Art & Culture

Why the magic of Satyajit Ray lives on

Romita Datta
Romita DattaMay 02, 2018 | 18:11

Why the magic of Satyajit Ray lives on

He lived many lives, broke many barriers and expressed multitudes of human emotions through his art.

Be it a doddering zamindar desperately clinging to past grandeur (Jalsaghar), a bored housewife getting drawn towards her brother-in-law (Charulata), a detective with his magojastro (brain power) solving mysteries (Prodosh Mitra aka Feluda), a five-year-old boy who has flashes of his previous lives (Sonar Kella), the autocratic King in Hirak Rajar Deshe, or the devil in a fake godman (Mahapurush) - between fleshing out characters and instilling soul in them, Satyajit Ray recreated some of the most memorable masterpieces in Indian and world cinema.


He gave Bengal a new identity though his films even as his name figured in the same league as his mentors - Vittorio De Sica, Akira Kurosawa, Jean Renoir, Ingmar Bergman.

Satyajit Ray knew the secret path to the innermost crevices of the human heart. Be it the rural Bengal, soggy with pathos after a squall that ravaged through a poor priest's life (Harihar in Panther Panchali) or the corporate urban life, where climbing the social ladder meant alienation from your near and dear ones (Seemabaddha), Ray's camera captured all that more to gave his audience what they had not seen before on silver screen.       

With his over six foot tall towering personality, his baritone, the sense of discipline in an artist's creative endeavours, the ease with which his creative language flowed among different mediums - the easel and paint, the paper and pen, the piano and the camera - Ray gave the Bengali bhadrolok an icon who made them dream big and stand tall.

In the field of literature, Ray gave the Bengali youth a detective who could match Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The handsome Feluda, who used more of his grey matter and less of his revolver, to crack mysteries and nab criminals, inspired the Bengali youth, generation after generation. He gave them a fashion icon - the kurta-pyjama and a shawl carelessly thrown over the back - to imitate. His science fictions and fantasy stories shaped the thinking of generations to come.

Be it prose or limerick, Ray was at ease with his pen. His transcreation of Edward Lear's limericks enriched the Bengali literature with some of the finest pieces in "nonsense rhymes", Todai Bandha Ghorar Dim.

And who can forget the maestro's finest compositions in music? The background scores of most of his films - the title sound of the Feluda series that still make your blood curdle with the spirit of adventure, the carefree innocence of musicals like Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne or Hirak Rajar Deshe - instilled a freshness hitherto unheard of.

Perhaps in this context it is worth mentioning how Ray managed to rise above petty cronyism and be an artist in the true sense of the term by showing the real picture of the society, he lived, saw and breathed.

Even though he believed in the Leftist ideology, the world of politics and politicians neither interested nor influenced him or clouded his vision. During the peak of the Left Front rule, he made Hirak Rajar Deshe, which was a caustic critique of the then Left government and the Emergency period alike. A political satire, which blasted the different ministries, the autocrat, whimsical, bureaucrat-dependent king who believed in brainwashing his subjects and liberal thinking individuals into subservience. Ray taught the world to laugh, cry and protest with his dry black humour. Yet nobody had the guts to stifle the freedom of expression of this creative mind.

He lived his life on his own terms - upright, never compromising. And standing beside him, in front of him or behind him always made a man aspire to reach the unattainable height.



Last updated: May 02, 2018 | 18:11
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