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Satyajit Ray
Writer • Director • Producer • Screenplay • Music
Born: May 2, 1921 in Kolkata, British India
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About
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 Pather Panchali. 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.

Early Life
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.

Personal Life
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.

Movie Career
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).

Peers & More
Mrinal Sen
Screenplay Writer
Ritwik Ghatak
Director
Guru Dutt
Actor
Chetan Anand
Director
Family
Bijoya Ray
Spouse
Sandip Ray
Son
Suprabha Ray
Mother
Sukumar Ray
Father
Popular Movies
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Satyajit Ray Bouquet
Chaar
Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya
Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy
Gorosthane Shabdhan
Tintorettor Jishu
Kailashey Kelenkari
Ghare Baire
Hirak Rajar Deshe
Joi Baba Felunath

Did You Know? (8)

  • Legendary film director Satyajit Ray used Amitabh Bachchan`s voice in his 1977 film Shatranj Ke Khiladi.
  • Ray’s movies have received 32 National Awards by the Government of India out of which, he took home six for the Best Director.
  • Satyajit Ray alongside some of his contemporaries founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947.
  • Ray always wanted to work with the Indian actor Nana Patekar, but the two, unfortunately, could never collaborate.
  • France's most prestigious award The Legion d'Honneur is given to those with an outstanding lifetime achievement in their chosen field of work. The then French president Francois Mitterrand, instead of inviting Satyajit Ray to France, personally went to Calcutta to present the director with the honor in 1987. This made him the first Indian filmmaker to have received the honor.
  • Satyajit Ray is the only Indian to have won an Academy Honorary Award.
  • Satyajit Ray won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for the movie Aparajito in 1957, making him the first Indian director to have won the feat.
  • Soumitra Chatterjee has collaborated with the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray in as many as 14 films!
  • Personal Quotes (10)

  • "The only solutions that are ever worth anything are the solutions that people find themselves."
  • "When I write an original story I write about people I know first-hand and situations I’m familiar with. I don’t write stories about the nineteenth century."
  • "I had developed this habit of writing scenarios as a hobby. I would find out which stories had been sold to be made into films and I would write my own treatment and then compare it."
  • "Last, but not least — in fact, this is most important — you need a happy ending. However, if you can create tragic situations and jerk a few tears before the happy ending, it will work much better."
  • "Somehow I feel that an ordinary person–the man in the street if you like – is a more challenging subject for exploration than people in the heroic mold. It is the half shades, the hardly audible notes that I want to capture and explore."
  • "When a new character appears in your tale, you must describe his looks and clothes in some detail. If you don’t, your reader may imagine certain things on his own, which will probably not fit whatever you say later on. So…"
  • "The director is the only person who knows what the film is about."
  • "I wouldn't mind taking a rest for three or four months, but I have to keep on making films for the sake of my crew, who just wait for the next film because they're not on a fixed salary."
  • "I think they quite like me when I work because I'm one of the safer directors to back, because even if my films don't bring their costs in back home, once they're shown outside of India they manage to cover the costs."
  • "I've made seventeen or eighteen films now, only two of which have been original screenplays, all the others have been based on short stories or novels, and I find the long short story ideal for adaptation."
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