“Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon,” said Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, who is regarded as 20th Century’s most influential filmmaker. Such is the legend of Satyajit Ray. If you were to consider a Before Christ and Anno Domini of film culture in India, it would be cinema before Ray and cinema after Ray.
A creative writer, art director, set designer, music composer, and calligrapher, he was schooled in the art of creative and cultural expressions at Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan. He was determined to pursue filmmaking as a career after he attended a screening of Italian neorealist Vittorio Di Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948).
Ray directed 36 films spanning over a career which lasted for half a century. The Apu Trilogy, Charulata, and Shatranj Ke Khiladi are considered to be among the finest films of the world. On the occasion of his 96th birth anniversary, we bring to you some lesser known facts about the cinematic genius.
- Ray is the son of acclaimed Bengali poet and novelist Sukumar Ray. His grandfather Upendrakishore Roychowdhury, also a writer, was a founding member of the Brahmo Movement responsible for the cultural rejuvenation of Bengal in the 19th Century
- He graduated from Presidency College, Kolkata and later moved to Vishwa Bharati University where he enrolled into the discipline of arts and aesthetics under the aegis of Nandalal Bose and Benode Behari Mukherjee.
- After completing his higher studies, he moved to London to work as graphic designer. And it was at a film screening there that he realised his passion for films.
- He has directed 36 films which include feature films, documentaries, and short films.
- He has received a record 32 National Film Awards from the Directorate of Film Festivals. 6 out of these were for Best Direction.
- His film Kanchenjungha (1962) is Bengal’s first colored film and India’s first anthology film
- In 1987, President of France bestowed him with the Legion of Honour for his contribution to the artistic movements in the world of cinema.
- He founded an independent India’s first film society The Calcutta Film Society in 1947 with Chidananda Dasgupta, R.P. Gupta and Bansi Chandragupta.
- He has four Roman typefaces patented under his name. These are Ray Roman, Ray Bizzare, Daphnis, and Holiday Script.
- He designed book covers for Jim Corbett’s Man Eaters of Kumaon and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India.
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences granted Ray an Honorary Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement.
Ray passed away on April 23, 1992 after prolonged heart complications at the age of 70. He has influenced a range of filmmakers including Wes Anderson, Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan, François Truffaut, Carlos Saura, Isao Takahata, and Danny Boyle.