Who is Satyajit Ray?
Satyajit Ray is a writer, illustrator and motion-picture director, who brought the Indian cinema to world recognition with Pather Panchali (1955; The Song of the Road) and its two sequels, known as the Apu Trilogy.
As a director, Ray was noted for his humanism, his versatility, and his detailed control over his films and their music. He was one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century.
Satyajit Ray Early Life.
Ray was an only child of his father who lost his father in 1923. Both his father, Sukumar Ray, and his grandfather were authors and illustrators of Bengali nonsensical verse.
Ray’s mother raised him in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata). There, Ray, whose interests had previously only been urban and Western-focused, was exposed to Indian and other Eastern art and developed a greater understanding for both, resulting in a harmonic fusion of two cultures that is visible in his films.
When Ray returned to Calcutta in 1943, he took a job at a British-owned advertising agency and quickly rose to the position of art director. He also worked as a commercial illustrator for a publishing company, where he eventually rose to the position of leading Indian typographer and book-jacket designer.
The 1944 novel Pather Panchali by Bibhuti Bhushan Banarjee, one of the books he drew, caught his attention because of the filmmaking potential it held. Ray had always been a big movie fan, and his growing enthusiasm for the genre prompted him to try his hand at writing screenplays and co-found the Calcutta Film Society in 1947.
The French director Jean Renoir, who was at the time filming The River in Bengal, pushed Ray to pursue his dreams of becoming a movie star in 1949. Ray was persuaded to try to make Pather Panchali after the popularity of Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948), with its depressing plot and economy of means (location filming with untrained performers).
Satyajit Ray Education Background.
Satyajit Ray enrolled in a government school where he was primarily taught in Bengali before moving on to Presidency College, the top university in Calcutta, where he was taught in English. He was proficient in both languages by the time he earned his diploma in 1940.
His mother convinced him to enroll in Santiniketan, Rabindranath Tagore’s remote university northwest of Calcutta, for art school in 1940.
Satyajit Ray Career.
Ray chose to make his first film from Pather Panchali, the 1928 Bengali classic Bildungsroman, after being “very touched” by it. The semi-autobiographical book Pather Panchali chronicles the growth of Apu, a little child in a Bengali hamlet.
Although both his cameraman Subrata Mitra and art director Bansi Chandragupta went on to win widespread praise, Ray assembled an inexperienced staff. Most of the actors in the cast were amateurs.
After numerous failed attempts to secure funding from producers, Ray began filming in late 1952 using his own savings with the intention of securing additional funding once he had some footage filmed, but he was unable to do so on his terms.
The result is Based on when he or his production manager Anil Chowdhury could raise additional finances, Ray shot Pather Panchali over a two and a half year period, which is an exceptionally extended time frame. He turned down funding offers from people or organizations who wanted to alter the script or have control over the production. He also disregarded the Indian government’s recommendations to provide a happy ending, but he did get funds that allowed him to finish the movie.
When American filmmaker John Huston was in India investigating sites for The Man Who Would Be King, Ray showed him a scene from an early draft of the movie. Huston told Monroe Wheeler at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that a great talent was on the horizon after being impressed by what he had seen.
Ray finally finished the movie with the help of a loan from the West Bengal government, and it was released in 1955 to positive reviews. It received many accolades and enjoyed lengthy theatrical runs both in India and overseas. Times of India reported “To compare it to any other Indian film is ludicrous.
Pure movie is Pather Panchali.” Lindsay Anderson gave the movie a favorable review in the UK.
François Truffaut reportedly declared, “I don’t want to see a movie depicting peasants eating with their hands,” in response to the film’s criticism. The film’s loose structure was criticized by Bosley Crowther, The New York Times’ then-most prominent critic, who also acknowledged that it “takes patience to be enjoyed.”
Although the movie’s American distributor, Edward Harrison, was concerned that Crowther’s assessment might discourage viewers, the movie had an eight-month theatrical run in the country.
Apu was brushed through a film still by his mother Sarbojaya and sister Durga. The Family of Man, a MoMA exhibition that attracted 9 million visitors.
It was the only photograph taken by an Indian photographer out of the thirteen show photographs that featured India. Despite the fact that Subrata Mitra, the film’s cinematographer, is more likely to have taken it, curator Edward Steichen gave it to Ray.
Following the success of his subsequent picture, Aparajito (1956), the second installment of The Apu Trilogy, Ray’s worldwide career began in earnest (The Unvanquished). This movie explores the ongoing conflict between a young man named Apu’s ambitions and the mother who cares for him. After its debut, Aparajito received critical praise and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle complimented Ray in a retrospective assessment for his ability to evoke feelings and combine music and stories to produce a “flawless” image.
It received greater ratings from critics than Ray’s debut picture, including Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak.
Satyajit Ray Filmmaking Style and Impacts.
Throughout his career, Ray had been unconsciously honoring Jean Renoir, the artist who had the greatest influence on him. He also gave credit to Vittorio De Sica, who he believed best exemplified Italian Neorealism and taught him how to use amateur performers and actresses and squeeze a lot of cinematic information into a single shot.
Ray has acknowledged that Old Hollywood filmmakers like John Ford, Billy Wilder, and Ernst Lubitsch taught him the fundamentals of the movie business. He held Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman, two of his contemporaries, with the highest regard and admiration. He picked up jump cuts, fades, and dissolves from Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, among other filmmakers. He appreciated Godard’s “revolutionary” early work but believed that his latter work was “alien”. Michelangelo Antonioni was Ray’s idol, yet he detested Blowup because he thought it had “very little interior movement.” He was also a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s films.
Even though Ray said that Sergei Eisenstein had less of an impact on him, there are scenes in movies like Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Charulata, and Sadgati that make effective use of montage. However, he had drawings of Eisenstein.
Ray viewed scriptwriting as a crucial component of directing. At first, he insisted on only producing Bengali-language movies. He wrote the English scripts for his two non-Bengali feature films; under Ray’s direction, translators changed them into Hindustani.
Satyajit Ray Awards, Honours and Recognition.
Ray received many awards, including 36 National Film Awards by the Government of India, and awards at international film festivals.
- At the 11th Moscow International Film Festival in 1979, he was awarded with the Honorable Prize for the contribution to cinema.
- At the Berlin International Film Festival, he was one of only four filmmakers to win the Silver Bear for Best Director more than once and holds the record for the most Golden Bear nominations, with seven.
- At the Venice Film Festival, where he had previously won a Golden Lion for Aparajito (1956), he was awarded the Golden Lion Honorary Award in 1982.
- That same year, he received an honorary “Hommage à Satyajit Ray” award at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Ray is the second film personality after Charlie Chaplin to have been awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University.
- He was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1985, and the Legion of Honor by the President of France in 1987.
- The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 1965 and the highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, shortly before his death.
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Ray an Honorary Award in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement.
- In 1992, he was posthumously awarded the Akira Kurosawa Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing at the San Francisco International Film Festival; it was accepted on his behalf by actress Sharmila Tagore.
- The Participants in a 2004 BBC poll placed him No. 13 on the “Greatest Bengali of all time”.
- In 1992, the Sight & Sound Critics’ Top Ten Poll ranked Ray at No. 7 in its list of “Top 10 Directors” of all time, making him the highest-ranking Asian filmmaker in the poll.
- In 2002, the Sight & Sound critics’ and directors’ poll ranked Ray at No. 22 in its list of all-time greatest directors, thus making him the fourth highest-ranking Asian filmmaker in the poll.
- In 1996, Entertainment Weekly ranked Ray at No. 25 in its “50 Greatest Directors” list.
- In 2007, Total Film magazine included Ray in its “100 Greatest Film Directors Ever” list.
- In 2022, the Sydney Film Festival showcased 10 films by Ray as homage and the BFI Southbank screened a complete retrospective in July.
Satyajit Ray Legacy.
Ray is a cultural icon in India and in Bengali communities worldwide. Following his death, the city of Calcutta came to a virtual standstill, as hundreds of thousands of people gathered around his house to pay their last respects.
Ray’s influence has been widespread and deep in Bengali cinema; many Bengali directors, including Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh and Gautam Ghose as well as Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibakar Banerjee, Shyam Benegal and Sujoy Ghosh from Hindi cinema in India, Tareq Masud and Tanvir Mokammel in Bangladesh, and Aneel Ahmad in England, have been influenced by his craft. Across the spectrum, filmmakers such as Budhdhadeb Dasgupta, Mrinal Sen and Adoor Gopalakrishnan have acknowledged his seminal contribution to Indian cinema. Beyond India, filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, James Ivory, Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan, William Wyler, François Truffaut, John Huston, Carlos Saura,Isao Takahata, Oliver Stone Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Danny Boyle Christopher Nolan, and many other international filmmakers have been influenced by Ray’s cinematic style.