‘Indian Cinema Will Be Known As Before & After Satyajit Ray’

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Jerusalem: Acclaimed director Shyam Benegal believes Indian cinema will always be known as ‘before and after Satyajit Ray’ and says no other filmmaker has ever been able to emulate the quality of filmmaking that the “Pather Panchali” helmer possessed.

Benegal addressed a nearly-packed auditorium at the launch of “Satyajit Ray Film Retrospective” in Israel. The National Award-winning director said Ray’s entry into the Indian cinema gave a sense that “nobody knew what had hit them”, changing the whole of filmmaking, particularly “relating to subjects and the manner in which he handled them.”

“Satyajit Ray was, of course, the most important Indian filmmaker. I don’t think there has been another of that quality since,” Benegal said. “But Ray also occupies historically a very interesting position in Indian cinema because when you talk about Indian films, you always say this is something before Ray and this is something after Ray.”

Seven of Ray’s classics – the trilogy (‘Pather Panchali’, ‘Aparajito’ and ‘Apur Sansar’), “Jalsagar”, “Ganashatru”, “Ghare Baire” and “Aguntuk” will be screened in Cinematheques in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa for two weeks.

Describing the release of Ray’s “Pather Panchali” in 1955 as a watershed in the evolution of Indian cinema, Benegal said that it was a landmark moment that turned everything upside down.

Benegal compared mainstream Indian cinema running on the theme of “complete entertainment” to Indian dish “Biryani, which has a bit of everything” and said such films are full of fantasy but may not necessarily reflect reality.

“When you make a film of that nature, one of the things is that it is not necessarily connected to life, to anybody’s life or to life as we experience it. There is a tendency of such films to be fantastic. To have great amount of fantasy in it.

“Therefore one of the things that happened in the evolution of Indian cinema is that until the beginning of 1950s it was fine but suddenly there were murmurings in different parts of India that probably films of the nature that we were making could not possibly be continued for a long time. Among those who felt that way was Satyaji Ray”, Benegal said.

The “Zubeidaa” director, however, added that people have not stopped making mainstream films today but variety in movies is encouraged now.

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