“Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon” – Akira Kurosawa
Art as a form and subject is an integration of impulses and consciousness. The main desire is to embark a conversation with the emotions of the viewer. In 1948, an unknown young man criticising Indian cinema and filmmakers for not grasping the new media, and fulfilling the purpose of the subject, wrote in a newspaper- “The raw material of cinema is life itself”. Few years down the line, shaped and moved by Jean Renoir and intrigued by the Indian society and its relations, India found an artist in the truest sense and beyond it – Satyajit Ray.
Lauded by the likes of Kurosawa and Scorsese, Ray made more than 35 films and received a lifetime achievement at the Academy Awards shortly before his death in 1992. Ray, appalled by the challenges of society and film making, would go on to produce an array of masterpieces. Shaping lyrical realism to meld with the fraternity, he created Indian cinema’s own ‘chef d’oeuvre’ in The Apu Trilogy – Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959).
For author Salman Rushdie, Ray was “the poet par excellence of the human-scale, life-sized comedy and tragedy of ordinary men and women”.
However, a significant conversation between Renoir and Ray proved to be the turnpike of his career, when he helped the French director to scout a venue for his Indian film The River. Renoir encouraged him to ignore Hollywood and fulfill his own vision. Ray would acknowledge later that he had been “subconsciously… paying tribute to Renoir throughout my film-making career”.
Blessed to have worked with talented actors like Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore, Satyajit Ray weaved an aesthetic dimension which delicately portrayed the societal and political aspects of day to day life in Bengal. Realism gradually through his depiction of his films, evolved and transpired into an artistic and graceful craft of his own. From the hopelessness of a graduate’s job hunt or the hardships of life in a Bengali village, Satyajit Ray has never failed to render the fidelity and naturalism of life.
This ability to create a sense of intimate connection between people of vastly different cultures is Ray’s greatest achievement. All his films are connected and conjoined by a rhythm that works as a carrier of the image and sound and the mind itself. A generation has passed since his death, but such was Ray’s aura and legacy, his style of films still lives and lives through him.