that if he lived to be ninety, probably he would be directing till he was about eighty. That was not to be : his decease in 1992 marked the end of a glorious era of the art and culture of our times, of which we who lived in the same Calcutta that he inhabited can feel justly proud.


* * * *
During the 70's and 80's, Ray kept up his familiar and characteristic alternation between the contemporary and the period or eternal. The films on the Calcutta that spread out and bustled with restless life around him was captured in its many moods vividly in his films; and period movies such as Shatranj Ke Khilari and Ghare Baire sought to address eternal themes against a historical backdrop. Looking across the vast canvas of his films made in these two decades, I fail to resist the conclusion that it was in the latter category that his principal triumphs lay; Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya are imoportant films, but I doubt whether, say in the year 2025, half a century after they were made, they would be viewed with as much involvement and interest as the period films are likely to be. This is perhaps inevitable; and it is the Ray musing on eternal themes, rather than the Ray scrutinising the problems and perplexities of the contemporary scene, that seems all set to remain a figure casting a profoundly influential impact on our cultural life in the new century.
SHUBHAMSG IF-Dazzler
SHUBHAMSG
SHUBHAMSG

Joined: 07 January 2006
Posts: 2892

Posted: 28 March 2006 at 5:15am | IP Logged
Satyajit Ray : The only INDIAN ever to have received an ACADEMY AWARD .

Also I think the number of awards ( DOMESTIC or FOREIGN ) he received is more than all the awards received by the present film directors . That's how good he is .

OH and BTW , SATYAJIT RAY Bwas also one of the greatest music directors of his time , he used to design the costumes and the sets and also wrote the dialogues himself . He was trully a GENIUS in ALL fields.

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