Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The predominant area in the Ray oeuvre (A glimpse on Rays' work)

It took me a month and 5 days to go through innumerable articles, blogs, research papers and cinematic reference materials, to be able to jot something crisp about Satyajit Ray from his vast ocean of Filmography. And then finally I came across my weapon of choice to share with you some interesting information on Manik da (Satyajit Ray’s nickname). I picked the most fascinating yet uncanny unspoken message behind most of Ray’s work.

And it involves Ray’s retreat into children’s stories, a predominant part of Rayology, greatly evident in his work at:
-         Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures  of Goopy and Bagha, 1968)
-         Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress, 1974)
-         Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God, 1979)
-         Hirok Rajar Deshe (The Kingdom of Diamonds, 1980)
     -         Pikoo (Pikoo’s Day, 1981)

If you meticulously watch all the above movies, you will feel Ray’s ardent love for his young audience. The movies catered immense learning amidst entertainment for children; and each one had a strong moral to learn from its narration and story. And if you are still thinking where did Ray get the expertise to understand his young audience so well, don’t forget he belongs to the great Ray family known for four generations from Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury to Sandip Ray – all great storytellers.

As a child I had strong memories of many of the books by Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury because I had read them over and over again. Upendrakishore was an accomplished writer, painter, violin player and composer, technologist and entrepreneur. He was the grandfather who wrote storybooks for children. “Tuntunir Boi” with its illustrations, coupled with the version of Ramayan and Mahabharat that he had written for children were some of the earliest books I read. Speaking of his illustrious ancestors, Satyajit Ray himself never hesitated to rate Upendrakishore Ray’s draftsmanship as an illustrator higher than that of Sukumar Ray. 

Above Picture: Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury

The children’s monthly magazine “Sandesh” that Upendrakishore started in 1913 always had the best of stories and drawings. After the death of Upendrakishore Roy Chowdhury in 1915, his eldest son Sukumar Ray succeeded as the editor of the magazine in 1915. The Sukumar Ray years established "Sandesh" as a unique magazine that combined literary values with humour and fun and a lot of information from different parts of the world. 

Sukumar (father of Satyajit Ray) was a Bengali humorous poet, storywriter and playwright. As perhaps the most famous Indian practitioner of literary humour, he is often compared to Lewis Carroll, who dedicated his life in writing poems and short stories for children (primarily). His works such as the collection of poems including "Aboltabol" "HaJaBaRaLa", short story collection "Pagla Dashu" and play "Chalachittachanchari" are considered great masterpieces equal in stature to Alice in Wonderland, and are regarded as some of the greatest treasures of Bangla literature. More than 80 years after his death, Ray remains one of the most popular of children's writers in both West Bengal and Bangladesh.

 Above Picture: Sukumar Ray

Deep within the roots of Ray family, each generation carried their love for children through their work and along carried the glimpse of it through the children’s magazine “Sandesh” which was periodically published.  

I got introduced to Ray’s iconic sleuth Feluda through the pages of Sandesh magazine and Feluda is a part of my household today through Satyajit-Sandip Ray’s cinematography and through the pages of Anadamela Pujabarshiki.

All Bengalis have “daak-naam” meaning, nick names. And as his admirers and friends called Satyajit Ray Manik da, so was the detective character Pradosh Chandra Mitter given a daak-naam as “Feluda”. Feluda was tall, ambidextrous, a quiet brooding man who had a sharp eye for every detail. Each Feluda story (targeted mainly for Ray’s young audience) was set in a different city, full of historical trivia and wonderful sketches done by Ray. Feluda was the sleuth who solved all the unsolvable mysteries along with his cousin Topshe and friend Jatayu. Jatayu joined Feluda in the sixth adventure and remained there till Indrajal Rahasya. That was the last adventure of Feluda penned by Ray.

Ray was meticulous in his documentation and he wrote copiously for children. From 1972, Ray started putting the date when he started a new story and also marked the date when he would complete the story. A short story would be completed in anything from two to five days. A novella would take as little as three days and a full-length novel would need six days of writing or at most about thirty-three days. 

The Feluda stories first showed up on celluloid with “Sonar Kella” made in 1974. Ray wrote the sixth adventure of Feluda in 1971. The film was set against the backdrop of the fort in the city of Jaisalmer that was built in the twelfth century. Feluda chases the two villains who have abducted a young child who recalls living in a golden fort in his previous birth. The yellow sandstone walls of the Jaisalmer fort glow in the light of the setting sun camouflaged in the yellow desert. What an unforgettable cinematic moment with a strong central character of a child – “Ray’s another dedication to his young audience”.

The second cinematic adventure of Feluda was Joy Baba Felunath. It was set in the city of Varanasi. Complete with the shots of the bathing ghats, sadhus and the serpentine lanes, Benaras seemed like the most logical setting for the villain Maganlal Meghraj's den. Utpal Dutt’s performance as Maganlal Meghraj is understated and unforgettable. The moment you see him on screen you need to hide behind Feluda who is the only one who is staring back at the villain as he engages in a battle of the mind. What a lovely treat as a film!

Ray’s legendary work “The Apu Trilogy” (another treat to his young audience) appears in the Time magazine’s all time 100 greatest films made since 1923. He was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1985 and received the Bharat Ratna and an honorary Oscar shortly before he passed away on 23rd April 1992. I have been deeply influenced by his approach to telling stories and his sketches that accompanied each one of the adventures of Feluda. It’s been long Feluda has stopped telling us about his adventures and so summer vacations have never been the same for Bengali young readers.

  Above Picture: Sandip Ray

Sandip Ray also guided the children's magazine Sandesh, which was founded by his great-grandfather Upendrakishore Ray, and continued by his grandfather Sukumar Ray and his father Satyajit Ray. From 1992, after the death of Satyajit, Sandip was the Joint Editor of the Sandesh (magazine)

Sandip Ray, after his success in making Feluda movies, has recently come up with his account of time he had with Feluda, the famous Bengali detective created by his father, in a book named Aami aar Feluda. Sandip's book deals with the background stories of all Feluda Movies and Telefilms. Aami aar Feluda is ghostwritten by author Sebabrata Banerjee. Sebabrata has tried to follow the smart and fluent style of writing introduced by Satyajit Ray that has made the new Feluda number a good reading experience. Currently he is busy in making film on 'Tarini Khuro’, which is also an interesting character among children created by Satyajit ray besides Feluda and Prof. Shanku.

Ray created characters for children that will remain etched in everyone’s memory.

And did I mention what a prolific illustrator Satyajit Ray was! Ray mastered his own unique style that we have come to love. As a youngster Ray learnt painting and graphic art for two years and five months at the Tagore University in Shantiniketan. He learnt to wield his brush with amazing dexterity.
He illustrated his book covers, film posters, children’s books, billboards, publicity material and even the title cards.

With immense contribution from this family and specially from the master himself (Satyajit Ray), this is my tribute to the legend and his work. Thank you for creating a very unique world of children literature dipped in your intellectual thoughts and soaked in Bengali culture –
Write-up credit: Most of the information is taken from wiki and google references
Picture credit: Images taken from google
Sketch credit: Last sketch is purely a work of Chondryma and no content copying is allowed without permission

1 comment:

Arti said...

First off - That is an AWESOME sketch! What a wonderful talent to have, Chondryma! I am delighted to find that about you. Congratulations, would love to see more. :)

Coming to the article, I never knew so much about Satyajit ray and his love for children that spanned across generations in his family. What an illustrious family with so many credits to their names, got to learn a lot about them through your article. Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute, such men need to be applauded for all their invaluable contribution to the society! Kudos!