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Biography : Satyajit Ray


Satyajit Ray (2 May 1921 – 23 April 1992) was an Indian filmmaker, regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of world cinema. Ray was born in the city of Calcutta into a Bengali family prominent in the world of arts and literature. Starting his career as a commercial artist, Ray was drawn into independent filmmaking after meeting French filmmaker Jean Renoir and viewing Vittorio De Sica's Italian neorealist 1948 film Bicycle Thieves during a visit to London.

Ray directed 36 films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts. He was also a fiction writer, publisher, illustrator, calligrapher, graphic designer and film critic. He authored several short stories and novels, primarily aimed at children and adolescents. Feluda, the sleuth, and Professor Shonku, the scientist in his science fiction stories, are popular fictional characters created by him.

Ray's first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, including Best Human Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival. This film, Aparajito (1956), and Apur Sansar (1959) form The Apu Trilogy. Ray did the scripting, casting, scoring, and editing, and designed his own credit titles and publicity material. Ray received many major awards in his career, including 32 Indian National Film Awards, a number of awards at international film festivals and award ceremonies, and an Academy Award in 1992. The Government of India honoured him with the Bharat Ratna in 1992.

 

Early life and background

 

Satyajit Ray's ancestry can be traced back for at least ten generations. Ray's grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray was a writer, illustrator, philosopher, publisher, amateur astronomer and a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, a religious and social movement in nineteenth century Bengal. He also set up a printing press by the name of U. Ray and Sons, which formed a crucial backdrop to Satyajit's life. Sukumar Ray, Upendrakishore's son and father of Satyajit, was a pioneering Bengali writer of nonsense rhyme and children's literature, an illustrator and a critic. Ray was born to Sukumar and Suprabha Ray in Calcutta.

 

Sukumar Ray died when Satyajit was barely three, and the family survived on Suprabha Ray's meager income. Ray studied at Ballygunge Government High School, Calcutta, and completed his BA in economics at Presidency College, Calcutta, though his interest was always in fine arts. In 1940, his mother insisted that he study at the Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Ray was reluctant due to his love of Calcutta, and the low opinion of the intellectual life at Santiniketan His mother's persuasion and his respect for Tagore finally convinced him to try. In Santiniketan, Ray came to appreciate Oriental art. He later admitted that he learned much from the famous painters Nandalal Bose and Benode Behari Mukherjee. Later he produced a documentary film, The Inner Eye, about Mukherjee. His visits to Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta stimulated his admiration for Indian art.

 

In 1943, Ray started work at D.J. Keymer, a British-run advertising agency, as a "junior visualiser," earning eighty rupees a month. Although he liked visual design (graphic design) and he was mostly treated well, there was tension between the British and Indian employees of the firm. The British were better paid, and Ray felt that "the clients were generally stupid." Later, Ray also worked for Signet Press, a new publishing house started by D. K. Gupta. Gupta asked Ray to create cover designs for books to be published by Signet Press and gave him complete artistic freedom. Ray designed covers for many books, including Jibanananda Das's Banalata Sen, and Rupasi Bangla, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay's Chander Pahar, Jim Corbett's Maneaters of Kumaon, and Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India. He worked on a children's version of Pather Panchali, a classic Bengali novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, renamed as Aam Antir Bhepu (The mango-seed whistle). Designing the cover and illustrating the book, Ray was deeply influenced by the work. He used it as the subject of his first film, and featured his illustrations as shots in his ground-breaking film.

 

Along with Chidananda Dasgupta and others, Ray founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947. They screened many foreign films, many of which Ray watched and seriously studied. He befriended the American GIs stationed in Calcutta during World War II, who kept him informed about the latest American films showing in the city. He came to know a RAF employee, Norman Clare, who shared Ray's passion for films, chess and western classical music.

 

In 1949, Ray married Bijoya Das, his first cousin and long-time sweetheart. The couple had a son, Sandip, who is now a film director. In the same year, French director Jean Renoir came to Calcutta to shoot his film The River. Ray helped him to find locations in the countryside. Ray told Renoir about his idea of filming Pather Panchali, which had long been on his mind, and Renoir encouraged him in the project. In 1950, D.J. Keymer sent Ray to London to work at its headquarters office. During his three months in London, Ray watched 99 films. Among these was the neorealist film Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thief) (1948) by Vittorio De Sica, which had a profound impact on him. Ray later said that he came out of the theatre determined to become a film-maker.

 
Few Books of Satyajit Ray
Feluda Samagra-2
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Feluda Samagra-1
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