Today is the 27th death anniversary of Satyajit Ray, an Indian filmmaker, widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century.
Marking the day in a befitting manner, different socio-cultural organisations have chalk out elaborate programmes in Bangladesh and India.Ray was born in the city of Calcutta into a Bengali family prominent in the world of arts and literature.
Starting his career as a commercial artist, Ray was drawn into independent filmmaking after meeting French filmmaker Jean Renoir and viewing Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neorealist film Bicycle Thieves (1948) during a visit to London.
Ray directed 36 films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts. He was also a fiction writer, publisher, illustrator, calligrapher, music composer, graphic designer and film critic.
He authored several short stories and novels, primarily aimed at children and adolescents. Feluda, the sleuth, and Professor Shonku, the scientist in his science fiction stories, are popular fictional characters created by him. He was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University.
Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, including the inaugural Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. This film, along with Aparajito (1956), and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (1959) form The Apu Trilogy.
Ray did the scripting, casting, scoring, and editing, and designed his own credit titles and publicity material. Ray received many major awards in his career, including 32 Indian National Film Awards, a number of awards at international film festivals and award ceremonies, and an Academy Honorary Award in 1992.The Government of India honored him with the Bharat Ratna in 1992.
Satyajit Ray’s ancestry can be traced back for at least ten generations. Ray’s grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury was a writer, illustrator, philosopher, publisher, amateur astronomer and a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, a religious and social movement in nineteenth century Bengal.
He also set up a printing press by the name of U Ray and Sons, which formed a crucial backdrop to Satyajit’s life. Sukumar Ray, Upendrakishore’s son and father of Satyajit, was a pioneering Bengali writer of nonsense rhyme (abol tabol) and children’s literature, an illustrator and a critic. Ray was born to Sukumar and Suprabha Ray in Calcutta.
Sukumar Ray died when Satyajit was barely three, and the family survived on Suprabha Ray’s meager income.
Ray studied at Ballygunge Government High School, Calcutta, and completed his BA in economics at Presidency College, Calcutta then affiliated with the University of Calcutta, though his interest was always in fine arts.
In 1940, his mother insisted that he study at the Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore.
Ray was reluctant due to his love of Calcutta, and the low opinion of the intellectual life at Santiniketan His mother’s persuasion and his respect for Tagore finally convinced him to try.
In Santiniketan, Ray came to appreciate Oriental art. He later admitted that he learned much from the famous painters Nandalal Bose and Benode Behari Mukherjee.
Later he produced a documentary film, The Inner Eye, about Mukherjee. His visits to Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta stimulated his admiration for Indian art.
Satyajit Ray was born in Kolkata on May 2 in 1921 and died in Kolakata on April 23 in 1992.