Satyajith Ray

Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta in 1921. He worked in an advertising agency until the release of his first film, Pather Panchali in 1955. When Pather Panchali was presented in the 1956 Cannes Film Festival its impact was immediate and enormous. Much as Rashomon had opened Western eyes to the riches of Japanese films two years earlier, so did Ray's poetic masterpiece prove a revelation of Indian cinema. Over the next thirty years he directed a series of works (including The Apu Trilogy, The Music Room, Charulata and Devi) that is one of the truly great legacies in film history.

Ray won several National and International awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Ray was also a gifted composer and writer. He died in 1992.



Notable Films:

Pather Panchali - 1955 - Bengali
(Song of the Road)

A poor Brahmin family's struggle for survival becomes the central theme of this master-piece of Satyajit Ray. While the family of Harihar & Sarbajaya, Durga their daugher along with an elderly aunt Indir, reels under poverty, the arrival of Apu brings some cheer to the family. Harihar is forced to move away in search of a job, when it becomes hard for them to meet ends. The final disaster, Durga's death causes them to leave their village in search of a new life in Benares.

Pather Panchali, based on Bibhutibushan Banerjee's novel of the same name, was the first ever Indian film to be screened at the Cannes Festival.


Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Kanu Bannerjee, Chunibala Devi, Uma Dasgupta, Subir Bannerjee, Tulsi Chakraborty
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Music: Ravi Shankar



Aparajito - 1956 - Bengali
(The Unvanquished)

The sequel to Pather Pahchali, Aparajito dramatises the death of Apu's father and mother and his progression into manhood and independence. After his father's death at Benares, Apu and his mother return to their village. She takes up the job of a cook in a landlord's house. She wants Apu to become a priest but he decides to study. After getting a scholarship he departs to Calcutta. As Apu's mother falls ill, he reaches too late because he is delayed by his exams. He returns to Calcutta, sad but free.

Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Kanu Bannerjee, Karuna Bannerjee, Pinaki Sengupta, Smaran Ghosal
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Music: Ravi Shankar



Jalsaghar - 1958 - Bengali
(The Music Room)

The aging Bishwambar Roy, a feudal lord with a glorious past to boast about, pawns his family's heirlooms to keep up with the glory of the past and also with his rich neighbour, Mahim Ganguly. In the past, Roy was well known for conducting classical music and dance concerts of famous artists at his house. When after one such concert the news of the death of his wife and son arrives, he withdraws into complete seclusion.

When Ganguly invites Roy, he once again hosts a concert. His final show after which he rides off on his horse and dies by the hull of an upturned boat.


Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Chabi Biswas, Padma Devi, Pinaki Sen Gupta
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Music: Vilayat Khan



Apur Sansar - 1959 - Bengali
(The World of Apu)

The final episode of Ray's legendary Apu Trilogy, based on Bibhutibhushan Banerjee's novel Aparajito, depicts Apu's turbulent adulthood.

Apu gives up his studies and starts hunting for a job but in vain. He starts writing a novel based on his own life. Apu accidentally becomes the groom while attending a marriage. His wife reluctantly accepts the new life full of sorrows and poverty. His pregnant wife dies while giving birth to her child. Apu blames the infant for its mother's death and refuses to see it and leaves the child to grow with his grand-parents. Finally, a depressed Apu gives up his novel and goes to meet his son. The love towards his son helps Apu overcome his depression. Both father and son leave for Calcutta.

Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Alok Chakravarty
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Music: Ravi Shankar



Devi - 1960 - Bengali
(The Goddess)

Set in 1860 at Chandipur in rural Bengal, Devi deals with the clash between the traditional mindset and newly emerging modern values.

Kalikinkar, a feudal landlord has a revelation during a dream; his daughter-in-law Doyamoyee is the incarnation of the Goddess Kali. She becomes an object of worship after she cures a sick child who seeks her help. Her husband, Umaprasad, who has received western education, finds himself dispossessed of his wife who has become a "Goddess". Umaprasad attacks tradition and tries to reason unsuccessfully with his father. Doyamoyee's nephew, the child Khoka, falls ill. He is placed in the care of his aunt who is unable to save him. The child dies. Shattered by the death of the child, she is overwhelmed by madness.

Devi is based on the short story by the same name by Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee.

Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Sharmila Tagore, Chhabi Biswas, Soumitra Chatterjeee
Cinematography: Subrat Mitra
Music: Ali Akbar Khan



Charulata - 1964 - Bengali
(The Lonely Wife)

Based on Rabindranath Tagore's short story Nashtanirh, Ray portrays the emergence of the 'modern woman' in an upper-class Indian family.

Bhupati, editor and publisher of a political newspaper believes that his wife Charulata is gifted with literary talents and persuades his wife to write. When his younger brother, Amal comes to live with them, Bhupati asks him to encourage her literary talents. An intimate relationship grows between Amal and Charulatha, based on their mutual interests in literature and music, which eventually grows to love.


Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Madhabi Mukherjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sailen Mukherjee
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Music: Satyajith Ray



Aranyer Din Ratri - 1969 - Bengali
(Days and Nights in the Forest)

Four friends from Calcutta who have very different personalities go on a holiday excursion into the country, in a tiny village where they set themselves up in a bungalow. A series of events, all connected to their respective reactions to their new environment, reveals their characters more deeply. Displaced from their customary sense of social rules, they engage Lakha as a servant. Hari, having lost his wallet accuses Lakha of stealing it, strikes him, and sends him away.

They meet a beautiful local woman, Duli whom Hari uses for some fast sex. Lakha ambushes him in revenge. The others become very friendly with two young women from the neighborhood who live on a comfortable estate. The inhibited Sanjoy does not dare to respond to Jaya's interest while Aparna leaves Asim after giving him her address on a five-rupee note. The friends depart again for the city, pretending to be unaffected by their experiences.

Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Samit Bhanja, Soumitra Chatterjee, Subhendu Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Simi Garewal, Aparna Sen
Cinematography: Subrata Mitra
Music: Satyajith Ray



Agantuk - 1991 - Bengali
(The Stranger)

The last film of Satyajit Ray, Agantuk is a social critique of decaying values of the Bengali middle-class.

A long-lost uncle, who has been given up for dead arrives into the lives of Sudhindra Bose and his wife Anila. This mysterious visitor, a stranger to the family is taken reluctantly with suspicion. The uncle, a world traveler defends himself against these suspicions. The uncle departs as abruptly as he arrived, leaving some wise observations on the qualities of civilization and human nature.

Direction & Screenplay: Satyajith Ray
Cast: Utpal Dutt, Dhritiman Chattergjee, Robi Ghosh, Dipankar Dey, Mamata Shankar
Cinematography: Barun Raha
Music: Satyajith Ray

Filmography:

  • Pather Panchali (Song of the Road-1955)
  • Aparajitho (The Unvanquished-1956)
  • Parash Pather (The Philosopher's Stone-1958)
  • Jalsaghar (The Music Room-1958)
  • Apur Sansar (The World of Apu-1959)
  • Devi (The Godess-1960)
  • Theen Kanya (Three Daughters-1961)
  • Kanchenjangha (1962)
  • Abhijan (The Expedition-1962)
  • Mahanagar (The Big City-1963)
  • Charulata (The Lonely Wife-1964)
  • Kapurush-o-Mahapurush (Coward & Holy Man-1965)
  • Nayak (The Hero-1966)
  • Chiriakhana (The Zoo-1967)
  • Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (Adventures of Goopy Bagha-1968)
  • Aranyer Dinratri (Days & Nights in Forest-1969)
  • Pratidwandi (The Adversary-1970)
  • Seemabaddha (Company Limited-1971)
  • Ashani Sanket (Distant Thunder-1973)
  • Sonar Kella (The Golden Fort-1974)
  • Jana Aranya (The Middle Man-1975)
  • Shatranj ki Khiladi (The Chess Players-1977)
  • Joy Baba Felunath (The Elephant God-1978)
  • Hirak Rajar Deshe (The Kingdom of Diamonds-1980)
  • Sadgati (Deliverance-1981)
  • Ghare Baire (The Home and the World-1984)
  • Ganashatru (Enemy of people-1989)
  • Sakha Prosakha (Branches of tree-1990)
  • Aguntuk (The Stranger-1991)

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