Satyajit Ray is one of the primary reasons why we Bengali get addicted to films at an early age. His stories of Feluda and Topshe are why Bongs never really think Sherlock Holmes is the be-all-end-all of the detective world. He is the reason why standard Hollywood/Bollywood fare will always be looked down upon in Bengali households.
On the auteur’s 94th birth anniversary, here’s a compilation of his 12 best films, every cinephile should watch before they die:
1. Apu Trilogy
Consisting of Panther Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar – Ray talks about three different stages in the protagonist Apu’s life. The childhood in rural West Bengal, the student days in Calcutta, and the protagonist’s worldly responsibilities once he gets married respectively. All brilliant movies!
Starring Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterji, Ray comments on blind religious beliefs and idol worship in this film. In the film, due to certain circumstances people of the village start believing that Sharmila Tagore is an avtaar of a Goddess. Haunting!
Ray talks about the challenges of the everyday life in a metropolitan city and how working women contributing to the household income is actually a very cool thing.
It was a film way ahead of its time, talking about adultery, loneliness in the simplest way. A bored housewife begins to feel attracted to her mentor, who is also the cousin of her husband.
This master-stroke of a film saw the coming together of Uttam Kumar and Satyajit Ray. The film showcases an actor recounting about his past during an Interview on a long-distance train journey.
6. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne
Foraying into fantasy-fiction, Ray made this film about an unlikely duo – Goopy (the singer) and Bagha (the percussionist) who are given special powers i.e. with their music, they can make anyone stop and listen. They can also fulfil all their wishes by a clap of the hands.
7. Aranyer Din Ratri
Widely considered Ray’s best film, it talks about four men in their late twenties looking to take a vacation, so as to escape the boredom of their city life. And how this little vacation turns out to impact their lives forever!
Ray’s ode to the prevalent Naxalism in the mid-70s in Calcutta, and the uprising of CPML under Charu Majumdar, the film showcases a stellar performance from Dhrittiman Chatterjee as the protagonist.
9. Sonar Kella
Feluda’s first outing in the desert of Rajasthan to track a ‘Golden Fortress’ that a young boy constantly sees in his dreams, is one of the most enjoyable detective mysteries you will ever see.
10. Shatranj ke Khiladi
Ray’s satire on the annexation of Awadh is based on the source material of Munshi Premchand’s short story of the same name. Amjad Ali Khan plays Wajid Ali Shah, while Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey play two noblemen obsessed with Chess. This was Ray’s only hindi film.
11. Hirak Rajar Deshe
The auteur’s expert satire on Indira Gandhi’s emergency rule on the country during the mid 70s make the film a real pleasure. Oh those subtle references!
Ray’s last film features Utpal Dutt, that of the stranger guest who lands up suddenly at the doorstep of his distantly related niece’s house. Intriguing plot, sharp dialogues and a beautiful film in the end – typical Satyajit Ray.
We bow down to you Mr Ray!