Satyajit Ray: Decoding a Brilliant Mind

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Satyajit Ray, The man who makes us proud

Satyajit Ray is a household name in India. With ground-breaking films and brilliant literary work, he is a true inspiration for artists across the globe. Ray’s films speak volumes about his finesse in the craft. His eye for detailing and masterful story-telling makes him one of the best directors of all times. He won many awards, including an Academy Award for Lifetime achievement. What is more important is the fact that his legacy still lives on, his work, cherished by all.

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray: Childhood and early influences

Ray’s family were staunch believers of social reform in Bengal. His grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray was a philosopher, writer, illustrator and publisher. He set up a printing press which, in later years became vital in shaping Ray’s contribution to the literary world. His father Sukumar Ray was a renowned writer of Children’s literature, an illustrator and a critic. Satyajit Ray went to the Ballygunj Government High School. He studied economics at Presidencey college. On his mother’s insistence he went to Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. It was here that he was heavily inspired by Oriental art. He was impressed by Indian artistry after his visit to the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra.

Initial years of Satyajit Ray: The start of a brilliant career

Ray’s career started in 1943 when he started working at a British Adverising agency. Disappointed by the discrimination he faced at the agency, soon he started designing book covers for a newly opened publishing house. He was deeply inspired while designing a cover for the abridged version of Pather Panchali. Satyajit Ray chose this story for the subject of his first film. He started writing the screenplay and storyboard. Being a superb illustrator, Ray generally used to sketch all the shots of his film himself. He formed a film society which screened numerous foreign films which he studied carefully. It was neorealist film Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) (1948) by Vittorio De Sica that inspired Ray the most to get into filmmaking.

Satyajit Ray and films

Satyajit Ray started filming Pather Panchali with an amateur cast and crew. He started the film with his own savings. It took him three long years to finish the film. He would shoot portions, run out of money and then resume again after procuring additional funds. Satyajit Ray refused to take money from producers who demanded a change in the script. Finally, he received a loan from the Indian Government and finished the film. The film got rave reviews in India and abroad. It was a critical and commercial success. Driven by the national and international success of his first film, there was no looking back for Ray.

Satyajit Ray and his contribution to the world of art and craft

Satyajit Ray created two of the most memorable characters of Bengali Literature. He was the editor for a long running popular children’s magazine, Sandesh. It is believed that the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s E.T. was actually from one short story written by Ray, Bankubabur Bandhu. He was also an exceptionally talented calligrapher and music composer. He made music for many of his later films. Martic Scorsese said the following regarding Satyajit Ray’s cinematic brilliance, “His work is in the company of that of living contemporaries like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa and Federico Fellini.”

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