Kolkata: Satyajit Ray, one of India’s finest filmmakers, continues to inspire movie makers through his films, books and short stories, the world celebrates his 97th birth anniversary and to commemorate this day.
Ray, who was determined to be a filmmaker after attending a screening of the Italian neorealist film, Bicycle Thieves, brought in a renaissance in filmmaking. His Apu trilogy has been regarded as one of the finest films ever to be made in world cinema.
Ray was a student at Rabindranath Tagore’s Viswa Bharati University. He joined as a student of Oriental Art and Indian Sculptures under famous artists such as Nandalal Bose and Benod Behari Mukherjee. He was inspired by the works at Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta Caves. His love of Indian Art can be found in all his works.
Ray spoke of the people of Bengal and beyond. He introduced the world to the beauty of simple living through art. Most his characters are humble and are common men. He stripped off the ego of a public figure — a celebrity in his film Nayak (1996). His films such as Pather Panchali, and Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen speak of characters hailing from humble backgrounds.
Aranyak and Agantuk depict the conflict among man, nature and civilisation. Hirak Rajar Deshe is a blatant strike against aristocracy and dictatorship.
Satyajit Ray is the only Indian filmmaker to have won an Oscar Award for his contribution to world cinema. His movies are part of various Film Studies curricula across the world. He has received 32 National Film Awards. He has also received homage at various film festivals. The French film institute organised an honorary Hommage a Satyajit Ray at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.
1. Apu Trilogy
Consisting of Panther Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar – Ray talks about three different stages in the protagonist Apu’s life. The childhood in rural West Bengal, the student days in Calcutta, and the protagonist’s worldly responsibilities once he gets married respectively. All brilliant movies!
Starring Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterji, Ray comments on blind religious beliefs and idol worship in this film. In the film, due to certain circumstances people of the village start believing that Sharmila Tagore is an avtaar of a Goddess. Haunting!
Ray talks about the challenges of the everyday life in a metropolitan city and how working women contributing to the household income is actually a very cool thing.
It was a film way ahead of its time, talking about adultery, loneliness in the simplest way. A bored housewife begins to feel attracted to her mentor, who is also the cousin of her husband.
This master-stroke of a film saw the coming together of Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray. The film showcases an actor recounting about his past during an Interview on a long-distance train journey.
6. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne
Foraying into fantasy-fiction, Ray made this film about an unlikely duo – Goopy (the singer) and Bagha (the percussionist) who are given special powers i.e. with their music, they can make anyone stop and listen. They can also fulfil all their wishes by a clap of the hands.
7. Aranyer Din Ratri
Widely considered Ray’s best film, it talks about four men in their late twenties looking to take a vacation, so as to escape the boredom of their city life. And how this little vacation turns out to impact their lives forever!
Ray’s ode to the prevalent Naxalism in the mid-70s in Calcutta, and the uprising of CPML under Charu Majumdar, the film showcases a stellar performance from Dhrittiman Chatterjee as the protagonist.
9. Sonar Kella
Feluda’s first outing in the desert of Rajasthan to track a ‘Golden Fortress’ that a young boy constantly sees in his dreams, is one of the most enjoyable detective mysteries you will ever see.
10. Shatranj ke Khiladi
Ray’s satire on the annexation of Awadh is based on the source material of Munshi Premchand’s short story of the same name. Amjad Ali Khan plays Wajid Ali Shah, while Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey play two noblemen obsessed with Chess. This was Ray’s only hindi film.
11. Hirak Rajar Deshe
The auteur’s expert satire on Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule on the country during the mid 70s make the film a real pleasure. Oh those subtle references!
Ray’s last film features Utpal Dutt, that of the stranger guest who lands up suddenly at the doorstep of his distantly related niece’s house. Intriguing plot, sharp dialogues and a beautiful film in the end – typical Satyajit Ray.