Satyajit Ray is the most acknowledged Indian name in international
film and is one of the greatest film makers of all time. Most of his
films were made in Bengali, but the universal humanitarian appeal
of his movies influenced cinegoers through out the world.
Ray was born on the 2nd May of 1921 in a distinguished Bengali family of
north Calcutta. His grandfather Upendrakishore Roychoudhury was a
renowned children's story writer. Upendrakishore was a friend of Rabindranath
Tagore and once introduced Ray to Tagore in his childhood. His father
Sukumar Roy(1887-1923) was a legendary Bengali writer, poet and a celebrated
cultural figure. Satyajit Ray's nickname was Manik and was known
to many others by this name. Their family was used to run a printing
and publishing business under the name of U. Ray & Sons in Garpar,
a place in north Calcutta. Ray lost his father at the age of three
when Sukumar Ray died from a dreadful disease called Kwalajwar.
At the age of six, their family business did wind up and he moved
to Bhawanipore in South Calcutta with his mother Suprava Devi. Ray did his schooling at Ballygunge Government High School. In 1936, he
got admitted into Presidency College and in 1939 graduated with Economics
as major. He later regretted that this subject was not his cup of
tea. He had great passion for music and art. After graduating from
Presidency College, he went to Shantiniketan, the open air University
founded by Rabindranath Tagore and started practicing art under Nandalal
Bose. In 1941, upon hearing the news of Tagore's death, he came to
Calcutta bare footed to pay homage to Tagore.
Ray came back to Calcutta in 1942. In 1943, he took his first job as
Assistant Art Visualizer at D.J.Keymers, an advertising agency. When
D.K. Gupta started Signet Press for publishing and promoting Bengali
books, he picked Ray for designing cover pages of the books published
from his press. Ray laid out the design for the cover page of Bibhutibhusan
Banerjee's novel "Aam Aantir Bhnepu", which he later converted
to the famous film "Pather Panchali"(The Song of the Little
Ray was used to watch films regularly and in 1947, he and his friends
formed a club - The Calcutta Film Society. In 1949 famous French film
director Jean Renoir came to Calcutta in search for locations for
his new film "The River". Ray assisted him and Renoir became his mentor.
This was the first time when Ray could watch a famous film director
from close. His employer sent him for summer training to London in
1950. During his stay there, Ray watched about 100 films in a span
of about six months. Probably this was the time when he decided to make films.
While coming back to Calcutta by sea, he completed a rough script
for the movie "Pather Panchali".
Ray bought the film rights of this novel from Bibhutibhsan's widow.
He formed a team with his friends to shoot the film. The team included
Bansi Chandra Gupta who was a production designer and also worked
as art director in Renoir's "The River". Ray requested Ravi Shankar
to compose the background music for this film. They started looking for
producers with a budget of seventy thousand rupees. But no one was
interested. In 1952, Ray used his savings, took loan from his friends
and managed to gather around fifteen thousand rupees and started shooting
in Gopalnagar, Bibhutibhsan's native village. His crew was full of
first timers and no stars. He had to shoot only in Sundays and holidays
to keep his regular job. Shooting schedule discontinued whenever money
got exhausted. In 1953, he started shooting in a village named Boral,
near the southern outskirt of the city. To keep up the cost, his wife's
jewelry was pawned; some of his music records and books were sold.
He started showing prospective producers the portion of the film he
was able to shoot so far. At last, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, a famous
doctor and then Chief Minister of West Bengal, came for a rescue.
He saw the portion of the film and managed to get some fund from a
State Community Development Project.
In 1954, a Hollywood film director came to Calcutta to select a location
for his upcoming film. He saw the unfinished version of the film and
was deeply impressed. He requested Ray to send the film to New York
for a premiere. The film was shown in New York. After couple of months
the film was released in Calcutta. Initially it failed to draw any
attention. But slowly the news about the movie started spreading and
people got interested. Prime Minister Nehru viewed the movie in
Calcutta and arranged all clearance from Govt. for this movie to be
shown elsewhere. The movie went to the prestigious Cannes Film festival
and won "The Best Human Document" award. Lots of national and international
awards and recognitions were showered upon this film. The film became
one of the finest films ever made in the world. This film brought
Indian cinema in international limelight. After this, Ray made two
films based on the rest of the original story - Aparajito
(The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu). These
three films together is well known as 'Apu Trilogy'.
Ray started making films based on a wide range of ideas. Devi
(The Goddess) was not just a film, it was a piece of social work,
shaking the truth under prejudices and believes. His first work on
color film was Kanchenjangha based on his own story in 1962.
His first film on Tagore's work was - Teen Kanya (Three Daughters),
based on three short stories of Tagore. His first film for children
was Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen in 1968. Later he converted some
of his own popular stories into movies. He made three films based
on urban Calcutta life - Pratidwandi, Jana Aranya and
Simabaddha. He was a fine music composer and composed scores
for most of his films. His first film in Hindi was - Satranj ki
Khiladi. In 1978, Berlin Film Festival ranked him as one of the three
all time greatest directors in the world.
He was a prolific writer and his literary skill created two of the
ever popular characters of Bengali literature - Feluda and
Professor Shanku. He wrote around 25 story books, articles and book
on film making. Ray received many awards through out his life. Some
of them are: Bharatratna - the highest civilian award from
India, Lègion d'Honneur from France, Academy Award (Oscar) for Lifetime
Achievement in World Cinema.
Ray fell sick due to heart trouble and could not shoot film. In
1989 he again came back to filming but started shooting indoor only. He made
three movies during this time - Ganashatru, Sakha Prosakha and Aguntuk.
Satyajit Ray died on April 23, 1992. He was survived by his son Sandip,
wife Bijaya, daughter-in-law and grand son Sauarajit.
Filmography : IMDB