The late Indian filmmaker, Satyajit Ray was born on May 2, 1921. Today marks his 100th birth anniversary, and he will forever remain a significant cultural figure in the world of cinema.
In order to celebrate his work, we take a look back at the touching tribute made by the American film director Martin Scorsese.
Last year Scorsese wrote a tribute in the Indian Express which said, “In the relatively short history of cinema, Satyajit Ray is one of the names that we all need to know, whose films we all need to see. And to revisit, as I do pretty frequently.”
He went on to reflect and praise Ray’s unique directing style which offered an insightful look into India for viewers. He spoke about his interpretation of his work as a Westerner by saying. “For those of us here in the West, the Apu trilogy — Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) — was a milestone…We were used to seeing India on screen but through a purely colonial perspective, which obviously meant that the principal characters were Westerners and the “extras”, the people who provided the local colour and the background detail, were Indians. We had no idea whether the stories were happening in Gujarat, Kashmir, West Bengal or Maharashtra — it was just “India”.”
The Apu Trilogy, which is made up of three Indian Bengali language films directed by Satyajit Ray, are often referred to as some of the greatest films to have been created in Indian cinema. They hold a cult status and are widely recognised in the global cinema world.
Scorsese went on to say, “The pictures told stories of everyday life in a vein that was somewhat similar to Italian neo-realism. And the artistry? The filmmaking? It took my breath away. It was poetic, immediate, sweeping and intimate, all at the same time”.
Recalling the first time he saw Ray’s films, Martin Scorsese said, “I was mesmerised. That remarkable close-up of Apu’s eye in Pather Panchali, the way the cut works with the sudden burst of Ravi Shankar’s music — for me, that was one of those precious revelatory moments you have in a movie theatre, and it had a profound and lasting effect on me as a filmmaker.”
To conclude, he described the Apu trilogy as “the beginning of one of the greatest bodies of work in the history of cinema.”