On August 26, 1955, ‘Pather Panchali’ was released, a film the world refuses to forget. It got Indian cinema on the world map and started the career of the legendary Satyajit Ray.
Ray is considered one of the greatest Indian filmmakers and screenwriters of his time. In addition to being an exceptional filmmaker, Ray also wrote children’s books and was a perfect illustrator. He even designed posters and promotional materials for his films. However, its significance goes beyond all this and includes the influence it has had on several Indian film directors.
One of the most unlikely currents influenced by Ray is parallel Hindu cinema, which appeared in the 1970s and included several talented young people such as Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Saeed Mirza. In interviews over the years, Shyam Benegal acknowledged Ray’s influence, which helped him quit his job in advertising and devote himself to the filmmaker’s creative life. When Benegal’s “Ankur” was released in 1974, it was considered nothing less than a breakthrough film using psychological realism and regional authenticity.
In Kerala, Adoor Gopalakrishnan borrowed Ray’s technique of emphasizing character psychology through gestures and the study of inner life. Several of Adoor’s films are spiritually similar to some of Ray’s film masterpieces.
When one looks at the ‘Ghatashraddha’ (1977) by Kannada filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli, one notices a strange resemblance to Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’, at least in spirit, even though the two cultures and languages are different. Perhaps what brought them together was the universal truths of suffering and stoicism in the face of adversity. Both examined the position of women in society.
The filmmaking style of Tamil director Mani Ratnam again bears Ray’s influence. Critics say Ray’s filmmaking has profoundly influenced the parallel Tamil Nadu film movement.
In Bengali cinema, Ray’s influence is palpable in the films of Srijit Mukherjee, Anik Dutta and Kaushik Ganguly, who create magic and engaging stories, a talent that Ray has at his disposal. For example, Srijit’s debut ‘Autograph’ (2010) was an interesting remake of Ray’s film ‘Nayak’ (1966), which is a nut of Bengali superstar Uttama Kumar.
Ray recently found a presence on the Netflix OTT platform last year when four of his short stories were adapted in Hindi. The series was called ‘Ray’. Although it has garnered mixed reviews, it shows that India’s love affair with him continues.
Ray was far ahead of his time. His fears were deep, his eyes sharp and focused. He sought to change the position of women socially and economically by portraying strong female characters such as Arati (“Mahanagar”) and Charulata in the film of the same name (2012).
Instead of the predominant jingoism in Hindu cinema, Ray’s provided a much more subtle and subtle picture of the Indian nation, giving the audience an alternative history. He enthusiastically participated in Nehru’s dreams of a sovereign, socialist and democratic nation and tried to portray the same hope in several of his films, starting with ‘The Apu Trilogy’. Ray’s role as a national filmmaker, as defined by Roy Armes, remains unrivaled and unquestionable.
(The writer is the author, teacher and cinephile).