ComiInternationally recognized as one of the best filmmakers of the 20th century, Satyajit Ray was an ambassador of parallel cinema in India. The incredible storyteller, through the medium of his films, depicted the everyday struggles, conflicts, joys, and sorrows of human race, perfectly. In his career span, Ray directed more than 36 movies, beginning with hugely acclaimed Bengali drama film
. Other than being a multiple National Award winning director, Ray was also a writer, graphic designer, calligrapher and film critic.
In 1984, the prolific director was bestowed with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is India`s biggest cinematic honor. In 1992, for his contribution to the world of art and culture, Ray received the country`s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna; and in the same year took home an honorary Academy Award at the 64th Academy Awards. At the age of 71, in 1992, Ray succumbed to heart complications and passed away. The unfortunate incident happened just 24 days after he had received the Oscar.
Born in Calcutta to Sukumar and Suprabha Ray, Satyajit Ray`s paternal grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury was a prominent leader of Brahmo Samaj, a social movement in 19th century Bengal, started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. When Ray was just three, his father Sukumar, who as an imminent Bengali poet and critic, passed away. He was then brought up by his mother Suprabha. Ray did his schooling from Ballygunge Government High School and graduated in Economics from Presidency College, University of Calcutta. On his mother`s insistence, Ray further attended Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Although he was initially reluctant to go to Visva-Bharati, it was here, that Ray discovered his passion for art and cinema.
Before making it big in the world of cinema, the ace filmmaker worked as a graphic designer and designed many famous book covers like Jim Corbett`s Man-Eaters of Kumaon and Jawahar Lal Nehru`s Discovery of India.
Following a long courtship, Satyajit Ray married Bijoya Ray, who also happened to be his first cousin. Their son Sandeep Ray
a famous Bengali director, was born in 1953. Sandeep Ray`s 2016 release Double Feluda
is based on the Bengali sleuth Feluda, which was created by his father Satyajit Ray. The movie stars Sabyasachi Chakraborty
and Saheb Bhattacharya
, with the former reprising his role of Feluda, the detective.
As a Director
Standing tall at 6 feet 4 inches, Ray`s personality had an equally towering impact in the world of cinema. His first feature film Pather Panchali
took two and a half years to complete, due to lack of funds. Based on Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay
novel of the same name, Pather Panchali was the first film of The Apu Trilogy. Produced on a shoe-string budget with the help West Bengal government, the movie won national and international critical acclaim. The success of Pather Panchali, made it comparatively easier for Ray to direct his other the two films to complete the trilogy, namely, Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar
(1959). All the three films chronicle the life of Apu, the son of a poor priest, living in a village in Bengal. The tension between sticking to the roots and adapting modern life is constantly depicted in all the three movies. The last film of the Apu series, Apur Sansar
introduced two of Ray`s favorite actors- Soumitra Chatterjee
, and the Bollywood legend Sharmila Tagore
Post Apur Sansar, Ray worked again worked with Soumitra Chatterjee
and Sharmila Tagore
in Devi, a movie which highlighted the superstitious that Hindi society relies heavily on. The movie won the President`s Silver Medal for Best Feature Film in Bengali, in 1960. Satyajit Ray consciously made sure that his films always had the element of surprise, hardly ever repeating the themes. His palette of filmmaking constituted of a variety of genres like period dramas, tragedies, comedies, suspense, and romances. In 1961, he made a documentary about Rabindranath Tagore, on the occasion of the poet`s birth centennial. Tagore was probably the biggest artistic inspiration in Ray`s life as some of his best work came from Tagore`s novels. One such being the 1964 movie Charulata
. The film based on a marital love triangle is widely recognized as Ray`s best work. Backed by powerful performances, Charulata bagged the Golden Lotus Award for Best Film at the National Film Awards (India) in 1965.
Apart from directing films about inner struggles and conscious stricken personalities, Ray has also made comedies like Parash Pathar and musicals like Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. The music composed by Ray, for the latter is probably the best-known contribution to the rich culture of Bengal. At the 16th National Awards, the movie won the Best Feature Film Award and Ray took home the award for Best Direction. In 1972, he made another documentary Inner Eye, which followed the story of a blind artist and a teacher from Visva-Bharati University, a university founded by Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan.
Ray`s work draws heavily from his birthplace. Movies like Mahanagar (1963)
, Aranyer Din Ratri (1970), and a trilogy of films made in the 1970s-Pratidwandi (1970)
, Seemabaddha (1971) and Jana Aranya (1975) all show stories through and through the streets of Calcutta and chronicle the day to day problems of people living there. In 1980, Ray directed Pikoo, a Bengali short film for French TV channel. Following Pikoo, he showcased corruption in the society through movies like Ganashatru (1989), and Agantuk (1991). These movies with male leads, represented a facet of Ray`s own personality, aggressively protesting against the intellectual and moral decay of his beloved Bengal.
Post Angtauk which was Ray`s last directed film, the master filmmaker was admitted to the hospital due to heart complications and never recovered.
As a Writer
Apart from writing the screenplay of all his films, he had also written movies like The River (1951), directed by Jean Renoir
, Goopy Bagha Phirey Elo (1992), directed by his own son Sandip Ray
, and Target (1995), also directed by Sandip Ray
As a Composer
The multi-talented Satyajit Ray also composed music for almost all his films, out of which songs for the fantasy comedy film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, is till date considered to be arguably his best work as a music conductor.
As a Lyricist
He was the songwriter for his movies like Chiriyakhana (1967), Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1968), and Hirak Rajar Deshe (1980). Satyajit Ray also wrote lyrics for his Sandip Ray`s film Goopy Bagha Phire Elo.
As a Costume Designer
Satyajit Ray also designed costumes for movies like Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1968), and Hirak Rajar Deshe (1980).