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A tribute to Satyajit Ray

A new era in Indian cinema was ushered in when Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali, entered theatres in 1955. Mumbai will play host to Satyajit Ray Film Festival on the occasion of the legend’s 89th birth anniversary.

entertainment Updated: Apr 29, 2010 13:04 IST
Jayeeta Mazumder

SatyajitA new era in Indian cinema was ushered in when Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali, entered theatres in 1955. It was Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves that drew Ray to direct films. His love for Tintin concretised into his mysterious Feluda series perhaps.

Already a writer, illustrator, publisher and film critic, the maverick filmmaker revolutionised black-and-white cinema. Not for nothing did his close acquaintance and one of world cinema’s greatest, Akira Kurosawa say, “To have not seen the films of Ray is to have lived in the world without ever having seen the moon and the sun.”

Now, 89 years later, when Ray’s works can merely be found in select archives and seen at special screenings, Mumbai’s Enlighten Film Society took up the initiative to organise a retrospective on Ray. Pranav Ashar, president of the film society, says, “This is the first time we are organising a film fest on Ray and the response is already overwhelming. The curiosity and interest it’s generating is commendable.”

Organising interactions
Ashar is also planning to bring together film scholars and academicians to interact with the audience after each screening. “There will be a panel discussion on Ray’s work. Filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh will be there and we’re also planning to get Rahul Bose, among others. It’s not confirmed yet though,” he informs.

To organise the fest, Ashar got in touch with the government authorities, the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC), National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and even Ray’s son, Sandip Ray. He explains that even though some of the films are available on DVDs, the copyright issues need to be sorted out before organising a festival. “For screening Agantuk, we had to acquire the rights.”

Sandip Ray, Satyajit Ray’s son, says, “I’m very happy that they are organising this fest. We can’t do much because we don’t own our films, so our hands are tied.” He won’t be coming to attend the fest, but is planning to do some screening and exhibition next year, on his dad’s 90th birth anniversary. He informs that some of his films are already being restored.

A team of five have selected the films for the festival, Ashar informs. While the festival will be extended to include Ray’s most well known Apu Trilogy— Pather Panchali, Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) — some of his popular satiric films like Heerak Rajar Deshe/ The Land Of King Heerak (1980) and mystery films such as Sonar Kella/ The Golden Fortress (1974) have been left out.

Ask him why and he replies, “You’re right, I’m thinking of including these films. A lot of other people have also told me about them. Goopy Bagha in Heerak Rajar Deshe (characters from Satyajit Ray’s grandfather’s book) are still remembered.”

One wonders if the man was a crazy genius. But Sandip laughs, “No, he wasn’t that crazy at all. But yes, whatever I know today is what I’ve learnt from him. We’re planning to bring the exhibition to Mumbai next year,” he promises.

About Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was an Indian Bengali filmmaker, born in Kolkata. Having started his career as a commercial artist, Ray was drawn towards independent filmmaking after meeting French filmmaker Jean Renoir. Apart from directing 37 films, he was also a fiction writer, publisher, illustrator, graphic designer and film critic.

Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won 11 international awards, including Best Human Document at the Cannes film festival. Ray did the scripting, casting, scoring, cinematography, editing and designed his own credit titles and publicity material for it.

Show time
Cinemax Versova (10am)
Agantuk (1991): May 2
Jalsaghar (1958): May 9
Charulata (1964): May 16

Metro Big Cinemas (10am)
Jalsaghar (1958) : May 2
Charulata (1964): May 9
Agantuk (1991): May 16

The Extended Satyajit Ray Festival will screen the Apu Trilogy at the National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA).
Pather Panchali (1955): June 28
Aparajito (1956): June 29
Apur Sansar (1959): June 30