I could tell you about how every influential filmmaker has a bit of Ray in them. I could also tell you about how a certain Hollywood big-shot perhaps got way too inspired from a Ray screenplay about a child and an extraterrestrial being. The obvious tributes aside, you can still spot him in a wife’s loneliness, a man’s endless ambition and misery, and in moments that are bittersweet, like life itself.
Or, I could tell you about that summer afternoon, where I had to sacrifice my daily cartoon binge and was made to watch a Satyajit Ray film. I mean, I was six. But so was Mukul, a child who could remember his past life in a Rajasthan fort. The film was Sonar Kella. Do you know what struck me the most in this film? None of the adults in the film treated Mukul with baby gloves. There was no talking down to him, and everyone had to become his friend before anything else.
I feel that’s how Ray wanted to be remembered with the generations to come. Not as a literary giant or a renowned filmmaker. But as a friend, who knew his way with stories. Over the years, I discovered his vast treasure for children - films, novels, short stories, and so much more. I don’t know another filmmaker who managed to sneak a strong anti-war message and powerful commentary on fascism into memorable films for children.
And then, I met Ray the filmmaker. I don’t know if there is any emotion that he did not conquer. Right from the Ozymandias-like melancholy of an ageing zamindar to a woman’s quest for identity and respect, Ray had haunting images for all of it. And yet, he manages to find humour in the most grim realities, like the children he wrote so avidly for.
So should you bother watching a Satyajit Ray film? Well, his films are definitely cinema, as certified by the legendary Martin Scorsese. I won’t cloud your judgement about his films or hype up his most famous works. The sheer charm of entering a Ray film with a blank canvas in your mind and letting the master do his work is always worth treasuring. But do give Ray a chance, and I hope his magic will do the rest, like it always does.