Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Satyajit Ray - # 1

From ‘Imaginary Homelands’ by Salman Rushdie interspersed with videos from youtube

‘I can never forget the excitement in my mind after seeing it,’ Akira Kurosawa said about Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (The Song of the Little Road), and its true: this movie, made for nothing, mostly with untrained actors, by a director who was learning (and making up) the rules as he went along, is a work of such lyrical and emotional force that it becomes, for its audiences, as potent as their own, most deeply personal memories. To this day, the briefest snatch of Ravi Shankar’s music brings back a flood of feeling, and a crowd of images: the single eye of the little Apu, seen at the moment of waking, full of mischief and life; the insects dancing on the surface of the pond, prefiguring the coming monsoon rains;

<< >>

<< >>

and above all the immortal scene, one of the most tragic in all cinema, in which Harihar the peasant comes home to the village from the city, bringing presents for this children, not knowing that his daughter has died in his absence. When he shows his wife, Sarbajaya, the sari he has brought for the dead girl, she begins to weep; and now he understands, and cries out, too; but (and this is the stroke of genius) their voices are replaced by the high, high music of a single tarshehnai, a sound like the scream of the soul.

The Bombay movie star Nargis (Nargis Dutt), star of the 1957 mega-weepie Mother India, was by the beginning of the 1980s a member of the Indian Parliament, from which exalted position she launched an amazing attack on Ray:

NARGIS: Why do you think films like Pather Panchali become popular abroad? …….Because people there want to see India in an abject condition. That is the image they have of our country and a film that confirms that image seems to them authentic.

INTERVIEWER: But why should a renowned director like Ray do such a thing?

NARGIS: To win awards. His films are not commercially successful. They only win awards …What I want is that if Mr Ray projects Indian poverty abroad, he should also show ‘Modern India’.

INTERVIEWER: What is ‘Modern India’?

NARGIS: Dams…….

<< >>

<< >>

…….Ray has invariably preferred the intimate story to the grand epic, and is the poet par excellence of the human-scale, life-sized comedy and tragedy of ordinary men and women, journeying, as we all journey, down little, but unforgettable, roads.

<< >>

<< >>

<< >>

<< >>

Martin Scorcese on Ray


yves said...

Hello Nirvana,
All this goes to prove that even great actresses like Nargis can be blind to such works of art as Pather Panchali to the extent that they transform an artistic stance into a narrow-minded political one only. Who said politics corrupts... the mind?

Nirvana said...

Thats true, Yves. Thats one comment of Nargis that her family will probably not be proud of. As for me, the pursuit of truth (and one's vision of it) surpasses all other considerations, generally speaking. And thats why i am a great admirer of Ray