Unconventional, funny, artistic and sensitive films.
These are some of the few words that can be used to describe Satyajit Ray, one of the most celebrated filmmakers of the world. The only Indian filmmaker to have won an Academy award, which makes him a visionary in the truest sense. Only the second film personality after Chaplin to have been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Oxford University.
His exceptional talent has satisfied the taste of cinema lovers across the globe and his style remains unparalleled till date. He believed Indian cinema was more than just songs, item numbers and over emotional drama.
It is hard for me to pick just one film of Satyajit Ray as his best. So, here’s a list of some of his most renowned works every film enthusiast should watch at least once.
1. Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road): Perhaps Ray’s best-known work to date
Based on Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay’s 1929 novel called “Pather Panchali”, Ray’s début film as a director went on to become one of the most popular and revered Indian films in the world. This drama film depicts the childhood of the protagonist Apu with his elder sister Durga and their village life. Pather Panchali will always remain a milestone in Indian cinema. The Apu Trilogy has been listed among the 100 best films of all time.
2. Aparajito (The Unvanquished): Received 11 international awards
It is the sequel of Pather Panchali and the second part of Apu Trilogy series. This story revolves around the Apu’s life since childhood to his college till his mother’s death after which he is left all alone. Aparajito can be characterized as a tragedy, even though it does not conclude Apu’s story. This movie received 11 international awards and to date remains the only film sequel to ever win the grand prize at the prestigious Venice, Berlin or Cannes Film Festivals.
3. Parash Patthar (The Philosopher’s Stone): A combination of comedy, fantasy, and satire
Ray proved with this film that he had the ability to make non-serious films as well. This fantasy-comedy film, which centered on a middle-class clerk who discovers a stone that turns other objects into gold, would belong among Ray’s best work.
4. Jalsaghar (The Music Room): Story of a zamindar in Bengal
Ray created an intense drama with classical Indian music and a detailed depiction of a zamindar’s (Landlords) life. The story revolves around the landlord who just loves to spend time listening to music rather than managing his fields which are getting destroyed by floods. He is also not bothered about the abolishment of Zamindari system by the Government of India.
5. Apur Sansar (The World of Apu): The third and final part of Ray’s Apu Trilogy
The third and final story in Apu trilogy is the new beginning as well as the inevitable end of Apu’s story. Sharmila Tagore, who plays Apu’s wife, debuted with this film. She went on to become one of the most popular actresses in Indian cinema. The movie ends with Apu (Soumitro Chatterjee) reuniting with his son after the death of his wife and both live happily ever after. Apur Sansar has been influential across the world. In 2005, The Apu Trilogy was included in Time magazine’s All-Time 100 best movies list.
6. Devi (The Goddess) (1960): The movie which focuses on hollow rituals
Devi means ‘The Goddess’. Sharmila Tagore plays Dayamayee whose father-in-law considers her an incarnation of goddess Kali – a belief which eventually turns into a tragedy. Even after five decades, it is considered as a relevant piece of work because of its theme of blind faith and superstitions.
7. Teen Kanya (Three Daughters): President’s silver medal for Best Film
Based upon the short stories of Rabindranath Tagore, Teen Kanya is made up of three episodes of a story which have common central characters, which join all three stories. It has three episodes, The Postmaster, Samapti (The Conclusion), and Monihara (The Lost Jewel).
8. Mahanagar (The Big City): The movie which can make you emotionally shipwrecked for a while
Besides The Apu Trilogy, this film is one of Ray’s greatest films. It is a story about hypocritical patriarchal society and a woman’s struggle to earn herself an independent place in such a society.
9. Charulata (The Lonely Wife): One of Ray’s finest films
Ray’s personal favorite among all his films, Charulata, depicts the loneliness and suffocation of an Indian woman. The story revolves around a lonely wife and a workaholic husband who asks his cousin to give her company. With time, Charulata starts harboring feelings for his cousin. The film received an award at Berlin Film Festival as well as other film festivals across the globe. It is considered a classic in Indian cinema.
10. Nayak (Hero): Amazing portrayal and sublime direction
Nayak travels through various philosophical, political and moral dilemmas and issues of contemporary society. This film is special for various reasons, one being it brought Satyajit Ray and then superstar Uttam Kumar together for the first time. It won the Special Jury Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Bear.
11.Shonar Kella (The Fortress): Ray’s classical detective story telling
Adapted from a novel of the same name by Ray himself, this film is based on detective Feluda’s adventures. Feluda goes to Rajasthan to investigate the truth behind a boy’s claims of reincarnation and bust a gang that kidnaps him.
12. Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest): Brilliant display of human emotions
Based on the novel of the same name by Sunil Gangopadhyay, Aranyer Din Ratri is a story of 4 friends. The film was nominated for the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 20th Berlin International Film Festival.
13. Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha): One of the greatest children’s film ever made
Goopy is an innocent aspiring singer and Bagha, a drum player. They seek shelter in a forest and come in contact with a cluster of ghosts living there. They attract the ghosts and are granted three wishes by the ghost king. People call it to be the most innovative movie to have ever come out of India. Apart from winning the national award for the best film, this film also went on to win many international awards.
14. Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players): Ray’s first Hindi Film
This was Ray’s first film in Hindi since he had started making films twenty-two years before. It had a cast which included stalwarts like Amjad Khan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi and Sir Richard Attenborough. The film was based on a short story by Munshi Premchad.
15. Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God): Another mystery-adventure with Bengal’s favourite detective, Feluda
The action in this film shifts to Banaras where detective Feluda along with his assistant Topshe try to unravel the identity of a thief who burgled at a Bengali household in the city.
16. Pratidwandi (The Adversary): Won President’s award for best direction
Set during the naxalite movement period in Bengal, Satyajit Ray tells the story of an educated middle-class man caught within the turmoils of social unrest, corruption and unemployment.
17. Hirak Rajar Deshe (The Kingdom of Diamonds): A sequel to Goopi and Bagha chronicles
After getting married to king’s daughters and becoming prince, Goopi and Bagha got the invitation from Hirak raja for their famous music. The unique aspect of the film is that most of the dialogues exchanged by the protagonists of the film rhymes. Hirak Rajar Deshe went on to win the national Award for The Best Feature Film.
18. Agantuk (The Stranger): Last Film by Satyajit Ray
This was the last film by Satyajit Ray. The film is based on a short story he wrote many years before the making of the film. This movie won three National Film Awards.
Ray’s style of story telling and resolving the mystery has always kept me glued to the screen despite watching these films over and over again. He gave India the much-needed platform in the field of cinema on a global level.
He is a pride of Bengal, India, and the entire world.
Maharaja Tomare Selam. /