May 02, 2012 12:44 IST
Satyajit Ray, director, writer, music composer and illustrator, would have been 91 today.
Mr Ray was born into an illustrious family. His father, Sukumar Ray, was a pioneering writer of Bengali rhyme and children's literature. His grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray, was a writer, illustrator, and philosopher. The young Satyajit was always interested in fine arts even though he studied economics at Kolkata's Presidency College.
Satyajit Ray's instinct for the arts and aesthetics was honed at the Shantiniketan University founded by Rabindranath Tagore. He then began his working life with a job in advertising but switched careers
after watching Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves. In 1943, he assisted French director Jean Renoir who was in Kolkata shooting The River, and was encouraged by him to turn full time to filmmaking.
In 1955, Mr Ray made his first film Pather Panchali. The movie took a poetic and evocative look at the life of the protagonist Apu, a young village boy. It won the Best Human Document Award at Cannes Film Festival.
His next two films Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) completed the Apu trilogy. Actress Sharmila Tagore made her acting debut as the young bride of Apu in Apur Sansar.
Mr Ray's next few films dealt with socio-economic issues. Prominent among these were Jalsaghar (1958), Devi (1960), Teen Kanya (1961) and Abhijan (1962).
In 1962 he directed Kanchenjungha, his first colour feature film. In 1964 he directed Charulata, which is considered to be a masterpiece.
Post Charulata, Mr Ray branched into genres including science fiction, fantasy and mystery. He made serious movies like Nayak (1966), Pratidwandi (1970), Seemabaddha (1971), Jana Aranya (1975) - as well as some lighter fare - Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969), Sonar Kella (1974) and Joy Baba Felunath (1978).
Shatranj Ke Khiladi, made in 1977, had dialogues in Urdu and Hindi film and was Mr Ray's first movie in a language other than Bengali.
A heart attack in 1983 and general ill health kept Mr Ray away from the camera for a few years. After recovering, he made Ganashatru and Shakha Proshakha.
In 1991, he made his last film Agantuk.
Mr Ray's layered and innovative style of filmmaking won him awards, both in India and abroad. He is ranked on all "Top Directors" Lists by cinema magazines and critics' polls.
He began his career with an award at Cannes and ended it with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar as well as the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award. He also won the Golden Lion for Aparajito at the Venice Film Festival in 1956 and the Golden Lion Honorary Award there in 1982. That same year, he was given a special "Homage a Satyajit Ray" award at Cannes.
His other awards included the Dadasaheb Phalke in 1985 and the French Legion of Honor in 1987.
The multitalented director also wrote several detective and science fiction books. He also designed four typefaces for Roman script and illustrated all his own books as well as designing covers for other authors.