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Satyajit Ray: Centenary Celebrations through Cinema of Ray

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Satyajit Ray, is widely regarded as one of the pillars of the New Indian Cinema Movement in the country, and is the only film director to have been bestowed upon, the ‘Bharat Ratna’ Award.

Satyajit Ray, not only gave a new dimension to Indian Cinema, but also largely dictated the realms of the evolving trends in Bengali Cinema. His brand of films was more generic so to say, than the films by Ritwik Ghatak or Mrinal Sen.

Ray’s first feature film – “Pather Panchali” won heaps of praises at the International Film Festivals, but wasn’t quite a commercial success in his own city! Ray’s export of Indian way of life came under severe criticism from some corners of the society, the most notable being the-then MP Nargis Dutt’s scathing comment that he was exporting poverty only and therefore painting a wrong picture of a modern-new Nation.

For the then Indian Prime Minister – Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, it was the City, more than anything else that stood for the Nation’s future and the growth of its modernity.

While on one hand, the Apu Trilogy represents that Nehruvian dream to almost its brink; the Calcutta Trilogy showed the death of that dream and the death of a whole cultural ethos.

Perhaps, what can be well noted through the two trilogies of Ray – viz. Apu Trilogy and Calcutta Trilogy, is that not only has he been documenting the ways of life in the prevalent times, but also he brings forth subtle hints of prophecy – a recurring aspect of ‘Modern’ – an aspect of his film that very much coincides with the Nehruvian socialist policy.

Satyajit Ray never quite was responsive to his critics or detractors. Bijoya Ray, his wife, admitted in their autobiography (‘Amader Kotha’) that she could never control her temper at some of the ghastly and notorious comments directed at her husband or his craft but Satyajit Ray would always be very calm and composed about it – “oder kichhu likhte hobei” / “they have to write something!”, Ray would exclaim whenever his wife got flustered about ill reviews. The calm composed exterior of Ray would not be a known deducible factor in stating that he never had a point to prove. Like a true gentleman, Ray always answered his critics through his films.

In many ways, Ray still uniquely represents a vast majority of the Bengali urban middle-class and/or the Gentleman’s Intelligentsia. His films are televised on Bengali channels way more than any other Bengali film-makers works; his books still top the best-sellers lists across the State; his brand of Feluda and the bangaliyana –or the Bengali-ness is still the topic of discussion for many a adda’s by the Bengali folk.

It is here that his vision of the Nation and the City through his many films comes with a haunting note of Universalism. Something that not only has stood the test of times thus far, but continues to be a throbbing rage among the Bengali Diaspora abroad.

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