Ray Course

Satyajit Ray course at Toronto University

By Kathleen O'Connel

I have been offering courses on Satyajit Ray and Rabindranath Tagore at the undergraduate level at the University of Toronto (New College) since 1993. The Ray course is a semester course that is taught as a seminar, which consists of the screening and discussion of various Ray films and assigned related readings (The website details for the Ray course can be found Here)


This course examines the humane vision of Satyajit Ray, who has been lauded as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. Topics include - his life and works in brief, his humanism, cultural

orientation and values, fictional compositions, visual and musical artistry, affinities and continuity with Rabindranath Tagore, his films as expressions of his humane vision, an assessment of his influence on and significance for Bengali, Indian and global humanism. Although not a film course as such, films to be screened and discussed in whole or part (all with English subtitles) include: Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar, Devi, Charulata, Teen Kanya, and others. The course title is Satyajit Ray: Paradigms of Vision.

 I first met  Mr. Ray in 1977, when my husband and I were studying Bengali in Shantiniketan. Being familiar with his films, I was pleased to learn that he was also a short story writer and the editor of a children's journal called Sandesh. It seemed that Ray's Bengali stories would be a good way to improve my Bengali vocabulary and language skills, and I began to work on translating one of the books entitled Bravo Professor Shonku. When I had completed the stories, I wrote a letter to him in Kolkata telling him about the translations. He was then in the middle of filming Sonar Kella, but he wrote and suggested that I get in touch when I was in Kolkata. We met a short time later and I gave him a copy of the translations. Like everyone else

who met him, I was impressed with how charming, knowledgeable and approachable he was as an individual. He liked the translations and suggested that I send them to MacDonald and Jane, his London publishers. The publishers, however, while appreciating the stories indicated that they were not in the new popular genre of "social realism", which dealt with the sort of social problems affecting contemporary children.

The translations were put on hold until 1985, when my husband and I were in Kolkata and a friend from Jadavpur University indicated that the publishers Rupa and Co. were interested in publishing some Ray translations. I submitted the manuscript, which was accepted and edited by Mr. Nirupam Chatterji. By then Satyajit Ray had translated some of the stories himself, and it was agreed that I would publish three of my translations.

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