By Yash Thakur. Posted on December 07, 2015
India is, by far is one of the largest producers of films in the world. Every year we produce hundreds of films, but very few of these actually transcend borders & leave a lasting impact. There are very few Indian filmmakers who can claim that credit. One filmmaker, however, can claim to have single-handedly put Indian cinema on the world map.
Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, still remains one of the most well-known Indian directors. He was launched onto the world stage with the release of his first film Pather Panchali ("Song of the Road") in 1955, whose financing presented Ray with significant monetary problems, compelling him to pawn his wife’s jewelry. This film kick-started one of the most brilliant careers in the history of cinema, leading to dozens of international awards, Bharat Ratna - India’s highest civilian honour, a lifetime achievement Oscar, and the unusual accolade of being voted by members of the British Film Institute as one of the three greatest directors in world cinema.
Ray would break new grounds cinematically with each of his films. Much before it became fashionable, his film Kanchenjunga (1962) was a 'hyperlinked film', jumping between the beginning and end (flashback and flashforward) and interweaving the storylines between various characters. But Ray was more than just a filmmaker; he was also an illustrator, writer, publisher, composer, graphic designer and a film critic. Perhaps the beauty of Satyajit Ray is that unlike his illustrious contemporaries Michaelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa, he never made a film that can qualify as "bad" from the filmmaker's standpoint.
Confirming that, noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal (Ankur, Manthan, Nishant, Bhumika) says: "I'm never tired of seeing his work. If you look at many of his contemporaries and if you go back to some of their early work, you feel it is dated. But with (Satyajit) Ray they don't seem to be dated at all. His use of cinematic language was not topical. He was using cinema, in many ways, like how great writers use language." In fact, the first half of the video below is about Benegal speaking about his views on the master filmmaker and his influence on Benegal (His film Ankur was first seen by Ray, who was so spellbound by Shabana Azmi's performance, that he cast her in his film Shatranj Ke Khiladi).
It goes without saying that many great filmmakers, admire the work of the Indian auteur. While Kurosawa is often quoted, one of Ray's biggest fans is Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mean Streets). In the video below, Scorsese shares how, when he first saw Pather Panchali on television sometime in the '50s, he was very moved by it, despite it been dubbed in English. He goes on to recollect other works of Ray that impressed him very much, such as Jalasaghar, Charulata, Jana Aranya, Teen Kanya In his own words: "The film opened my mind and inspired me and I know that he did the same to others."
Watch it below for yourself: