Observing the 100th birth anniversary of the “complete film-maker” Satyajit Ray, the Alliance Francaise Du Bengale sought to explore the maestro’s ‘French connection’ while delving deeper into the works of this “renaissance man”.
“Ray could have become anything he wanted. He was a polymath. Writer and illustrator he already was but the skills he accomplished in various areas of filmmaking, purely for practical purposes, made him the most complete filmmaker,” opined veteran actor Dhritiman Chatterjee who made his debut in cinema with Ray’s Pratidwandi. Citing an example of the auteur’s skills, Chatterjee said, “It was astonishing how deftly he handled the faders while mixing sounds for the movies. Ray was an embodiment of a renaissance man.”
He added, “Manikda (Ray) once told me that the idea of the movie ‘Agantuk’ came to him while reading up on the French anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss. Motivation came to him from all sorts of fields.”
Eminent filmmaker and SRFTI Dean, Ashoke Viswanathan felt people looked at Ray as a narrative artist, a storyteller.
“He had a profound understanding of non-narrative cinema and was aware of the post-modern era where narrative disjunction was the order. His works were subtle. If his film Kanchanjangatouches on the subject of alienation then Nayak showed how dreams merge with reality. Ray was able to operate at different levels.” Professor Sanjay Mukhopadhyay of the Jadavpur University film studies department sought to point out how the auteur’s initiative to set up the Calcutta Film Society in 1947 helped in the dissemination of film culture.
He pointed out that Ray was a master in converting a language into images that played out like a piece of music in Pather Panchali based on a novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay.
“He was a master of auteur cinema”.
While Chatterjee opined that Ray was slightly dismissive of French New Wave cinema, Mukherjee said Ray was a great admirer of French auteur François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard while remarking that Satyajit’s French connection goes way back to the time when The River was being shot by the filmmaker Jean Renoir.
“He clearly inspired Ray by introducing him to the significance of lighting in cinema. Ray later used some brilliant lighting techniques for his film Aparajito”.
Raju Raman, president, Cine Academy, meanwhile, recalled how the former President of France, François Mitterrand had to climb up a step at National Library to match the height of Ray so he could confer on him the prestigious Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit.