Master filmmaker Shyam Benegal shared his toughts on Satyajit Ray with Ashim Chakraborty
Satyajit Ray... There has never been, nor will there be, an artist as great as him in the world of cinema. He was the first filmmaker in the country who broke away completely from all traditional film making in the country and took Indian cinema to the world. There have been many extremely talented filmmakers before Ray, but none of them had broken away with tradition as he did. He shook us all and set us free from that stagnation. I have still not forgotten that beatific experience of watching “Pather Panchali”. The day I heard that the film would be released I reached Calcutta. I was still in college but had made up my mind to make films as my career. By then I had formed certain ideas of my own about film making. But all those ideas were shattered after watching “Pather Panchali. I realised that I need liberation from those ossified ideas.
“Ray brought us to a world where there was humanism. His protagonists were not in the mien of what we were accustomed to see. The hero must be a flawless human, and the villain ought to be the nadir of negativity. He never liked that kind of characterisations. For him all human beings were a mix of many aspects. This was perhaps the most singular contribution of Ray. None of our past films show this. Whenever he made a film from any story or novel, the end product did not seem a sort of filmic translation of the original work. He would bring in new elements to the storyline. It was uniquely new. He was the first to have achieved this. He showed us that film was a distinct art form.
“We could never have imagined his magical use of lighting and sound. There has never been a filmmaker who has made such controlled and judicious use of sound, be it background or dialogues. He was a past master of creating screenplay. Usually
scripts are not easy reads. But the reading of his screenplays had a charm of its own. The thing is he was unique in all his aspects.
“There are thousands of directors, but how many can equal him? I think only names such as Akira Kurosawa, Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman, Charlie Chaplin are a handful of names that can be uttered alongside Satyajit Ray’s. And I am certain that as long as cinema survives, this truth will prevail.
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