Short Essay On Satyajit Ray

"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."

- Akira Kurosawa


Satyajit Ray, an Indian filmmaker and among the dozen or so great masters of world cinema, is known for his humanistic approach to cinema. He made his films in Bengali, a language spoken in the eastern state of India - West Bengal. 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.

The Master Storyteller

Satyajit Ray, the master storyteller, has left a cinematic heritage that belongs as much to India as to the world. His films demonstrate a remarkable humanism, elaborate observation and subtle handling of characters and situations. The cinema of Satyajit Ray is a rare blend of intellect and emotions. He is controlled, precise, meticulous, and yet, evokes deep emotional response from the audience. His films depict a fine sensitivity without using melodrama or dramatic excesses. He evolved a cinematic style that is almost invisible. He strongly believed - "The best technique is the one that's not noticeable".

Though initially inspired by the neo-realist tradition, his cinema belongs not to a specific category or style but a timeless meta-genre of a style of story telling that touches the audience in some way. His films belong to a meta-genre that includes the works of Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Chaplin, David Lean, Federico Fellini, Fritz Lang, John Ford, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel, Yasujiro Ozu, Ritwik Ghatak and Robert Bresson. All very different in style and content, and yet creators of cinema that is timeless and universal.

Impressive Oeuvre

Satyajit Ray's films are both cinematic and literary at the same time; using a simple narrative, usually in a classical format, but greatly detailed and operating at many levels of interpretation.

His first film, Pather Panchali (Song of the little road, 1955) established his reputation as a major film director, winning numerous awards including Best Human Document, Cannes, 1956 and Best Film, Vancouver, 1958. It is the first film of a trilogy - The Apu Trilogy - a three-part tale of a boy's life from birth through manhood. The other two films of this trilogy are Aparajito (The Unvanquished, 1956) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu, 1959).

His later films include Jalsaghar (The Music Room, 1958), Devi (The Goddess, 1960), Teen Kanya (Two Daughters, 1961), Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1964), Nayak (The Hero, 1966), Asani Sanket (Distant Thunder, 1973), Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players, 1977), Ghare Baire (The Home and the World, 1984), Ganashatru (An Enemy Of The People, 1989) and Shakha Prashakha (Branches Of The Tree, 1991). Agantuk (The Stranger, 1991) was his last film.

True Auteur

Ray directly controlled many aspects of filmmaking. He wrote all the screenplays of his films, many of which were based on his own stories.

He designed the sets and costumes, operated the camera since Charulata (1964), he composed the music for all his films since 1961 and designed the publicity posters for his new releases.

In addition to filmmaking, Ray was a composer, a writer and a graphic designer. He even designed a new typeface. In 1961, he revived and continued to publish the Bengali children's magazine "Sandesh", which was founded by his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray .

Awards

In 1978, the organizing committee of the Berlin Film Festival ranked him as one of the three all-time best directors. In 1992, Satyajit Ray received the honorary Academy Award ©A.M.P.A.S. ® - 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." Other honors include "Lègion d'Honneur", France and "Bharatratna" (Jewel of India). More»

Satyajit Ray, on the sets of
Ganashatru, 1989.
©Denis Darzacq


Pather Panchali, 1955. ©Teknica

Logo design by Ray for Devi
(The Goddess, 1960).
©Ray Family


Ray Composing music ©Nemai Ghosh

There are very few Indians who can lay a claim to Leonardo Da Vinci’s title of a Renaissance Man. Satyajit Ray would stand tall amongst those claimants. A film director, writer, illustrator, publisher, graphic designer and film critic, Satyajit Ray has left an indelible impression on whichever field he traversed. He was born into an illustrious Bengali family, who were renowned for their contribution to arts and literature on 2nd May, 1921. His formative years were spent in Shantiniketan under the guidance of the first Nobel laureate of India, Rabindra Nath Tagore.

Ray started his career as a junior visualiser, and in 1943 he started working with Signet Press as an illustrator. It was Ray who designed the covers of the world famous books, Man Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett and The Discovery of India by Jawahar Lal Nehru. It was around this time that he became deeply attached to movies, and after watching Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves, Ray was determined to go into the field of film making.

              

1955 saw the birth of a phenomenon in World Cinema, when Ray’s debut directorial venture Pather Panchali was released. With Aparajito and Apur Sansar making up the trilogy, Ray was lauded for his cinematic genius world-wide and received numerous awards all over the globe. With film-makers such as Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa aglow with his works Satyajit Ray entered into the ranks of the most elite film makers. He went on to produce 37 films which would include documentaries and short stories. Some of these films will remain glittering testimonials to the astuteness of this great film maker. Films such as Kanchenjunga, Charulata, Satranj ke Khiladi, Aranyer din Ratri, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and Nayak explore all the facets of civilization and human sentiments in them. He was in a true sense, one of the greatest auteurs of modern cinema.

Ray also was an acclaimed fiction writer and one of the progenitors of detective fiction and science fiction. Feluda remains embossed in the hearts of every Indian who is a fan of detective stories. His love for science fiction was ensconced in a majority of his short stories. Indeed the beloved Spielberg classic E.T was based on a Ray short story “Bankubabur Bandhu”. In addition to this Ray published works on film criticism and was also the publisher of the famous Bengali magazine for children “Sandesh”. Ray was a brilliant illustrator and designed four Roman typefaces in addition to countless Bengali ones.

He received 32 National Awards, numerous international awards such as the Golden Lion and the Silver Bear and to crown them all the Honorary Oscar in 1992 during his lifetime. He was also awarded the Bharat Ratna by India and the Legion of Honor by France. He died on 23rd April, 1992 putting Indian Cinema on the forefront of world audiences and giving a new direction to contemporary film makers across the globe.

Some Movie Stills:

    

Read more about Indian Cinema

Photo Credits: Satyajitray.org, ambarish.com, dvdbeaver.com.

And a special thanks to etymofreak.

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