I have grown up pretty much with Satyajit Ray’s works. Not that it is the most significant thing I remember of him. How weird it is, when I say, ‘I remember of him’? But when you think of any artist who has touched you in some ways, you realise that through their art, they become a part of your everyday. The Wikipedia page about him is full of his professional details and several bodies of work, and the list seems never ending. He is a world renowned director as we know, and a brilliant writer too. I am not a person who is well versed with the technicalities involved in films, but I watched his cinema and it creates magic every time I watch them. Although now it’s a cliche, that everyone loves his ‘Pather Pachali’, but when I think of him, the first image that comes to my mind is of a young girl and her little brother who ran towards the first installed railway tracks near their village, to discover how a train looks.
This heart wrenching novel was written by Shri Bibhuti Bhusan Bandhapadhya and was immortalized in the World of Cinema by Ray. Every time I watch the movie, I discover something new about the characters and that fascinates me. When I write this on my blog, my mind still keeps pushing me into the world of the siblings, Apu and Durga. If you haven’t watched ‘Pather Pachali’ yet, please do that soon. It is the first part of the Apu trilogy. The following two cinemas of the trilogy are ‘Aparajito’ and ‘Apur Sangsar’. One gets a clear picture of the various shades of the protagonist Apu’s personality, throughout the journey of the cinemas. His other notable cinemas include Devi, Mahanagar, Charulata, Nayak, Goopy gayen Bagha byne, Aranyer Din Ratri to name a few.
Today is the time when subtitles are available and it becomes easier to watch cinema of pretty much every language. But I assure you that if you do not understand Bengali and watch Ray’s works without subtitles, even then you shall imbibe the essence of his cinema. Although I believe, that a culture cannot be wholly understood without knowing it’s language. When we read a book in a certain language in which it was originally written, we connect far more organically with the story and the characters. This becomes a little difficult when the language is translated, or even when one watches a movie through sub titles because the nuances of each language is important to understand because it conveys various significant details of its cultural positioning in the context of everyday. Nevertheless, one can still enjoy works in languages which are alien to him. Especially in Ray’s movies, his nature of story telling and the screenplay makes it easier for the audience from any part of the world, enjoy his cinema. The times when he made his films in, were really difficult. He used to sketch each scene of his movies in his early days to describe his actors the image he had in his mind because there was a serious dearth of production money and reels could not be just wasted by taking several retakes on camera. Without proper infrastructure, enough capital and a dozen of other restrictions, he created magic on the screens. He is remembered not only for his excellence in craft, but also his vision with which he made his cinema, which till date is celebrated.
My early days were spent outside Bengal, infact whole of my school life for that matter. When I was in 2nd standard, I vividly remember that I tried to learn the Bengali alphabets all alone by writing each letter below the Hindi alphabets which I had been reading in school for years then. That is the magic of Satyajit Ray, when a 7 year old kid took deliberate efforts to learn Bengali script just to read his stories. Yes, I had learnt the script of my mother tongue quite late in my childhood and that too because I wanted to read ‘Feluda’, the famous detective series of Ray. I am still in as much love with ‘Feluda’ as the 7 year old me was.
Ray had made this explicitly known to his readers that Feluda was inspired from Sherlock Holmes in spirit. I am happy English translation of the books are readily available now.
Ray made two of his ‘Feluda’ books; ‘Sonar kella’ and ‘Joy baba Felunath’ into cinema and those are no less than a masterpiece. Many other books from the Feluda series are made into movies by his son Sandip Ray. Detective series lovers can binge watch on them any day.
Ray breathed life into his characters in such a manner that at times I feel like visiting Felu da in 21 Rajani Sen road, Ballygunge ( an address in kolkata); where Felu da lives. Feluda is one immortal character created by him, although primarily for children but it does fascinate the adult in me. Another famous science fiction series of Ray is “Professor Shonku”, who is a scientist and he discovers seemingly unreal things in the world.
Ray also wrote books about how he looks at World Cinema, his ideas about filmography in ‘Our films, their films’ and ‘ Deep focus’ and many more.
Ray was imagined to be laying at the juncture of Indian Cinema and Cinema of the West. He somewhere blurred the lines which used to create the dichotomy of the binaries of the Art from the West and the rest.
He received several awards throughout his lifetime which include 32 National awards from Government India, Dada Saheb Phalke award, Padma Bhushan, Bharat Ratna and International film awards like the Silver Bear and the Golden Lion, and even an honorary degree from the Oxford University to name a few but in his own belief, his greatest award was the Honorary Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
I don’t know if I relate to him to this extent because we belong from the same cultural space and therefore find his vision more relatable or accessible, or because of the pride of sharing my Alma Mater, Presidency College; with this legend. Or may be it’s the nostalgia with which I grew up knowing him through his books and Cinema. But his worldwide recognition speaks for his versatile excellence and the magic of Ray could not be contained by Bengal, or Bengali Cinema. He is the artist of the world, but in our hearts, shall forever be personal.
Happy Birthday Satyajit Ray. You and your works shall live for an eternity.