Satyajit Ray was India's first internationally recognized film-maker and, several years after his death, still remains the most well-known Indian director on the world stage. Ray has written that he became captivated by the cinema as a young college student, and he was self-taught, his film education consisting largely of repeated viewings of film classics by de Sica, Fellini, John Ford, Orson Welles, and other eminent directors. He made his films in Bengali. And yet, his films are of universal interest. They are about things that make up the human race - relationships, emotions, struggle, conflicts, joys and sorrows.
Satyajit Ray(1921-1992), Oscar winning film director, photographer, painter, writer of juvenile literature and musicologist�was born in Kolkata on 2 May 1921. His parents hailed from the village Masua of KISHOREGANJ district of Bangladesh. His father, Sukumar Ray, a noted writer, editor and photographer, graduated from Manchester University School of Technology and was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. His mother, Suprova Ray, was a singer and earned repute for her skills in handicrafts. His grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, was a well-known litterateur, painter, photographer, block designer and editor of the juvenile journal Sandesh (1913). It was this versatility in blood, which allowed Satyajit Ray to vividly depict and portray a vast array of human emotions, conflicts, characters and situations transcending times and social strata with ease.
He developed profound interest in oriental art of paintings, miniatures, sculptures and wood cut. He would make jaunts into the countryside and came face to face with rural India, an experience he fruitfully used years later, in his films. Later he worked with a British advertising agency owned by D. J. Keymer, as a graphics designer. In 1949, the famous French filmmaker Renoir came to Calcutta to choose locations for shooting, �The River�. Satyajit with his profound knowledge of films deeply impressed Renoir who in turn motivated him to take up film making as a profession. When Keymer transferred him to their London office, Ray didn�t let the opportunity to go by.He saw around hundred films in London and was deeply influenced by Vittorio de Sica�s �Bicycle Thief�, which later inspired him to make Pather Panchali.
�...my main preoccupation as a filmmaker ... has been to find out ways of investing a story with organic cohesion, and filling it with detailed and truthful observation of human behaviour and relationships in a given milieu and a given set of events, avoiding stereotypes and stock situations, and sustaining interest visually, aurally and emotionally by a judicious use of the human and Teknical resources��
(The new cinema and I, cinema visions, July 1980)
Throughout his career, Satyajit Ray maintained that the best technique of filmmaking was the one that was not noticeable, that technique was merely a means to an end. He disliked the idea of a film that drew attention to its style rather than the contents. That is why his work touches one as a revelation of artistry. For at the same time, he reveals his attitude, his sympathies, and his overall outlook in a subtle manner, through hints and via undertones. There are no direct messages in his films. But their meanings are clear, thanks to structural coherence.
Ray makes us re-evaluate the commonplace. He has the remarkable capacity of transforming the utterly mundane into the excitement of an adventure. There is the ability to recognise the mythic in the ordinary, such as in the train sequence of Pather Panchali where the humming telegraph poles hold Durga and Apu in a spell. In addition, he has the extraordinary capacity of evoking the unsaid. When viewing one of his films we often think we know what one of his characters is thinking and feeling, without a single word of dialogue. This ability to create a sense of intimate connection between people of vastly different cultures is Ray's greatest achievement. More then any of his contemporaries in world cinema, he can create an awareness of the ordinary man, and he doesn't do it in the abstract, but by using the simplest, most common and concrete details such as a gesture or a glance.
Satyajit Ray remained a strong presence on the Bengali cultural scene all throughout his life. In 1947 he had founded the Calcutta Film Society with Chidananda Das Gupta. Though in the West he is known only as a film-maker, his reputation in his native Bengal extends to a great many other spheres. Ray was a prolific short story writer, with over a dozen volumes to his credit; and he contributed regularly to the children's journal "Sandesh", which was founded by his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray , which he also edited. Some of his published books are: Biswa Chalacchitra, Ekei Bole Shooting, Our Films Their Films, Feluda Series, Shanku Series, and Piku's Diary. The exploits of his fictional character Feluda, first introduced in a series of detective stories, were avidly followed by the public, and the much-beloved Feluda was later featured in a couple of his movies. Ray, who had first worked in the advertising industry, was a major graphic designer, and designed hundreds of book jackets; he also illustrated his own books, besides those of many others. He virtually pioneered, in the Indian context, the genre of science fiction stories, and it is alleged that the script for Steven Speilberg�s immensely successful E.T. was based, though unacknowledged by Speilberg, on a script that Ray had sent to him many years ago. Ray wrote a number of essays on film, some of them collected in a volume entitled Our Films, Their Films, and his films were based on the most meticulous research. He can, not unreasonably, be considered as having chronicled phases of Bengal's history from the late nineteenth century onwards, the life of urban Calcutta, and the rural landscapes of Bengal. It is also remarkable that Ray did much of the work for his own films � the screenplays were almost invariably his own, and he personally supervised, though assisted by an extraordinary crew, virtually every detail of lighting, art direction, and so on. He scored the music for some of his films (though the music for the Apu Trilogy was composed by Ravi Shankar, and for Jalsaghar by the incomparable Vilayat Khan). Not surprisingly, then, his fellow Bengalis at least thought of him as a "Renaissance Man", and he was hailed as the successor of Rabindranath Tagore.
From 1956 up to his death in 1992, Satayjit devoted all his thoughts and time in filmmaking. He is recognised as one of the world's top ten filmmakers. In his filmmaking carrier, he made 28 feature films, 5 documentary films and 3 tele-films. He received 40 awards of the Indian government and at least 60 international awards. Berlin Film Festival Committee declared in 1978 that the three most talented film personalities of the world of all times are Charlie Chaplin, Hjalmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray. He had once said that he hated to see life as a struggle between good and bad, black and white and heroes and villains. Rather he perceived it in the shades of gray with an equal measure of all ingredients. This is what all his films are about
The cruel hands of destiny snatched him away from us in April 23,1992. It was this very year when he received the honorary Oscar Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of... " his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures and for his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world." He was also decorated with Bharta Ratna (Jewel of India) (1992), the highest civilian Honor of the Republic of India. About him the famous Japanese film director Kurusawa said, "Not to have seen the cinema of Ray is like existing in this world without having seen the sun and the moon�
Films of Satyajit Ray: include Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajita (1956), Parashpathar (1958), Jalsaghar (1958), Apur Sangsar (1959), Devi (1960), Tin Kanya (1961); documentary films: Rabindranath (1961), Kanchanjangha (1962), Abhijan (1962), Mahanagar (1963), Charulata (1964), Kapurush O Mahapurush (1965), Nayak (1966), Chidiakhana (1967), Goopi Gain Bagha Bain (1968), Aranyer Dinratri (1969), Pratidwandi (1970), Simabadda (1971), Sikkim (1971), Inner Eye (1972), Ashani Sangket (1973), Shonar Kella (1974), Janaranya (1975), Bala (1976), Satranch ki Khiladi (1977), Joybaba Felunath (1978), Hirak Rajar Deshe (1980), Piku (1982), Satgati (1982), Ghare Baire (1984), Sukumar Roy (1987), Ganoshatru (1989), Shakha Proshakha (1990), and Agantuk (1991).
Other Awards: During 1955 and 1966 Pather Panchali won 11 international awards in addition to Indian awards and his Aparajita won five awards in Venice, San Francisco, Berlin and Denmark. Almost all other full-length feature films of Satyajit also won international awards. In 1978, the organizing committee of the Berlin Film Festival ranked him as one of the three all-time best directors. Other honors include His documentaries, Rabindranath and Inner Eye, and the TV film Satgati won international awards. Personally he was honoured with special awards at home and abroad including honorary doctorates from many universities, Viswabharati's Desikottam, Dada Saheb Falke prize, Magsaysay award, and "L�gion d'Honneur", France (1987)
What others say:
...his extraordinary body of work has not only greatly influenced so many filmmakers, but has profoundly affected their humanitarian attitude. The seeming "simplicity" of his films is the mark of a truly great master...
Film Director/Producer/Writer, 1991
In Eksan, 1987
...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?...
Film Director, 1991
...The work of Satyajit Ray presents a remarkably insightful understanding of the relations between cultures, and his ideas remain pertinent to the great cultural debates in the contemporary world, not least in India...
Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate Economics
Satyajit Ray and the art of Universalism,
The New Republic, April 1, 1996.
"The quiet but deep observation, understanding and love of the human race, which are characteristic of all his films, have impressed me greatly... I feel that he is a "giant" of the movie industry.
... Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.�
In Eksan, 1987