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Remembering the maverick

Remembering the maverick

The brilliance of cinema as a medium can be understood when it carries a great sense of fulfilment, a certain connection and an inherent potential to transcend time and space in appeal and thought. Satyajit Ray, as a director, was such a man of distinctive character whose creations touched the souls of people and made his cinematic heritage a part of both India and the world. Totally committed to the art of film-making, he managed to combine cinematic artifice with authorial honesty. Famous Japanese film director and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa had once said: "not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon." His characters, the dialogues that he gave to his actors, the way he designed his sets, the cinematography and the direction where all aspects of cinema that Satyajit Ray liked to treat on his own and this made him the complete master of his works. His heroes are a breed apart, rooted in the soil and milieu of their immediate environment. The natural character of an actor was integral to Ray. He must, in real life, reflect some of the basic qualities sought in the character to be portrayed. He had unmatched film-making skills, depicting a rare blend of emotions and intellect, through which he skillfully balanced sorrow and happiness along with a deep understanding of life without any consideration of the cliché-ridden mannerisms. Through his Pather Panchali, eyes mist up randomly. The adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) highlights startling depiction of gender politics. Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest), which starts off as a holiday excursion of four friends, describe men in unfamiliar situations discovering themselves as they interact with others. What is so compelling about the film is the volatility of the narrative and characters that are masterly juxtaposed between the urban and tribal cultural milieu. The picnic scene, in particular, highlights a simple game but it involves a complex and engrossing interplay of characters, exploring their psychological probing through the meticulous use of acting, dialogue and editing. Apu in Apur Sansar, the third and last of his unforgettable trilogy (the other two being Pather Panchali, Aparajito), is a young man who marries, writes his first novel and then loses his wife during childbirth. This tragedy strikes him so hard that he casts away the sheets of the novel which he so labouriously compiled and as they flutter down the hillside at the break of dawn, it evokes an overwhelming sense of loss.

It is this same sense of melancholy that prevails in world cinema today as qualitatively speaking, it will be quite long before we get another such director as Satyajit Ray.

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