Essential Satyajit Ray : Sydney Film Festival

Retrospective of Satyajit Ray is part of 69th Sydney Film Festival (SFF) (8-19 June, 2022). According to pink and yellow SFF brochure update, “One of the world’s most revered filmmakers, Satyajit Ray revolutionised India’s cinema, beginning with his 1955 debut Pather Panchali. He was foremost a bold and visionary director and writer, but his genius was broad ranging, as evidenced by the wonderful scores he composed for many of his films.”

The SFF announces a program of 10 essential features by the visionary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray as selected by movie critic David Stratton. They are :

Pather Panchali (1955)
Aparajito (1956)
The Music Room (1958)
The World of Apu (1959)
Devi (1960)
The Big City (1963)
Charulata (1964)
The Hero (1966)
Company Limited (1971)
The Chess Players (1977)

SFF also highlighted,” Ray’s films were acclaimed worldwide in their day but are even more relevant now. Their influence on directors including Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson is huge. Ray’s languidly paced, observational approach puzzled some critics at first, but slow cinema is a more widely embraced style now with director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff; First Cow) among Ray’s avowed fans. Ray’s dialogue has a freshness and an acerbic zing that also feels very modern. He was far ahead of his time in depicting strong, complex women.

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Ray found a unique balance between naturalism and formalism, between simplicity and complexity. There is an almost documentary approach to the detail of daily life, from cleaning to mealtime. His characters feel like ordinary people with real problems. But the cinematography is frequently stunning, especially in the films shot by Subrata Mitra: deep-focus landscapes with trains or animals in the distance; shadowy expressionist closeups, dreamlike images of insects and spiders. There are often layers of literary and religious allusion and political subtext concerning Indian independence or class struggle.”

The Sydney Morning Herald stated ,’With more than 200 features, documentaries and shorts screening over 12 days, here are 10 of the best to book right now. The 10-film retrospective on master Indian director Satyajit Ray would make a brilliant mini festival by itself. If you have never seen his visionary films – or at least not in a cinema – 1955’s Pather Panchali is an ideal starting point. An emotional drama about an Indian boy (Subir Banerjee) growing up amid hardship in Bengal, it is the start of the Apu Trilogy. The other instalments, Aparajito (1956) and The World of Apu (1959), are also screening.’

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Times of India article titled ,’Homage to Ray with 10 classics at Sydney Film Festival’ by Prinka Dasgupta stated: According to Jenny Neighbour, head of programmes and documentary programmer , Sydney Film Festival, “ As long as admirers of his works and knowing that newly-restored 35mm and digital prints of his films are now available, the festival decided we should celebrate the works of this revered filmmaker in our 2022 event. A number of Satyajit Ray’s films have been screened at the festival over its 69-year-old history. Satyajit Ray was a visitor to our festival in 1968. Then, the director, David Stratton, met Ray in number of occasions. He was instrumental in finalising the line -up of Ray’s titles in this year’s retrospective.” David Stratton says, “Ray is one of the great humanist filmmakers.”

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Couples in multicultural relationships, arts students, European Australians , Asian Australians and Sydneysiders like Indranil Halder (BengaliAustralian) in his Indian handloom and Bengal heritage weave (dhoti/kurta) also attended the SFF celebration of iconic Ray. Celebration started with Pather Panchali at the majestic State Theatre, Sydney. Introduced by SFF director Nashen Moodley. Indranil loved Jalsaghar or Music Room at the Art Gallery of NSW. SFF update about the movie says, “Ray’s 1958 drama is a haunting portrait of a once-wealthy aristocrat living in a mansion, clinging to faded glory, wistful memories and his passion for music.” Even though it was on black and white, the characters were as colourful as Sydney’s Vivid winter celebration. The movie was painful reminder of Bengal’s enormous wealth and sophisticated lifestyle but was houseful.

Sydney definitely is celebrating Satyajit Ray classics!