On Satyajit Ray’s 92nd Birthday: A Salute To The Master


If you see Google’s doodle today, the iconic scene from Pather Panchali, where the brother-sister duo, Apu, and Durga run amok in a field of kaash flowers to watch a train pass. That was the first scene he shot for his much celebrated film. But it wasn’t easy for Ray to bring that cinematic gift to us.

Initially, Ray worked on Sundays as he was employed full-time at an advertising firm. He took a few shots on a Sunday in October 1952. When he returned the next sunday to complete the shot, the kaash flowers had been eaten by cattle. He had to wait for a new season of flowers to complete that particular sequence.

There were no shortcuts. It took him three years to complete his first film. When the world saw what he had to say, indian cinema had taken giant leaps.

Today, on his birthday, we salute the master.

Businessofcinema looks at some of his lesser known films that need to be viewed in new light.

Sikkim, a documentary film he made in 1971, was mired in controversy for a long period. The film was commissioned by the then ruler of Sikkim, the Chogyal. It was banned by the Indian government because it showed SIkkim’s sovereign stance, alluding to both India and China’s interference. The ban was lifted in 2010.

Shatranj Ke Khiladi : It was his most expensive film. And its in hindi. Starring stalwarts like Amjad Khan, Shabana Azmi, Sanjeev Kumar, and Victor Banerjee, this period film was based on a story by Munshi Premchand, about the colonisation of India by the British. Nobel Laureate V.S.Naipaul once remarked that the film reminded him of a Shakespeare play. Although not a big success at its time of release in 1977, today it is considered a classic that needs to be revisited.

Apart from making documentaries and full length feature films, Ray also made an acclaimed short film, Pikoo based on a story he once wrote for one of his books. A little less than 30 minutes, the film is an intimate portrait into the world of a child who is privy to his mother’s extra-marital affair.

Above all, don’t miss the scene which made Satyajit Ray a star. At 1hr:15min:33sec the train sequence from Pather Panchali simply mesmerises.

Now, if only, Google had made the doodle animated, the celebration of Ray’s birthday would be double fold.