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Ray, Satyajit

RAY, Satyajit

Nationality: Indian. Born: Calcutta, 2 May 1921. Education: Attended Ballygunj Government School; Presidency College, University of Calcutta, B.A. in economics (with honors), 1940; studied painting at University of Santiniketan, 1940–43. Family: Married Bijoya Das, 1949; one son. Career: Commercial artist for D. J. Keymer advertising agency, Calcutta, 1943; co-founder, Calcutta Film Society, 1947; met Jean Renoir making The River, 1950; completed first film, Pather Panchali, 1955; composed own music, from Teen Kanya (1961) on; made first film in Hindi (as opposed to Bengali), The Chess Players, 1977; editor and illustrator for children's magazine Sandesh, 1980s. Awards: Grand Prize, Cannes Festival, 1956, Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival, 1957, Film Critics Award, Stratford Festival, 1958, and president of India Gold Medal, all for Pather Panchali; Gold Lion, Venice Festival, 1957, Best Direction, San Francisco International Film Festival, 1958, and President of India Gold Medal, all for Aparajito; Selznick Award and Sutherland Trophy, 1960, for Apur Sansar; Silver Bear for Best Direction, Berlin Festival, for Mahanagar, 1964, and for Charulata, 1965; Special Award of Honour, Berlin Festival, 1966; Decorated Order Yugoslav Flag, 1971; Golden Bear Award, Berlin Film Festival, 1973, for Distant Thunder; D.Litt, Oxford University, 1978; life fellow, British Film Institute, 1983; Legion of Honour, France, 1989; Indian Awards, Best Picture and Best Director, 1991, for Agantuk; Academy Award for lifetime achievement in cinema, 1992. Died: Of heart failure, 23 April 1992, in Calcutta.

Films as Director and Scriptwriter:


Pather Panchali (Father Panchali) (+ pr)


Aparajito (The Unvanquished) (+ pr)


Parash Pathar (The Philosopher's Stone)


Jalsaghar (The Music Room) (+ pr)


Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (+ pr)


Devi (The Goddess) (+ pr, mus)


Teen Kanya (Two Daughters) (+ pr); Rabindranath Tagore (doc)


Abhijan (Expedition); Kanchanjanga (+ pr)


Mahanagar (The Big City)


Charulata (The Lonely Wife)


Kapurush-o-Mahapurush (The Coward and the Saint); Two (short)


Nayak (The Hero)


Chiriakhana (The Zoo)


Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures of Goopy andBagha)


Pratidwandi (The Adversary); Aranyer Din Ratri (Days andNights in the Forest)


Seemabaddha; Sikkim (doc)


The Inner Eye (doc)


Asani Sanket (Distant Thunder)


Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress)


Jana Aranya (The Middleman)


Bala (doc)


Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)


Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God)


Heerak Rajar Deshe (The Kingdom of Diamonds)


Sadgati (Deliverance) (for TV); Pikoo (short)


Ghare Bahire (The Home and the World) (+ pr, mus)


Ganashatru (An Enemy of the People)


Shakha Proshakha (Branches of the Tree)


Agantuk (The Visitor)


By RAY: books—

Our Films, Their Films, New Delhi, 1977.

The Chess Players and Other Screenplays, London, 1989.

My Years with APU, New York, 1994.

By RAY: articles—

"A Long Time on the Little Road," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1957.

"Satyajit Ray on Himself," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), July/Au-gust 1965.

"From Film to Film," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), no. 3, 1966

Interview, in Film Makers on Filmmaking, by Harry M. Geduld, Bloomington, Indiana, 1967.

Interview, in Interviews with Film Directors, edited by Andrew Sarris, New York, 1967.

Interview with J. Blue, in Film Comment (New York), Summer 1968.

"Conversation with Satyajit Ray," with F. Isaksson, in Sight andSound (London), Summer 1970.

"Ray's New Trilogy," an interview with C. B. Thomsen, in Sight andSound (London), Winter 1972/73.

"Dialogue on Film: Satyajit Ray," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), July/August 1978.

Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), May 1979.

Interview with U. Gupta, in Cineaste (New York), vol. 12, no. 1, 1982.

"Under Western Eyes," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1982.

"Bridging the Home and the World," an interview with A. Robinson, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), September 1984.

Interview with Charles Tesson, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1987.

Interview with Derek Malcolm, in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1989.

Time Out (London), 29 April 1992.

"To Western Audiences, the Filmmaker Satyajit Ray Is Synonymous with Indian Cinema," an interview with Gowri Ramnarayan, in Interview, June 1992.

On RAY: films—

Satyajit Ray, 1982.

Satyajit Ray: Introspections, 1991.

On RAY: books—

Seton, Marie, Portrait of a Director, Bloomington, Indiana, 1970.

Wood, Robin, The Apu Trilogy, New York, 1971.

Taylor, John Russell, Directors and Directions: Cinema for '70s, New York, 1975.

Rangoonwalla, Firoze, Satyajit Ray's Art, Shahdara, Delhi, 1980.

Satyajit Ray: An Anthology, edited by Chidananda Das Gupta, New Delhi, 1981.

Willemen, Paul, and Behroze Gandhy, Indian Cinema, London, 1982.

Armes, Roy, Third World Filmmaking and the West, Berkeley, 1987.

Nyce, Ben, Satyajit Ray: A Study of His Films, New York, 1988.

Robinson, Andrew, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye, London, 1989.

Tesson, Charles, Satyajit Ray, Paris, 1992.

Sarkar, Bidyut, World of Satyajit Ray, UBS Publishers, 1992.

Banerjee, Tarapada, Satyajit Ray: A Portrait in Black and White, New York, 1993.

Moras, Chris, Creativity and Its Contents, Chester Springs, Pennsyl-vania, 1995.

Banerjee, Surabhi, Satyajit Ray: Beyond the Frame, Allied Publish-ers, 1996.

Das, Santi, editor, Satyajit Ray: An Intimate Master, Allied Publish-ers, 1998.

On RAY: articles—

Gray, H., "The Growing Edge: Satyajit Ray," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley, California), Winter 1958.

Rhode, Eric, "Satyajit Ray: A Study," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1961.

Stanbrook, Alan, "The World of Ray," in Films and Filming (London), November 1965.

Hrusa, B., "Satyajit Ray: Genius behind the Man," in Film (London), Winter 1966.

Glushanok, Paul, "On Ray," in Cineaste (New York), Summer 1967.

Malik, A., "Satyajit Ray and the Alien," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1967/68.

Mehta, V., "Profiles," in New Yorker, 21 March 1970.

Thomsen, Christian Braad, "Ray's New Trilogy," in Sight andSound (London), Winter 1972/73.

Dutta, K., "Cinema in India: An Interview with Satyajit Ray's Cinematographers," in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), January 1975.

Hughes, J., "A Voyage in India: Satyajit Ray," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1976.

"Pathar Panchali Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 Febru-ary 1980.

Armes, Roy, "Satyajit Ray: Astride Two Cultures," in Films andFilming (London), August 1982.

Robinson, A., "Satyajit Ray at Work," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), September 1983.

Ray, B., "Ray off Set," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1983/84.

Das Gupta, Chidananda, and Andrew Robinson, "A Passage from India," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1985.

Dissanyake, W., "Art, Vision, and Culture: Sayajit Ray's Apu Trilogy Revisited," in East-West Film Journal (Honolulu), vol. 1, December 1986.

Gehler, F., "Wie der Tempel von Konarak," in Film und Fernsehen (Potsdam, Germany), vol. 16, July 1988.

Robinson, Andrew, "The Music Room," in Sight and Sound (Lon-don), Autumn 1989.

Armand, M., "Satyajit Ray au present," in Cahiers du Cinéma, July/August 1990.

Jivani, A., "Ray of Hope," in Time Out (London), 24 April 1991.

Sengupta, Shuddhabarata, "Reflections on Satyajit Ray," WorldPress Review, April 1992.

Schickel, Richard, "Days and Nights at the Art House," in FilmComment, May/June 1992.

Andersson, K., "Satyajit Ray," in Cinema Papers, May/June 1992.

Chatterjee, D., "Entretien avec Satyajit Ray," in Cahiers du Cinéma, June 1992.

Grafe, L., and O. Moller, obituary, in Film-Dienst (Köln), vol. 45, 12 May 1992.

McBride, J., and D. Young, obituary, in Variety, 27 April 1992.

Obituary, in Filmnews, vol. 22, no. 4, May 1992.

Niogret, H., and M. Ciment, "Les espaces de Satyajit Ray," in Positif (Paris), June 1992.

Obituary, in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 4, June 1992.

Sight and Sound (London), special section, vol. 2, August 1992.

Bonneville, L., in Séquences (Haute-Ville, Québec), November 1992.

Heifetz, H., "Mixed Music: In Memory of Satyajit Ray," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 14, 1993.

Mensuel du Cinéma (Paris), special section, January 1993.

Andersson, K., "Lo scambio di culture nell'opera di Satyajit Ray," in Cinema Nuovo (Rome), vol. 42, January-February 1993.

Positif (Paris), special section, no. 399, May 1994.

Ganguly, Keya, "Carnal Knowledge: Visuality and the Modern in Charulata," in Camera Obscura (Bloomington), no. 37, Janu-ary 1996.

Van der Heide, Bill, "Experiencing India: A Personal History," in Media International Australia (North Ryde, NSW), no. 80, May 1996.

* * *

From the beginning of his career as a filmmaker, Satyajit Ray was interested in finding ways to reveal the mind and thoughts of his characters. Because the range of his sympathy was wide, he has been accused of softening the presence of evil in his cinematic world. But a director who aims to represent the currents and cross-currents of feeling within people is likely to disclose to viewers the humanness even in reprehensible figures. In any case, from the first films of his early period, Ray devised strategies for rendering inner lives; he simplified the surface action of the film so that the viewer's attention travels to (1) the reaction of people to one another, or to their environments, (2) the mood expressed by natural scenery or objects, and (3) music as a clue to the state of mind of a character. In the Apu Trilogy the camera often stays with one of two characters after the other character exits the frame to see their silent response. Or else, after some significant event in the narrative, Ray presents correlatives of that event in the natural world. When the impoverished wife in Pather Panchali receives a postcard bearing happy news from her husband, the scene dissolves to water skates dancing on a pond. As for music, in his films Ray commissioned compositions from India's best classical musicians—Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Ali Akbar Khan—but after Teen Kanya composed his own music and progressed towards quieter indication through music of the emotional experience of his characters.

Ray's work can be divided into three periods on the basis of his cinematic practice: the early period, 1955–66, from Pather Panchali through Nayak; the middle period, 1969–1977, from Googy Gyne Bagha Byne through Shatranj Ke Khilari; and the final period, from Joy Baba Felunath and through his final film Agantuk, in 1991. The early period is characterized by thoroughgoing realism: the mise-enscène are rendered in deep focus; long takes and slow camera movements prevail. The editing is subtle, following shifts of narrative interest and cutting on action in the Hollywood style. Ray's emphasis in the early period on capturing reality is obvious in Kanchanjangha, in which 100 minutes in the lives of characters are rendered in 100 minutes of film time. The Apu Trilogy, Parash Pather, Jalsaghar, and Devi all exemplify what Ray had learned from Hollywood's studio era, from Renoir's mise-en-scène, and from the use of classical music in Indian cinema. Charulata affords the archetypal example of Ray's early style, with the decor, the music, the long takes, the activation of various planes of depth within a composition, and the reaction shots all contributing significantly to a representation of the lonely wife's inner conflicts. The power of Ray's early films comes from his ability to suggest deep feeling by arranging the surface elements of his films unemphatically.

Ray's middle period is characterized by increasing complexity of style; to his skills at understatement Ray adds a sharp use of montage. The difference in effect between an early film and a middle film becomes apparent if one compares the early Mahanagar with the middle Jana Aranya, both films pertaining to life in Calcutta. In Mahanagar, the protagonist chooses to resign her job in order to protest the unjust dismissal of a colleague. The film affirms the rightness of her decision. In the closing sequence, the protagonist looks up at the tall towers of Calcutta and says to her husband so that we believe her, "What a big city! Full of jobs! There must be something somewhere for one of us!" Ten years later, in Jana Aranya, it is clear that there are no jobs and that there is precious little room to worry about niceties of justice and injustice. The darkness running under the pleasant facade of many of the middle films seems to derive from the turn in Indian politics after the death of Nehru. Within Bengal, many ardent young people joined a Maoist movement to destroy existing institutions, and more were themselves destroyed by a ruthless police force. Across India, politicians abandoned Nehru's commitment to a socialist democracy in favor of a scramble for personal power. In Seemabaddha or Aranyer Din Ratri Ray's editing is sharp but not startling. In Shatranj Ke Khilari, on the other hand, Ray's irony is barely restrained: he cuts from the blue haze of a Nawab's music room to a gambling scene in the city. In harsh daylight, commoners lay bets on fighting rams, as intent on their gambling as the Nawab was on his music.

Audiences in India who responded warmly to Ray's early films have sometimes been troubled by the complexity of his middle films. A film like Shatranj Ke Khilari was expected by many viewers to reconstruct the splendors of Moghul India as the early Jalsaghar had reconstructed the sensitivity of Bengali feudal landlords and Charulata the decency of upper class Victorian Bengal. What the audience found instead was a stern examination of the sources of Indian decadence. According to Ray, the British seemed less to blame for their role than the Indians who demeaned themselves by colluding with the British or by ignoring the public good and plunging into private pleasures. Ray's point of view in Shatranj was not popular with distributors and so his first Hindi film was denied fair exhibition in many cities in India.

Ray's concluding style, most evident in the short features Pikoo and Sadgati, pays less attention than earlier to building a stable geography and a firm time scheme. The exposition of characters and situations is swift: the effect is of great concision. In Pikoo, a young boy is sent outside to sketch flowers so that his mother and her lover can pursue their affair indoors. The lover has brought along a drawing pad and colored pens to divert the boy. The boy has twelve colored pens in his packet with which he must represent on paper the wealth of colors in nature. In a key scene (lasting ten seconds) the boy looks at a flower, then down at his packet for a matching color. Through that action of the boy's looking to match the world with his means, Ray suggests the striving in his own work to render the depth and range of human experience.

In focussing on inner lives and on human relations as the ground of social and political systems, Ray continued the humanist tradition of Rabindranath Tagore. Ray studied at Santiniketan, the university founded by Tagore, and was close to the poet during his last years. Ray once acknowledged his debt in a lyrical documentary about Tagore, and through the Tagore stories on which he based his films Teen Kanya, Charulata, and Ghare Bahire. As the poet Tagore was his example, Ray has become an example to important younger filmmakers (such as Shyam Benegal, M. S. Sathyu, G. Aravindan), who have learned from him how to reveal in small domestic situations the working of larger political and cultural forces.

—Satti Khanna

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Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray

The Indian film director Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) was noted for his refined and subtly moving studies of native family life. His creations possess a humanistic warmth, crystalline purity, and mythic evocativeness which enable them to transcend the barriers of alien cultural sensibility.

Satyajit Ray was born in Bengal into one of the nation's most prominent artistic families. His grandfather was a painter, a poet, and a scientist who edited the first children's magazine in Bengal. Ray's father was the author of, among other works, Bengal's classic Book of Nonsense. In 1940 Satyajit Ray graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Calcutta. With the encouragement of Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian writer-philosopher and close friend of the Ray family, the youth undertook graduate courses in painting and graphics at the Santiniketan Institute. Ray was subsequently hired as an art director for the Calcutta branch of a British advertising agency in 1945. Sometime later he was transferred to the firm's London office, where, besides his regular assignments, he designed a new abridged edition of Bibhui Banerji's popular two-volume novel, Pather Panchali. With the cinematic version already germinating in his mind, Ray, a movie enthusiast from childhood, attended all the current films of John Ford and William Wyler; he was particularly impressed by Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thief; and, in addition, he studied the cinema theories of Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin.

When Ray returned to India in 1950, he met the French film maker Jean Renoir, who, while completing the location shooting of The River, gave Ray invaluable technical training. Stimulated by Renoir's personal interest, Ray began work on the scenario for the Banerji story. Produced on an extremely tight budget and employing such De Sica devices as the use of nonprofessional actors in their natural environs, Ray's sensitive visualization of the life of a poor Brahmin family, released in 1955, earned over 100 international film awards and fervent critical praise. Ray continued the events of Banerji's tale in his next production, Aparajito, a film as lyrical as the first, though more advanced technically and structurally. Before undertaking the concluding portion of the trilogy, the director shifted his focus from the physical hardships of the impoverished to the spiritual malaise of the declining aristocracy, creating The Music Room (1958). The final chapter in Ray's national epic, The World of Apu (1960), contrasting the joys of married life and childbirth with the desolation of defeat and bereavement, provided an ideal ending for a work of art which functioned with equal intensity on the particular and mythical levels. "It is fascinating to note," wrote critic Stanley Kauffmann (1966) of the trilogy, "how in the most commonplace daily actions—gesturing, walking, carrying a jug—these people move beautifully, how in the poorest homes the bowls and platters, the windings of the ragged shawls, have some beauty … not dainty aestheticism but an ingrained ethos."

With Devi (1960) Ray examined with intelligence and compassion the controversial problem of Hindu superstition, and in Two Daughters (1961) he explored the tension resulting from unyielding family ritual. Kanchenjanga (1962), the director's first color film, again dealt with domestic conflict.

In 1992 he was honored with a special Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He died on April 23, 1992. His funeral ceremony was conducted with full state honors and declared an official holiday by the government of West Bengal. Over one million mourners attended.

Further Reading

Ray gives his views in Hugh Gray's revealing interview with him, recorded in Andrew Sarris, ed., Interviews with Film Directors (1967). The most thorough and perceptive analysis of Ray's cinematography is in Erik Barnouw and S. Krishnaswamy, Indian Film (1963). See also sections of Pauline Kael, I Lost It at the Movies (1965); Eric Rhode, The Tower of Babel (1966); and Stanley Kauffmann, A World on Film (1966). □

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"Satyajit Ray." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Ray, Satyajit

Satyajit Ray (sätyä´jĬt rī, rā), 1921–92, Indian film director, b. Calcutta (now Kolkata). His subtle, austere, and delicately lyrical films made him one of the outstanding filmmakers of the 20th cent.; he was the first Indian director to win international acclaim. During his formative years he was profoundly influenced by the humanism of Rabindranath Tagore, at whose university he studied. Ray began his career as a layout artist, art director, and illustrator. His early reputation was built on a trilogy of luminous neorealist films that portrayed the everyday life of a Bengali family and the childhood, youth, and manhood of a character called Apu. Pather Panchali (1955), his first film, was an immediate success and a Grand Prix winner at the Cannes Festival. It was followed by Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959). The films of this "Apu Trilogy" remain his best known works.

Ray's recurrent themes—the life of Bengal's various social classes, the conflict of old and new values, and the effects of India's rapidly changing economic and political conditions—are evident throughout his oeuvre. His more than 30 films include The Music Room (1958), Charulata (1964), The Target (1972), Distant Thunder (1973), The Home and the World (1984), The Visitor (1991), and The Stranger (1992). Over the years, he received many prizes, including an Academy Award for lifetime achievement (1992). Ray was also a screenwriter, wrote the musical scores for many of his films, and was intimately involved with all the elements of their production.


See his essays, Our Films, Their Films (1995); M. Seton, Portrait of a Director: Satyajit Ray (1971); S. Benegal, Benegal on Ray (1988); B. Nyce, Satyajit Ray: A Study of His Films (1988); A. Robinson, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye (1989); B. Sarkar, The World of Satyajit Ray (1992); and N. Ghosh, Satyajit Ray at 70 (1993).

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"Ray, Satyajit." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 11 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Ray, Satyajit." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . (December 11, 2017).

"Ray, Satyajit." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from

Ray, Satyajit

Ray, Satyajit (1921–92) Indian film director. Ray introduced Indian cinema to the West. His “Apu Trilogy” – Pather Panchali (1955), The Unvanquished (1956), and The World of Apu (1959) – is a beautiful, humanist series of films about life in post-colonial India. Other films include The Big City (1963), The Hero (1966), and The Visitor (1992).

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