Continuing with my 3rd and the last part in the series on greatest auteurs of all time, I present our very own Satyajit Ray...the man who put India on the map of world cinema. Once again, much has been written about this multi-faceted genius and I shall try add my bit to it.
Going back to my postings, if Keislowsky had a unique mind and Bergman a philosophical, this handsome Bengali from Calcutta was one of the most humane of the filmmakers (one of the most because, you have others like Sica, and Fellini). The depiction of kids and women in his films, be it Durga & Apu in 'Pather Panchali' or Charulata in 'Charulata' goes on to establish this inherent humaneness in him. I shall take the aid of these 2 films to illustrate this.
Pather Panchali(The little song of the Road), 1955: Tells the story of a poor family of 4 in a typical Bengal village, almost through the eyes (almost because its not blatant) of the two kids, elder sister Durga and brother Apu. Thorughout the movie you will see the two kids, shot in the most fascinating fashion. Eyes popping out from behind the leaves or their reflection in the local pond along with the swimming ducks, or them running behind the local candyman or trying to catch the glimpse of a running train. The viewer is moved to the bones...at least I was!
Directors, ranging from Ashutosh Gowarikar in 'Swades' to Deepa Mehta in 'Water' (the official foreign film entry from Canada for the Academy Awars) to Adoor Gopalakrishnan, they've all been influenced by his works. In fact, watching 'Water' was a sort of deja-vu fro me, finding many shades of Ray in it.
Charulata (1964): Based on a short story of Tagore, the film tells the tale of a lonely wife, Charu, in 19th century Bengal, and her growing feelings for her brother in law, Amal. Two scenes of the film are enough to showcase his understanding of a woman's soul: The first seven wordless minutes of the film, depicting Charu's ennui, and the "Garden-swing sequence", where Charu confronts her love for Amal. Am not describing the sequences in detail as it may kill the joy of those who havent watched it yet and are planning to.
Madhabi Mukherji's portrayal of a lonely woman is unparalleled...just check her out with the binoculars, looking very pretty, bored and hence absolutely vulnerable. Something, which Ray establishes in the first 7 minutes of the movie.
Ray films are markedly diverse in their subject matter. He said in 1975, "Critics have often accused me of a grasshopperish tendency to jump from theme to theme, from genre to genre... rather than pursue one dominant subject in an easily recognizable style that would help them to pigeonhole me, affix me with a label...All I can say in self-defence, if one is needed, is that this diversity faithfully reflects my own personality and that behind every film lies a cool decision."
Which brings me to another point: his versatality. He was a brilliant illustrator (used to make story-boards for all his films), great designer (designed the covers of many a books like Nehru's 'Discovery of India', musician, script-writer, a gifted writer with wild imagination. My point is he could have been the greatest in any of the above mentioned field. Its just that he chose movies as his primary medium of expression. Just pick up any of his movies on DVD (made possible by Merchant-Ivory Production's recent resurrection of Ray films) and enjoy!
Once, defending Ray on critics's remarks on the slowness/dullness of Ray films, Akira Kurosawa said, "they [Ray's films] are not slow at all. It can be described as flowing composedly, like a big river". And, I can watch this flow, endlessly!
* Find a beautifully written review of Apu trilogyon http://www.toxicuniverse.com/review.php?aid=1000439