SATYAJIT RAY…He witnessed the death of his father when he was barely three. He grew up on his mother’s meager income and spent a considerable amount of his childhood at his family-owned printing press. He developed an interest in music from a fairly young age and discovered a certain ability to draw and sketch very well and went on rather reluctantly to study at Santiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore, where he was acquainted with renaissance and oriental art. He also struck up friendship with a Jewish-German professor by the name of Adamson, who taught him a great deal about western classical music. His love for art landed him a job as a graphic designer at an advertising agency where he was lauded for his skill by his fellow employees who happened to be British. He went on to marry his long-time sweetheart who was three years elder to him. He picked an old retired prostitute from a brothel, to play a principal character in his maiden film, “Pather Panchali”. He became the only film director to win an oscar. This is the man who changed the face of Indian cinema – SATYAJIT RAY.
I can’t help but notice that the life of Satyajit Ray could be made into an engaging biopic. It is rather strange that it hasn’t caught the fancy of any film-maker. Although his name is phenomenally popular amongst the cinephiles in India, being a cinephile myself I must confess that his work is not as influential as one might think it is amongst the mainstream filmmakers of our times.
He met Subrata Mitra, who would become the cinematographer of more than half of his films on the sets of Jean Renoir’s, “The River”. Incidentally they were not involved with the film at first but came there every evening to catch a glimpse of Jean Renoir at work. He introduced Sharmila Tagore to the silver screen, who would go on to become the, ‘cover girl’ of every film magazine in the 60’s. A man who won numerous awards at festivals such as, “Cannes” and “Venice”, not to mention the oscar the academy gave him rather late- on his death bed. Contrary to popular perception, Ray is not the first Indian but the second to win the oscar. The first Indian is Bhanu Athaiya( She won for best costume design – 1983 for the film, “Gandhi”). No wonder Satyajit Ray has become a legend that is more talked about in India than watched.
– Avinash Moyidi