Born on 2 May 1922, Satyajit Ray, is known to all as a director par excellence. A writer, creator of two immortal characters of Bengali literature – Feluda and Professor Shanku, Ray is less known as a musician. Talent galore, this dropout of the prestigious Economics department of Presidency College had no financial backers for his first film which went on to become a cult movie – Pather Panchali. A master craftsman, he gave cinema some of the finest actors, viz Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, brought out a different side to the reigning king of Bengali cinema, Uttam Kumar in Nayak and Chiriyakhana. From overtly political messages in his films to sci-fi fantasy stories, Satyajit Ray has done it all. It is widely acclaimed that Steven Spielberg borrowed the concept of E.T. from Ray’s short story “Bankubabur Bandhu”.
Ray had his unique style. He sketched every shot on his worksheet before shooting them. He could write about cities he never traveled to just by virtue of knowing the Bhraman Sangee (Bengali travel guide) by heart. Despite Byomkesh ruling the hearts of Bengalis, Ray’s Feluda is a classic growing up companion for Bongs. And must i not mention many Non Bengali speaking friends hooked to the adventures of the troika of Feluda, Topshe, Jatayu!
The first time i came across Ray, would be 1991. DD1 had a special telecast of Goopi Gyne, Bagha Byne. I vividly remember that summer night! It was a Sunday. Whole family watching the movie together. Me, being a “early to bed” boy, had enough sleep in the afternoon to last me through the whole film. But the West Bengal State Electricity Board failed us. Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne is and will always be my most favourite film made by Ray. Striking similarities of the plot with Tagore’s Raktakarabi, the film has a different appeal to different age groups. As you watch the film while growing up, you discover a new facet to it everytime you watch it. And having watched it more than 200 times by now, i have the whole screenplay by heart.
Another beautiful film by Ray, Charulata – based on Nashtaneer written by Tagore – still haunts me. The famous scene on the swing has been adopted by almost every director who made a period film based in Bengal (viz Parineeta). Madhabi’s dilemma, Soumitra’s persona scripted an unforgettable love story.
Debi, Kanchenjunga, Kapurush-Mahapurush, Aranyer Din Ratri, Sakha Proshaka, Agantuk, Hirak Rajar Deshe, Ganashatru, Ashani Sanket, Nayak…..the list of Ray’s masterpieces would never end. And i do not wish to prolong my monologue saying what has already been said.
Perhaps, Ray did not know that his words would once become the chant of praise showered on his genius. Maharaja Tomaare Selam (Salutes to you, the King).
Most importantly Ray made us believe Dori Dhore Maaro Taan, Raja Hobe Khan Khan.
[P.S. DO NOT MISS THIS CLASSIC DANCE OF GHOSTS from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Brilliant concept and marvelous execution]