Satyajit Ray: The Indian Magician of Film-Making
Satyajit Ray was a Bengali filmmaker who created more than 30 celebrated feature films and documentaries during his lifetime. His work as a director and his experiments with traditional tools of filmmaking have long been celebrated. In fact, Ray is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest film makers in India, and is the only Indian filmmaker ever to win a National Film Award for Best Direction. Ray was a great man. He was a simple and a humble man, who lived to make art, who was at the same time an accomplished writer and an extraordinary director. He was a prolific and astonishing artist, but he was also an exceptional human being. He was a great champion of the arts, with a deep passion and love for his art.
Satyajit Ray was one of the most important figures in the history of Indian cinema. One of the most well-known directors of Indian cinema, and perhaps among the greatest film makers of all time.
Birth and Early Life:
Satyajit Ray was born on 02nd May, 1921 in the then city of Calcutta (nowadays known as Kolkata). His father, Sukumar Ray, was a great poet. Sukumar Ray is famous for propagating and popularizing non-sense verse in Bengali. Moreover, he was an illustrator and a critic also. Suprabha Ray was Satyajit’s mother. His paternal grandfather, Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury, too was a notable figure in Bengal. He was a prolific writer besides a social worker and the leader of Brahma Samaj. When Satyajit was born, the Ray family was already a notable one and a proponent of Bengali Renaissance.
In 1923, when Satyjit was barely three years of age, his father Sukumar Ray died. His mother, Suprabha Ray, took responsibility of the little boy on her shoulder. Little Satyajit was sent to Ballygunge Government High School for his school education. Later he successfully persued Bachelor degree in Economics from Presidency College. Though he earned his degree in Economics, he was inclined towards fine arts since his childhood. As his mother persuaded him to join Visva Bharati in Santiniketan, he was compelled to attend the said institute founded by Rabindranath Tagore, in spite of his initial dissents. His cultural sense was deeply rooted that he, never in his life, wished to leave Calcutta. But he had to leave for fulfilling his mother’s wish.
Visva Bharati Period:
Satyajit Ray joined Visva Bharati in the year of 1940. The institute ignited the zeal of exploring the Eastern culture within him. there he came closer to renowned aertist like Nandalal Bose and notable figure Benode Behari Mukherje, another cult figure of Visva Bharati. Later, his fondness for Indian Art deepened once he visited the cave of Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta.
Satyajit Ray came back to Calcutta in 1943. Initially, it was immensely needed to join a service for their livelihood. He joined a British advertising company, D.J Keymer. There he worked as a designer. But, he got his artistic freedom once he joined a newly founded publisher, Signet Press. He has designed a lot of book covers; among those a few notables are the book of Banalata Sen by Jibanananda Das, Discovery of India, and Chander Pahar by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. During this period his fondness for watching movie grew excessively. American soldiers stranded in Calcutta during second World War kept him informed regarding new released foreign movies. He was deeply moved by the theme of Chander Pahar while designing its cover.
Exposure to Film Making:
In 1949, renowned French film director, Jean Renoir visited Calcutta to shoot for his film The River. Satyajit Ray utilized this opportunity quite well as he helped Renoir to find perfect location for his movie. It was the first instance when Satyajit Ray got the opportunity to know something about film making. He also conveyed his wish of making his first film on Pather Panchali to him.
In 1950, Satyjit got the chance to visit London for working at the head-office of D.J Keymer. There he was exposed and became an avid foreign film watcher . there he got the opportunity of watching epoch making movie The Bicycle Thieves which would influenced him most to become film director in future. During his six months stay over there, he watched and studied almost one hundred foreign films.
Satyajit Ray married Bijaya Das in the year 1949. Sandip Ray, a film director of modern time, is their son.
Career as a Film Director:
Ray started the shooting of his first film in 1952. He worked with a completely inexperienced crew due to the unavailability of enough fund. Instead of facing many problems, he completed the shooting almost two and a half years later with the financial help of the State Government of West Bengal. But his work was praised not only in India, bur across the globe. His second film Aparajito released in the following year, 1956. The last of the Apu trilogy, Apur Sangsar, was released in 1959. This very first trilogy brought Satyjit National as well as International recognition.
Two of Ray’s notable movies of the period, Parash Pathar and Jalshaghar were released in 1958 and did well.
His other famous woks include Devi (1960), Charulata (1964), Mahanayak, Kapurush-O-Mahapurush, Nayak, Chiriyakhana,Aranyer Dinratri, Sonar Kella, Jana Aranya, Goopy Gaine, Bagha Baine, Hirak RajarDeshe, Sonar Kella etc.
Satyajit Ray was not only an exceptional film director. Rather, he is a wholesome artist. He revived the well known magazine Sandesh, which was introduced by his grandfather Upendrakishore. He worked as an illustrator and drew almost all the pictures of his short stories and Novels. Besides writing interesting and arresting short stories, he gifted his audience a remarkable Bengali detective series of Feluda. His quest for scientific exploration is represented through the stories of Professor Shanku. He was such a popular author that many of his stories were translated into English and published in Europe during his lifetime. Moreover, he had profound knowledge in Eastern and Western Music.
Awards and Achievements:
Over the course of his career, Ray won numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government. He also received numerous lifetime achievement awards and honorary degrees from universities around the world. Most notably, the Government of India conferred on him the highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, in 1965, and the Government of France awarded him the L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1982. Ray was also the first non-American filmmaker to be awarded the prestigious Academy Award for Best Director. He received Padma Shri award posthumously in 1992.
One of Ray’s greatest achievements was to bring film into the modern world. He used the latest cinematographic and sound effects technology to create films that were gripping and realistic, yet still retained the feel of a traditional Bengali film.
The popularity of Satyajit Ray’s movies far exceeded that of his fellow filmmakers, and many of his films have been rediscovered and re-evaluated during the last three decades. Satyajit Ray himself emphasized that he was not perfect, and he listed many people he encountered who were not. He also stated that he was not a world-class director, but that he tried to be one and it was met with success. His achievements as a filmmaker have led many to consider him one of the greatest directors in history. He passed away on 23rd April, 1992.