20 Quotes by (and about) the Master Filmmaker Satyajit Ray



1.”I don’t understand these national awards, because half of those who sit in judgement over Indian films do not… possess the competence to evaluate a film correctly.”


2. “My cameraman and I devised a method, which we started using from my second film, which applies mainly to day scenes shot in the studio, where we used bounced light instead of direct light. We agreed with this thing of four or five shadows following the actors is dreadful.”


3. “If the theme is simple, you can include a hundred details that create the illusion of actuality better.”

“My films play only in Bengal, and my audience is the educated middle class in the cities and small towns. They also play in Bombay, Madras and Delhi where there is a Bengali population.”

. “Well the Bombay film wasn’t always like how it is now. It did have a local industry. There were realistic films made on local scenes. But it gradually changed over the years.”

“Somehow I feel that an ordinary person–the man in the street if you like–is a more challenging subject for exploration than people in the heroic mold. It is the half shades, the hardly audible notes that I want to capture and explore. […] My films are about human beings, human relationships, and social problems. I think it is possible for everyone to relate to these issues. On a certain level, foreign audiences can appreciate Indian works, but many details are missed. For example, when they see a woman with a red spot on her forehead, they don’t know that this is a sign showing that she is married, or that a woman dressed in a white sari is a widow. Indian audiences understand this at once; it is self-evident for them. So, on certain level, the cultural gap is too wide. But on a psychological level, on the level of social relations, it is possible to relate. I think I have been able to cross the barrier between cultures. My films are made for an Indian audience, but I think they have bridged the gap.”

7. “Ray doesn’t go into lengthy descriptions. Yet, you can see—even feel—it all happening. That’s enough to bring out the goose pimples!’ Clearly, here the filmmaker in Ray gave him an edge over other writers. His words were brief, simple, lucid. But the impression that emerged was extraordinarily rich in detail.”


8. “Mammootty has presented an outstanding performance in the film ‘New Delhi’ (Malayalam film)”.


9. “The only solutions that are ever worth anything are the solutions that people find themselves.”


10. “I never imagined that any of my films, especially Pather Panchali, would be seen throughout this country or in other countries. The fact that they have is an indication that, if you’re able to portray universal feelings, universal relations, emotions, and characters, you can cross certain barriers and reach out to others, even non-Bengalis.”


11. “…Indian cinema does not stand for just Bollywood. Kolkata is the place of Satyajit Ray…”


12. “When I write an original story I write about people I know first-hand and situations I’m familiar with. I don’t write stories about the nineteenth century.”


13. “Oh, Mr. Ray is coming … the great film maker from India; you know, I am his fan and love his films; maybe I will be lucky to get to see him today; just start your car and follow me.” – quote from a cop in Washington D.C.


14. “In the late 60s, there was a big probability of Satyajit Ray coming down to Hollywood to shoot The Alien based on his own short story which appeared in the then popular Bengali magazine, Sandesh. The film was to be produced by 20th Century Fox and Hollywood was waiting to embrace Ray with open arms. Alas! Due to some dirty politics played by unknown quarters, Ray’s Hollywood dream had to be shelved. I have no qualms in admitting that Spielberg’s E.T. was influenced by Ray’s Alien. Even Sir Richard Attenborough pointed this out to me.” – Martin Scorsese


15. “Manikda (Ray) was always different from the others. He did everything — from writing the script to choosing the location, finalizing the cast to designing sets and costumes, supervising make-up to framing the shots to editing. He was involved with each and every part of his film and was always very clear about what he wanted. His films were Indian but the production process was western. He also proved that silence can say a million words if used properly and was very economical with dialogues. He used barking of dogs, birdcalls, mechanical clatter or other natural sounds to brilliant effect. It was because of this detailing that every scene of his films became powerful and meaningful. And though he played so many roles behind the scenes, he accepted remuneration from the producer only for direction.” – Sharmila Tagore

16. “But after having worked with Manikda, working in Bombay was confusing. I was too normal and realistic in front of the camera — the way Manikda had always taught me. But the Bombay directors wanted more energetic and louder acting. But today, most actors act that way.” – Sharmila Tagore


17. “He never treated his child artistes like kids. That’s why they were always comfortable in front of the camera. Manikda became their friend after a few days of shooting.” – Sharmila Tagore


18. “Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.” – Akira Kurosawa


19. “What is attempted in these films is of course a synthesis. But it can be seen by someone who has his feet in both cultures. Someone who will bring to bear on the films involvement and detachment in equal measure.”


20. “At the age when Bengali youth almost inevitably writes poetry, I was listening to European classical music.





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