His Life: Master of Cinema
- Year 1921 – Born in Calcutta, West Bengal, India.
- Year 1940 – Completed B.A. in economics (Honors).
- Year 1943 – Started career with D.J. Keymer.
- Year 1947 – Founded Calcutta Film Society with Chidananda Dasgupta.
- Year 1949 – Married Bijoya Das.Year 1955 – Released Pather Panchali.
- Year 1961 – Revived children’s magazine Sandesh.
- Year 1964 – Released his magnum opus Charulata.
- Year 1992 – Received Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.
- Year 1992 – Left the mortal world.
“The only solutions that are ever worth anything are the solutions that people find themselves.”
Satyajit Ray was a legendary Indian director, writer and music composer often considered as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century. His film ‘Pather Panchali’ is frequently listed among the greatest films ever made and the greatest work of the Indian cinema, and has won 11 international awards. He is remembered for his humanistic approach to Indian Cinema.
Satyajit Ray was born in the prominent family of artists, litterateurs and musicians. He was born to Sukumar Ray, a Bengali writer and an illustrator and Suprabha Ray on May 2, 1921 in Calcutta. His grandfather Upendrakishore Ray was also a famous Bengali writer, composer and a leader of the Brahmo Samaj. Ray’s father died in 1923. After that, Ray grew up in Calcutta and was looked after by his mother.
Ray received his education from Ballygunge Government High School in Calcutta. He enrolled at the Presidency College, Calcutta and completed B.A. in economics (Honors) in 1940. On the persuasion of his mother, he joined the Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan to study painting in 1940. Here, Ray got an exposure to Indian and other Eastern art and gained a deeper appreciation of both Eastern and Western culture, which is evident in his films. Ray married Bijoya Das in 1949 and the couple had a son Sandip who is also a director.
Ray started his career as a junior visualizer for an advertising agency D.J. Keymer in 1943. Later, he started working for Signet Press, where he designed covers and illustrated books, and became India’s leading typographer and a book-jacket designer. In 1947, Satyajit Ray established the Calcutta Film Society along with Chidananda Dasgupta, RP Gupta, Bansi Chandragupta and others. They screened many foreign films. In 1949, Ray met Jean Renoir, one of the greatest directors of all time, when he came to India to shoot The River.
He encouraged Ray’s idea to make Pather Panchali. Though Ray was encouraged for his cinematic ambitions, however he was unable to raise money from skeptical Bengali producers as he was a first-time director with unconventional ideas. In 1950, Ray went to London to work at Keymer. There he watched several movies which inspired him to enter the world of cinema. Ray started working on Pather Panchali in the late 1952 and completed the shooting in two and a half years despite the series of hardships.
His directorial debut released in 1955 received worldwide critical acclaim and was a commercial hit. This was a tremendous critical success for Ray first in Bengal and then in west following a major award at the 1956 Cannes International Film Festival. Ray went on to make Aparajito in 1956 and concluded The Apu Trilogy with The World of Apu in 1959. In 1961, Ray revived children’s magazine Sandesh with Subhas Mukhopadhyay spearheading Ray’s writing career. Ray delivered his masterpiece in 1964 with Charulata based on Nastanirh by Rabindranath Tagore.
Since his childhood he was a great fan of Tintin comics, he had some shots of some of the books in his movies. Ray had penned many short stories and novellas, which became his primary source of income rather than filmmaking. During his lifetime, Ray made 29 feature films, five documentaries and two short films.
Awards and Recognition
Numerous awards have been conferred on Ray including Bharat Ratna, all Padma awards, 32 National Film Awards and international film festivals awards. He was awarded with Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit in 1987. In 1992, He won a special life-time achievement award ‘Acadamy Awards and became the second Indian to have won an Oscar. In his honor, Government of India established Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in 1995. The BFI London Film Festival presents ‘Satayjit Ray Award’ every year to the directors.
In 1983, Ray suffered from a heart attack but got recovered after medical treatment. In 1992, his health deteriorated due to the same heart complications. He was admitted in hospital and could never recovered. On April 23, 1992 at the age of 71 Ray left the mortal world. Ray has often been described as a renaissance man, probably the last of the true men of letters. For Death, Ray once said- “It will come. But I am not bothered, I want to keep working.” And he did.