"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." - Satyajit Ray
The name 'Satyajit Ray' is synonymous with world-class cinema, ironic realism, socially conscious messaging, and an appreciation of the lives of the ordinary people. Ray was not only the pride of Indian cinema but also one of the most iconic filmmakers in the world, with his films getting widespread global attention and praise at times when mainstream Indian cinema wasn't taken seriously around the world. The prestigious Film Society of Lincoln Center (FilmLinc) in New York City is celebrating Ray as one of cinema's greatest auteurs with their upcoming series called Long Shadows: The Late Work of Satyajit Ray, from April 19-26. The film series is being presented in collaboration with Columbia University, and follows a highly successful tribute to Ray's films that FilmLinc organized in 2009.
Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) hailed from a family of distinguished writers, artists and printers in Calcutta. After a 13 year stint in an advertising agency, Ray co-founded Calcutta's first film society in 1947. He also began writing film criticism, which was published in both English and Bengali publications. It was then a meeting with renowned French director Jean Renoir, while the latter was scouting locations for his film The River, that triggered Ray's curiosity for filmmaking. Later, while in London, Ray watched Italian director De Sica's The Bicycle Thief, which provided further encouragement to make a realistic Indian film, shot in existing locations and with a non-professional cast. Thus, Ray the filmmaker had arrived. He went on to make a feature almost every year from 1956 to 1981, in addition to writing many short stories, articles and novels. On March 30, 1992, Ray was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement. Just under a month later, he passed away.
According to the press release for FilmLinc's upcoming series: "[In his later works, Ray] reveals a more meditative side: his brilliant powers of observation lead him to pare down his style, allowing his characters and the world to reveal themselves to us. Of special interest is The Home and the World, his final, wonderful adaptation of a work by his mentor, Rabindranath Tagore (whose 150th anniversary we celebrate this year), as well as his final, luminous work, The Stranger, an extraordinary summing up of so much of Ray's worldview graced with a sensational lead performance by Utpal Dutt."
Check out brief descriptions here of the films to be screened:
- The Branches of a Tree
Satyajit Ray, 1990, India; 130m
When a family patriarch falls ill, his grown sons rush in from Calcutta, leading to a reunion filled with painful ironies and lingering disillusionment.
Apr 24, 26
- The Chess Players
Satyajit Ray, 1977, India; 129m
Shot in lavish color, Ray’s ironic elegy to 19th-century India tacks between an effete aristocrat threatened by the British, and two Lucknowi landowners absorbed in gameplaying.
Apr 20, 21, 23
- Deliverance (Sadgati)
Satyajit Ray, 1981, India; 52m
In Ray’s stark, unflinching short, a weakened Untouchable laborer dies on the job, forcing the landowner to deal with the consequences.
- Pikoo’s Diary
Satyajit Ray, 1980, India; 26m
A boy’s day at home is filled with shattering and confusing revelations.
- The Inner Eye
Satyajit Ray, 1972, India; 19m
Ray’s exquisite portrait of painter Binode Bihari Mukherjee.
Apr 20, 24
- Distant Thunder
Satyajit Ray, 1973, India; 101m
Rayrevisits the village setting of the Apu Trilogy for a jarring drama about villagers during the Bengali Famine of 1943. New York Film Festival ’73.
Apr 19, 23
- The Elephant God
Satyajit Ray, 1979, India; 112m
Ray’s beloved Feluda teams up with his faithful sidekick and a mystery novelist to track down a stolen Ganesh figurine. Featuring knife-throwing and Benares in vivid color.
Apr 20, 22
- An Enemy of the People
Satyajit Ray, 1990, India; 99m
In Ray’s reworking of the Ibsen play, Soumitra Chatterjee plays a beleaguered doctor who insists that a temple’s holy water is causing epidemics.
Apr 22, 23
- The Golden Fortress
Satyajit Ray, 1974, India; 120m
Two thieves kidnap a boy whose flashbacks to a past life may point the way to treasure. Master detective Feluda is on the case!
Apr 19, 20
- The Home and the World
Satyajit Ray, 1984, India; 140m
In Ray’s take on the 1905 Bengali partition protests, a bourgeois woman (Swatilekha Chatterjee) falls for a strident nationalist (Soumitra Chatterjee). Adapted from Rabindranath Tagore.
Apr 22, 24
- The Kingdom of Diamonds
Satyajit Ray, 1980, India; 118m
Ray pulls out all the stops for the fantastical sci-fi return of delightful duo Goupy and Bagha, who must contend with a dictator’s brainwashing machine.
Satyajit Ray, 1971, India; 60m
Commissioned by the ruler of a Himalayan state, Ray made this controversial poetic sketch, which was swiftly subjected to censorship.
Satyajit Ray, 1976, India; 33m
Ray’s rarely screened record of the famed Bharata Natyam dancer.
- The Stranger
Satyajit Ray, 1991, India; 97m
In this disarming, thoughtful coda to Ray’s career, a forgotten uncle (Utpal Dutt) visits his family after decades of wandering, leading to debates over civility and civilization.
Apr 24, 26