Satyajit Ray and Bengali Literature

Who doesn’t know Satyajit Ray (02.05.1921 – 23.04.1992), the great Indian filmmaker? He was also a screenwriter, music composer, author-editor, lyricist, illustrator and calligrapher. I am not going to talk of Ray and make a list of his ‘must-see movies’ because I take Akira Kurosawa’s statement as the universal truth. He said, “Never having seen a Satyajit Ray film is like never having seen the sun or the moon.” What strikes me most about Ray is that even though he is widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all times in the world, most of his movies or writings capture the core essence of Bengal. His works often reflect the spirit of Bengal; rural and urban Bengal and its socio-political and economic pictures. This is because Bengali literature played an extremely influential role in his life and career. Today, I will talk of Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature.
Satyajit Ray, courtesy: www.bbc.com

Film Maker Satyajit Ray and Bengali Literature:

Bengali literature had a great impact on Satyajit Ray; influence of works of Rabindranath Tagore and Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay are indeed notable ones. ‘Pather Panchali’ (1955), the iconic movie and the other two which formed ‘The Apu Triology’; ‘Aparajito’ (1956) and ‘Apur Sansar’ (1959) are based on Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s novels, ‘Pather Panchali (1929) and Aparajito (1932)’. Ray made ‘Ashani Sanket’, in 1973, based on Bibhutibhshan’s novel by the same name. Speaking of Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature, one can go on about the influence of Rabindranath Tagore in his life. Ray’s movie, ‘Tin Kanya’ (1961) is a compilation of 3 movies based on 3 short stories by Tagore. They are ‘Postmaster’, ‘Manihara’ and ‘Samapti’. In 1964 He converted Tagore’s 1901 novella, ‘Nastanirh’ into iconic, ‘Charulata’. ‘Ghare Baire’ (1984) is an adaptation of Rabindranath’s 1916 novel by the same name. Satyajit Ray’s admired Gurudev so much that he made a biographic documentary, ‘Rabindranath Tagore’.
Ray's sketches for Scenes of Pather Panchali
Ray was an artist to the core. He sketched every scene and noted down the techniques of camera and direction beside the sketches. These are some of his sketches for ‘Pather Panchali’.

Other Literary Works of Bengal which Influenced Satyajit Ray’s Movies:

2 hit movies of 1958, ‘Jalsaghar’ and ‘Parash Pathor’, prove that Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature are entwined. Both of these movies are based on writings of two brilliant names of Bengali literature. ‘Jalsaghar’ was based on Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay’s short story and dealt with Bengal’s experience of decline in the feudal/ zamindari system. ‘Parash Pathar’ on the other hand was based on Rajshekhar Basu’s writing. The economic principle of scarcity is shown in the movie using fantasy and comedy with tremendous dexterity. I can’t help but mention the two protagonist actors of the movies respectively; Chhabi Biswas and Tulsi Chakraborty. Their skills were revered by critics and contemporaries. Rajshekhar Basu’s story, ‘Birinchi Baba’ was made into ‘Mahapurush’ by Ray in 1965. Parashuram is the penname of Rajshekhar Basu. With ‘Mahapurush’ he released ‘Kapurush’ based on Premendra Mitra’s work, ‘Janaiko Kapurusher Kahini’. 1960’s iconic movie Devi is based on Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay’s short story, ‘Devi’ and 1963’s ‘Mahanagar’ is based on Narendranath Mitra’s writing. In 1971, Ray made ‘Seemabaddho’ from Sankar’s ‘Company Limited’. Well, the list can go on.
This book is a good reference to understand the impact of Bengali literature on Satyajit Ray’s life.

The Influence of His Literature-Rich Bloodline:

Satyajit Ray came from an erudite family of authors. While his grandfather, Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury, and his father, Sukumar Ray, were legendary authors, Satyajit Ray himself was a prolific writer too. Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature definitely go hand in hand. Talking of films only, he had written some masterpieces for his own movies. Art and literature ran in his veins. ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’, a 1969 Indian fantasy adventure comedy film based on his grandfather’s writing. The story and the movie were both one of a kind. However, he made a sequel of this movie in 1980, ‘Heerak Rajar Deshe’, with the characters ‘Goopy’ and ‘Bagha’ and that is a celebrated masterpiece. The story is his own and it is amazing how he dealt with such deep concepts comically. He had written the last sequel too, ‘Goopy Bagha Phire Elo’ and his son, Sandeep Ray, directed the movie and released it in 1992. 1966’s ‘Nayak’ and 1991’s ‘Agantuk’, Ray’s last film, are based on his own stories and are my favourites. Of course there are many of his movies for which he had himself written the screenplay.
Film Posters: agantuk and Nayak
Sandesh is a Bengali children’s magazine, first published by Upendrakishore Ray in 1913. After the death of Upendrakishore Roychowdhury in 1915, his eldest son Sukumar Ray succeeded as the editor of the magazine in 1915. Sukumar was a brilliant writer known for his humorous writings. The Sukumar Ray years established Sandesh as a unique magazine that combined literary values with humour and information from different parts of the world. The magazine had to be stopped in 1925. In 1961, the magazine was revived under the editorialship of Satyajit Ray. Source: wikipedia

Writer Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature:

Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature are interlinked because he has given some immortal and evergreen fictional characters to Bengali literature. ‘Feluda or Pradosh Mitter’, a sharp Bengali private investigator, his cousin and assistant, ‘Topshe or Tapesh Ranjan’ and his thriller writer friend, ‘Jatayu or Lalmohan Ganguly’ are evergreen. He himself made two movies, ‘Sonar Kella’ (1971) and ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ (1971), based on his stories from Feluda Series. Sandeep Ray and others have also made movies based on ‘Feluda stories’. New generation writers are writing stories based on ‘Prakhor Rudra’, the protagonist of the stories written by the fictional character, ‘Jatayu’, in the Feluda series. This makes me wonder about how much of influence Satyajit Ray’s works still have on us. In 1970, Ray made ‘Aranyer Din Ratri’ based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s novel and in 2003, Goutam Ghose made its sequel, ‘Abar Aranye’. ‘Professor Shonku’ and ‘Tarini Khuro’ are still enjoyed and movies are still being made based on stories from these series. His short stories are simple, crisp and compact. In those days he spoke of aliens; friendly extra-terrestrials made all the more difference and his ghost/ paranormal stories are unparalleled.
Professor Shonku
Feluda
Satyajit Ray was a brilliant illustrator, he illustrated for his own stories, created art puzzles and quizzes and also designed magazine covers.
Mulla Nasiruddin is considered a philosopher, Sufi, and wise man, from Turkey, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. He appears in thousands of stories, since ages, as a wise and witty man, with subtle humour and moral. There are several versions across the globe and Satyajit Ray has one in Bengali. I bet it is the best version in the world.

Satyajit Ray is Age-less:

One can go on with this topic for an infinite amount of time. Satyajit Ray and Bengali literature are inseparable as Bengali literature’s immense influence on him is also responsible for his massive contribution to Bengali literature. Satyajit Ray’s contribution to Bengali literature is price-less and age-less.
Dipannita Bhattacherya

14 thoughts on “Satyajit Ray and Bengali Literature”

  1. Santanu Bhattacharjee

    Excellent writing and excellent observation, but the writer should mention about in Oscar. All photographs are also awesome.

  2. এমন তথ্যমূলক ও শিক্ষামূলক আলোকপাত অশেষ প্রশংসার দাবি রাখে-জিজ্ঞাসায় অনুপ্রেরণা যোগায়।

  3. এমন তথ্যমূলক ও শিক্ষামূলক আলোকপাত অশেষ প্রশংসার দাবি রাখে।

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