Government Policy

Satyajit Ray took Bengali cinema to new heights: Speakers

Remembering Oscar-winning film-maestro Satyajit Ray on his birth centenary, speakers at the 19th Dhaka International Film Festival (DIFF) said he transcended linguistic barrier and took Bengali cinema to an untouchable height.

“Satyajit Ray: National as Global” seminar was held on Wednesday at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) focusing on Ray’s versatile career as a journeyman in Bengali cinema.

Veteran actors Sharmila Tagore and Dhritiman Chatterjee, along with Supreme Court Justice and art enthusiast Syed Refaat Ahmed, cultural activist and trustee of Bangladesh Liberation War Museum Mofidul Hoque and art critic Moinuddin Khaled, among others joined the programme.

Presided by eminent thespian and former cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor, the seminar was hosted by festival director Ahmed Muztaba Zamal. Guests including Sharmila, Dhritiman and Ahmed joined virtually while others were present at the venue.

“The time Ray was making films, he didn’t have modern technology nor adequate economic luxury of filmmaking. Manik Da (as we used to fondly call him) never took a lunch break during his work, as he was always planning ahead. He kept on innovating, improvising and competing with the rest of the world with his minimum resources and maximised, passionate efforts,” Padma Bhushan-recipient actor Sharmila Tagore said.

She began her film career at the age of 14 in Apur Sansar (The world of Apu) in 1959 directed by Ray.

Sharing her memories of working with Ray and co-actor, late Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore said, “Soumitra had first auditioned for the role of the adolescent Apu in Aparajito (1956), however, Manik Da found him too old for the role. He remembered Soumitra and offered the role of adult Apu two years later in Apur Sansar. I’m blessed that I was also discovered by Manik Da where I got the chance to act alongside Soumitra. That film propelled my career at a level which I never imagined only because of Manik Da’s constant effort as a genius filmmaker.”

Mofidul presented the keynote paper at the seminar, reflecting on Rays’ eclectic achievements across literature, art, music, design and storytelling.

“It’s important to understand how Ray, an urban cosmopolitan youth, has transcended the rural-urban dichotomy and made such a portrayal of village life on the silver screen,” he said.

Explaining the trajectories of the cine-titan’s inheritance of artistic brilliance from his reputed family lineage to his learning from various mediums, Mofidul also shared anecdotes on the relationship with Satyajit Ray with renowned Bangladeshi photographer Amanul Haque, as he read out a letter sent to Amanul Haque by Ray on January 20, 1972 which showcased how much Ray cared about Bangladesh and its people.

Following Hoque’s presentation, art critic and film educator-writer Moinuddin Khaled presented a brief analysis of Ray’s works. Supreme Court Justice Ahmed also shared his viewpoints, describing Ray’s brilliance.

Dhritiman, who projected political roles under Ray’s direction in films such as Pratidwandi (1970), Ganashatru (1989) and recently brought life to Professor Shonku, Satyajit Ray’s iconic creation on the celluloid, said: “Satyajit narrated politics and projected political characters in his films in such a majestic way that put him to an incomparable place. He became an inspiration to all other filmmakers around the world.”

Asaduzzaman Noor reminisced about the master filmmaker’s works in his closing remarks, saying that Ray’s films have always made lasting impact on him and he misses new releases from the writer Satyajit, famously known for crafting iconic characters and series like Feluda and Professor Shonku.

“After watching Pather Panchali, I travelled from Nilphamari to Dhaka just to watch Satyajit Ray’s ‘Mahanagar’ (1963). Our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman really admired him, and I still recall the presence of the millions at the historic Paltan Maidan when he visited Bangladesh in 1972,” he said.

Source: United News of Bangladesh