Nuances of a master storyteller

Remembering Ray

cinematic genius Satyajit Ray ushered in a renaissance in Indian cinema.

We learnt a lot about cinema whilst interviewing him. Satyajit Ray, along with Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen, changed the entire concept of cinema in India, ushering in a renaissance, which influenced a whole generation of filmmakers.”

The Apu Trilogy, Devi, Teen Kanya, Charulata and even his allegories, Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen and Gupi Bagha Phire Elo are internationally accepted cinematic masterpieces. They have influenced Bengali society in a way like no other films have.

Says Ray’s ace cinematographer, Soumendu Roy, “I took over as Ray’s cameraman after Subrata Mitra parted ways with the director after completing the shoot of Nayak. In Ray I discovered a true visionary, who was concerned not only about traditional society but contemporary issues also. He was crystal clear about each of his shots, understood camera movements and never indulged in cinematic jugglery.”

The present generation of filmmakers unanimously claim they have learnt a lot from Ray but are into films of a different school as it is impossible to come anywhere near him.
Explaining this point, director and actor Rituparno Ghosh says, “All my earlier films are deeply influenced by Satyajit Ray, whom I consider my idol. However, in a few of my recent films, I adopted my own style of filmmaking but I have no hesitance in confessing that Ray is way ahead of us in totality, even today.”

It is believed that Ray had a strong dislike for Hindi commercial films as he openly stated, “In Bombay, scripts are made, not written.” This did annoy a large section of mainstream filmmakers but they couldn’t say anything against the icon. Manoj Kumar clears this aspect, “Manikda (Ray) made poverty appear photogenic through his films. He openly declared in FTII, Pune, that students who want to opt for mainstream films should follow Raj Kapoor and me. Every time we met, he patted my back with real affection and saw the climax of Shaheed a number of times, and appreciated it.”

Ray was mainly instrumental in pursuing the Government of India to start FTII, Pune and also the Film Finance Corporation, now National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), to produce and support off beat cinema. His vision was far ahead of its times and he highly respected the works of Dr V Shantaram, Bimal Ray, Chetan Anand and Guru Dutt.
Remembering him, actress Waheeda Rehman says, “Satyajit Ray offered me the female protagonist’s character in his film, Abhijan. During one shot, I had to sing a song. I was reluctant as I was not a trained singer. Ray encouraged me by saying he did not want a nightingale’s voice but that of a rustic woman who is in love. He canned the shot in one take.”

Directors come and go but Satyajit Ray still remains the epitome of honest and creative cinema. Assessing his works, Anurag Kashyap says, “I felt his importance when I was attending Cannes two years ago as a jury member. He is signified as the last word in Indian cinema. The bounce lighting of Pather Panchali, the social concern of Devi and the restless scenario of Bengal in Pratidwandi and Jana Aranya are his masterstrokes as a
director.”

Ray is still a force to reckon with and will always be.

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