In this special edition, we share the author’s reminisces about the day thirty-one years ago when Satyajit Ray passed away, and how he gave the front page headline for the newspaper he worked for. He then reflects on his journey as a filmmaker and a student of cinema, and how he keeps returning to the teachings of Satyajit Ray, whom he considers as the “one ray of Cinema” to learn and unlearn.
It was around evening time on this day thirty-one years ago. As a young journalist with already six years of experience at the news desk and a year less on field reporting for then the leading English language newspaper published out of Assam, when both the then quaint banks of the Brahmaputra were tumultuously rattled by arms conflicts contesting the idea of an independent India with the fine threads of the loom that was the “greater Assamese society” increasingly tangled and messed up between the shuttles and the looms in the designing of intricate patterns called “oul laga” in Assamese, because of several mistakes of the past, my soul too was constantly driven by a frothing frenzy already brewing inside for long, to pursue only one thing in life called Cinema.
That evening while the mind remained alert about news flowing in on diverse issues, I kept hurriedly shuttling between the two constantly clattering teleprinters standing next to the news desk, for one single news expected to first flash out of Kolkata (I can’t remember now whether the Anglican Calcutta was already changed to its present name) Finally the news did arrive. That night the Editor, a former academician turned highly respected journalist and a former president of the Editor’s Guild of India, suggested, that I give the front page headline. I did so with pain and also pride. The eight-column “The Sentinel” came out in print the next morning: THE RAY OF CINEMA NO MORE.
I joined the film institute the very next winter with the dream of finally finding comfort off the winder screen to pursue my interests in the arts. Coming out of the arms conflict situations with also exposer to what such situations can form within the social fabric through field coverage of two massive arms forces operations, Rhino and Bajrang among the smaller others, and the human rights violations and the human rights violations perpetuated by both, the operating arm forces and the underground insurgents fighting the state, not to mention the neo colonial approach of the state towards one’s own people while curbing militancy, I ended up analysing for Director’s Study as a senior student as a part of the curriculum not Ray, none of the Italian Neo-Realism filmmakers, nor any of the auteur, not Tarkovsky whose works hold a special place in my mind and heart like the creations of Abbas Kiarostami does, not even one who always makes me cry, at other times leaves me numb, the one and only Ritwik Ghatak. Torments in my mind led me to choose a Third Cinema maestro instead, Thomas Guetrez Alea. FTII, however, opened up to me the wide windows to World Cinema and expanded my horizons. Yet, as a student of Cinema, a filmmaker, a failure, and a teacher, I keep returning back to that ‘one ray of Cinema ‘ to learn, unlearn, to learn and unlearn, just like the shuttle shifts swiftly between the threads on the loom and bobbins releases the threads, in the learnings in life and a love called Cinema.
More threads are now messed up and tangled across the globe Apu had carried from the village to the city through the politics of Globalisation and the pitfalls it presents. The values backing the guidance of the village school headmaster in trying to encourage Apu towards scientific thinking and modernism still hold true when information has begun to reign over knowledge and what true knowledge can present to a persona, and further to the world. With globalisation converting the world into a mono-cultural entity we are tutored to accept as a global village, one very different from Apu’s and many more like us, we are increasingly drifting apart as well with religions to playing their parts which Ray avowed (*Ganashatru) This is precisely where Satyajit Ray and his modernism stands out tall and robust as he did in the crowd, an unblemished abiding conviction in humanism as the ultimate faith for the modern man.
Profound homage to the Maestro Satyajit Ray
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An FTII alumina, Maulee Senapati is an award winning film maker from Assam, whose films have travelled in International Film Festivals within country and abroad. His selective essays on Cinema and film making have been published in important publications. Beside film making, Maulee is also a film academician currently working as professor film direction, at the Film and TV faculty of Pandit Lakhmi Chand State University of Performing and Visual Arts, Haryana. Senapati is also an avid still photographer and painter.