The Indian renaissance, which began in the 19th century and was largely due to the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), saw the birth of several prominent figures like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi in the 1860s -1869. . One such versatile person was Upendra Kishore Roy Chowdhary, born in 1863. He owned a printing and processing workshop and was interested in the proper printing and reproduction of images. He also wrote and illustrated children’s stories. He published a color children’s magazine titled Sandesh in Bengali. His son Sukumar Ray was also a man of many virtues. He became famous for his humorous sketches and absurd rhymes. He also illustrated his published work. After Upendra Kishore’s death in 1915, Sukumar used to edit Sandesh.
On May 2, 1921, Satyajit Ray was born in his ancestral home, 100 Garpar Road, Calcutta. Sadly, his father Sukumar passed away shortly after, on September 10, 1923. Satyajit’s mother, Suprabha Ray, then moved with her son to his younger brother Prashant Kumar Das’ home in Bhawanipur. Satyajit, upon graduation, graduated from Calcutta Presidential College with honors in economics.
From his youth, Satyajit enjoyed reading novels by popular writers and collected records by Western composers like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. He liked English magazines and comics. His interest and understanding of Western classical music then helped him in making films. He studied art for a short time in Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan. Under masters like Nandlal Bose and Binod Behari Mukherjee, he took courses in various aspects of art.
Satyajit inherited his writing skills from his family. He wrote his first story titled Abstraction in Amrita Bazaar Patrika (May 18, 1941). Although many only know Satyajit through his films, he was gifted in many other areas. He has shown his writing skills in works of art and as a music composer and magazine editor. Most of his works of fiction first appeared in periodicals before being collected and published in book form. He also translated his father’s nursery rhymes into English and edited several books.
After the liquidation of the family publishing house U. Ray and Sons, the release of Sandesh came to a halt. However, Sukumar’s younger brother Subinoy managed to revive Sandesh’s publication for a brief period (1931-1933). Satyajit relaunched the magazine in May 1961. He spent a lot of time editing, managing and illustrating for Sandesh. The magazine proved to be a source of creative inspiration for him.
In 1943, Satyajit joined the British advertising agency DJ Keymer Ltd. as a commercial artist. His training at Visva-Bharati helped him visualize the product to be advertised. He could observe life and nature from different angles. At the Visva-Bharati library, he had access to the works of Western painters. His approach to design impressed the owner, who promoted him to art director in 1950 and then sent him to the UK for further training. While in London, he worked with Benson, an affiliate of DJ Keymer. As a visualizer and later artistic director of the company, Satyajit designed newspaper and magazine campaigns for several products. He also had an opportunity in designing books. He designed the covers of several books, including an edition of Jawaharlal Nehru The discovery of India.
Sukumar’s cousin, Nitin Bose, was a well-known director. Thus, Satyajit was exhibited in cinema produced in India at that time. He was dissatisfied with the state of Indian cinema and wrote an article titled “What’s Wrong With Indian Films?” Posted in Statesman in 1948. Together with Chidananda Das Gupta, he founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947. This culminated in the Federation of Film Societies of India in 1959. The result of this movement saw several outstanding filmmakers emerge in India. Satyajit remained President of Film Societies of India until his death. He also assisted the famous French director Jean Renoir when he came to shoot his film. River (1951). After the establishment of the Calcutta Film Society, Satyajit was able to watch the films of eminent directors like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Robert Flaherty, Marcel Carne and others. In addition, during his five-month stay in London, he was able to watch over 90 films.
Upon his return to India, Satyajit was asked to design the cover of Pather Panchali, a novel written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya. He went through the novel and thought about making a movie based on it. As Satyajit worked for DJ Keymar, the shooting of this low budget movie was scheduled for the weekend. He had a set of dedicated technical staff in his unit. To meet the modest budget, Satyajit pledged his insurance policy and his wife’s adornments. With all the resources available, he could only complete 40% of the film. The West Bengal government later provided the funds for its completion and the film was released on August 26, 1955 for 19 days. The WB government made a net profit of £ 1,65,917. The film won the international award at the Cannes Film Festival as “Best Human Document”. It was this film that put India on the world cinema map. Famous filmmaker Akira Kurosawa observed: “Pather Panchali, for me, marks the beginning of true Indian cinema.
Then come the two other films that complete the trilogy, Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959). They formed the epic which passed from village to city, from the past, from memory, to the present, as experience – from the ordered structure of rural life to the anarchic experience of the metropolitan environment, full of uncertainty and apprehension. of the future. . It is the universalization of a local situation that has aroused surprisingly emotional reactions among the greatest directors and critics. This trilogy remains an expression, interpretation and recording of humanity’s desire to understand the grand purpose of life and life.
In 36 years of cinema, Satyajit has made 36 films. These include feature and short films, TV films and documentaries. Most of the feature films he makes are adaptations of well-known literary works. In 1962, he made his first color film Kanchenjungha, which was based on his own idea. The duration of the events shown coincides with the duration of the film. Movies Sonar Kella (1974) and Joie Baba Felunath (1979) are based on his own novels.
In most of his early films, Satyajit hired Subrata Mitra as a cameraman, but later switched to Saumendu Ray. Saumendu used to arrange the lights in the sets and made the shooting process easier, but Satyajit took care of the camera.
In his first six films, Satyajit hired virtuosos like Pt. Ravishankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan to mark the background music. In 1961, he paid tribute to Tagore on the occasion of his centenary by directing the film teen kanya based on the latter’s three short stories. He marked the music himself. He continued this practice until his last film. He also composed background music for other directors. It is my tribute to the man, who was not only a legendary filmmaker but a multi-faceted personality, on the occasion of his centenary of birth.
Former Head of Department of Chemistry, Allahabad University