Globally recognised as one of the finest and legendary filmmakers, Satyajit Ray, was also one of the reasons why India got its very own parallel cinema. His extraordinary vision and impeccable storytelling skills always showed India in an extremely different light. His very first film Pather Panchali was no less than a landmark in the history of the Indian cinema and is the only film from India to feature in the BBC’s 100 best foreign language films. The Jalsaghar filmmaker was a recipient of various accolades including the Academy Honorary Award, Bharat Ratna, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Golden Bear, National Film Award and BAFTA among others.
Ray not only played a major role in shaping up the Indian film industry where it is today, but he also inspired several aspiring filmmakers and continues to do so. Globally acclaimed directors like Christopher Nolan, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese and many others have expressed their elation of having known the iconic filmmaker and how they wished to have collaborated with him. On the occasion of his 27th death anniversary, here’s a rundown to what these world-renowned filmmakers shared about the phenomenon known as Satyajit Ray.
#1 Christopher Nolan
The Dunkirk filmmaker had recently watched Pather Panchali and on his last visit to India, Nolan had said, “I have had the pleasure of watching Mr Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ recently, which I hadn’t seen before. I think it is one of the best films ever made. It is an extraordinary piece of work. I am interested in learning more about the Indian film industry and that is the reason why I came.”
#2 Alexander Payne
In one of his earlier interviews with TOI, on being asked who inspires him, the filmmaker had shared, “I watch older films mostly. I recently saw ‘The Music Room’ (1958) by Indian director Satyajit Ray. It is a jaw-dropper, an unbelievable movie. There are so many great old ones to see that I can’t be bothered with new ones unless a number of people say ‘this is really good you should see it.”
#3 Martin Scorsese
The Departed filmmaker has always been a huge fan of Satyajit Ray and his skills. In an interview with HT, Scorsese had said, “I’m totally in awe of the movie Kalpana. It’s a genuine dance film. In other words, a film which is not just about dance, but there is a dance in movement, composition and energy. I‘m also a big fan of Satyajit Ray’s body of work. The few interactions I had with Ray are memories I treasure.”
#4 Audrey Hepburn
Satyajit Ray was to direct a Hollywood film starring Shashi Kapoor, Audrey Hepburn and Michael Brando. However, it never went on the floors. Audrey Hepburn, who presented Ray with the Oscar in 1991, said, “One of the greatest directors, at last, got his due.”
#5 Keanu Reeves
Ray has influenced a lot of people and Keanu Reeves is one of them. The John Wick actor revealed that he is a huge fan of Satyajit, “My only understanding of India (in his younger days) was through the Satyajit Ray films I watched in film festival after the film festival. They are incredible. That is how I perceive India — real, warm and unaffected.”
#6 Elia Kazan
The director of On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan, had visited Ray when he was touring India in the early 1960s. He had then revealed, “In Ray, I have noticed a complete filmmaker. He has mastered the art of scriptwriting, direction, editing and scoring music — which very few in the world can equal. If he were in Hollywood, he would have proved a tough challenge for all of us. The simplicity of Pather Panchali, the poignancy of Devi, and the aesthetics of Charulata haunt me as well as many other filmmakers of the west.”
#7 Akira Kurosawa
The popular Japanese filmmaker, in 1975, wrote, “The quiet but deep observation, understanding, and love of the human race, which are characteristic of all his films, have impressed me greatly. … I feel that he is a “giant” of the movie industry. Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon. I can never forget the excitement in my mind after seeing it (Pather Panchali). It is the kind of cinema that flows with the serenity and nobility of a big river. People are born, live out their lives, and then accept their deaths. Without the least effort and without any sudden jerks, Ray paints his picture, but its effect on the audience is to stir up deep passions. How does he achieve this? There is nothing irrelevant or haphazard in his cinematographic technique. In that lies the secret of its excellence.”
Here’s to the legendary, Satyajit Ray, who shall stay in our hearts forever!