Ray's Views

India

 

“A vast sub-continent with one of the oldest and richest traditions of art, music and literature, existed only to be ignored. That this apathy should apply as much to Britain, which once ruled India, as to any other western country, is astonishing, but true. The fact is, the Colonised have, willy-nilly, developed considerable interest in the Colonisers, never the other way round. Slighted for so long, India will not yield up her secrets to the west so easily… ”

Sight & Sound, Autumn, 1982

Tagore

“On August 7, 1941, in Calcutta, a man died. His mortal remains perished, but he left behind him a heritage which no fire could consume. It was a heritage of words and music and poetry, of ideas and of ideals and it has the power to move us today and in the days to come. We, who owe him so much, salute his memory… ”

Satyajit Ray's narration for his documentary, Rabindranath Tagore

Beethoven

 

“In our house there was a record of the 20s, one movement of Beethoven's violin concerto. Its ownership hasn't yet been traced but I have been listening to it since I was seven. After reading about the great composers in the Book of Knowledge, especially about Beethoven, I came to worship him as my hero. If anyone were to ask me now to do a biography of Beethoven, I would jump at it. Someday, perhaps, I might seriously make a suggestion to East or West Germany that I do a movie on his life. My interest dates back to those days, and in my first year (at college) it was a consuming interest.”

Interview with Karuna Shankar Ray, Kolkata magazine, 1970

 

 

 

Mozart

 

“... when I talk of Mozart as an influence, I am thinking more of his operas and his miraculous ability to have groups of characters maintain their individuality through elaborate ensembles. Leporello's stuttering fright, the Don's bravado in the face of doom and the Commendatore's relentless intoning of his challenge in the Statue Scene in Don Giovanni is but one example out of many. I am greatly fascinated by the possibility of such ensembles in films. The memory game in Days and Nights in the Forest attempts this. Here the game itself is the ground bass over which the six characters play out their individual roles in word, look, and gesture.”

Sight & Sound, Autumn, 1982

 

 

 

Chaplin

 

“If there is one name which can be said to symbolize the cinema – it is Charlie Chaplin. I'm sure Chaplin's name will survive even if the cinema ceases to exist as a medium of artistic expression. Chaplin is truly immortal.”

Charles Chaplin – a centenary tribute/West Bengal Film Centre Publication, 1989

 

 

 

Soviet Masters

 

“… a comparison of Mother and Potemkin reveals the differences between the attitudes of two great directors. A geometric design is obvious in Eisenstein's techniques. It affects to a certain extent the human aspect of the subject, but the central thesis emerges clearly, boldly and sharply. Humanism and lyricism are the properties obvious in Pudovkin's film. He is a master of technique but he does not have the ruthless geometric inevitability of Eisenstein. To draw an analogy from music, Eisenstein reminds one of Bach, while Pudovkin is closer to Beethoven… ”

From the Brochure of Eisenstein Cine Club, 1983

Kurosawa

“Of all the Japanese directors, Kurosawa has been the most accessible to the outside world. There are obvious reasons of this. He seems, for instance, to have a preference for simple, universal situations over narrowly regional ones. The fear of nuclear destruction, graft in high places, the dehumanising effect of bureaucracy, simple conflicts of good and evil, the moral allegory in Rashomon and so on. But most importantly, I think, it is his penchant for movement, for physical action, which has won him so many admirers in the west."

Our Films Their Films

 

Bergman

 

“On my first visit to Stockholm I was particularly keen to meet Bergman as I had been a great admirer of his work ever since I saw The Seventh Seal way back in mid-fifties. Bergman of today is not the Bergman of thirty years ago. He has pared down his style to a chamber music austerity. But he is still capable of handling big subjects, as witness Fanny and Alexander. At the opposite and more characteristic pole lies Scenes From A Marriage, a relentless study of two people — husband and wife — compelling and exhaustive… ”

Chaplin Film Magazine, Bergman Tribute number, Swedish Film Institute, 1988

 

 

Godard

 

“… If Godard has a hallmark, it is in repeated references to other directors, other films (both good and bad), other forms of art, and to a myriad phenomena of contemporary life. These references do not congeal into a single significant attitude, but merely reflect the alertness of Godard's mind, and the range and variety of his interests.”

Link August 15, 1966

 

 

 

Kipling

 

“Kipling, writing about Indians, often gets closer to the truth than any western writers before or since. The Miracle of Puran Bhagat could well be the work of a particularly gifted Indian writer, and Hurree Chunder Mukherjee (in Kim) is the nearest the West has come to portraying a Bengali in fiction whose Babuisms ring true. The beautiful Mowgli stories have served as typical Indian fable in the absence of genuine fables and folk tales…”

Sight & Sound, Autumn, 1982

 

 

 

Herge

 

“… I am a great fan of Herge. Superb drawing, I have the complete series. The Hindi part of the conversation in the balloons are set down in Devanagari, admirable attention to detail, but his Indian woman cannot wear the sari right. Nor are the coconut trees correctly drawn. These they fail to depict with verisimilitude. Yes, there were many aspersions on him, insinuations about his Nazi connections. But he is a superb illustrator. That an illustrator of such skill should be beaten by the style of the sari or coconut fronds shows that the East is the East, the West is the West.”

January 4, 1992, said  to Tim McGrick of the The Independent, London

 

 

Mao Tse Tung

 

“I can understand and admire Mao's revolution which has completely changed China and achieved, at a cost,  the eradication of poverty and illiteracy. But I don't think I could find a place in China, because I am still too much of an individual and I still believe too strongly in personal expression. Over the years, I have understood art as an expression of a creative personality, and I don't believe in the new theories which hold that art must be destroyed and doesn't need to be permanent. I believe in permanent values...”

Sight and Sound, Autumn, 1972, Interviewed by Christian Braad Thomsen

 

 

 

Women

 

“I think I have perhaps a subconscious conviction about women; that they are basically more honest, more forthright, because physically they are weaker sex, they are perhaps certain compensating factors in the general make up of their characters.”

Decade, special supplement of the Economic Times, Kolkata, June  9, 1986

 

 

 

Religion

 

“... I'm not conscious of belonging to any caste at all at any time. So I have nothing to defend in caste at all, nothing at all. Or in orthodoxy. I'm firmly against that kind of orthodoxy which is based purely on religion because I don't consider religion to be that important. What can you say in favour of orthodoxy which creates this division between people? And puts up a wall which is so artificial?”

Interview in "Chess Players & Other Screenplays" Faber and Faber, London 1989

 

 

 

Progress

 

“… the strides made in the development of drugs and who stands to benefit from them. Well, I did! It was the injection of a newly developed drug that saved my life this time. Had it not been marketed just then, I would have died. This drug cost Rs. 4,000 per shot. Another has been discovered, yet more potent, yet more costly, Rs. 20,000. This is progress, no doubt. But the question is what fraction of humanity can afford it?”

Last interview of Ray recorded on January 11, 1992

 

 

 

Ray On Ray

By Satyajit Ray

 

“If someone were to ask me why I make films, I wouldn't find it easy to answer. Not because there aren't any good and right reasons for my making them, but because there are so many.

 

I think the truest answer would be that I make films for the love of it. I enjoy every moment of the filmmaking process. I write my own scenario and my own dialogue. And, I find it fascinating to do so.

 

I select my own actors - sometimes from among the professionals, sometimes right from the street, and when I do that, it seems to me that casting is great fun, because you're actually looking for flesh and blood incarnations of the characters you've dreamt up in the process of writing.

 

Sometimes, you have to work hard with your actors. Sometimes, even an amateur, in his very first appearance before the camera, will do just the thing you want him to do in the very first take.

 

Shooting, of course, is the great occasion for the marshalling of forces. You as the director must plan and execute the strategy, whereby man and machine will work in harmony to complement each other. This is hard work and needs any amount of patience. But the exhilaration of a shot well taken makes it all seem worthwhile.

 

Editing is exciting too, but the excitement is on an intellectual level, and it is controlled and subdued by the need for precision and tenderness in the handling of what, by the mere process of joining, begins to show signs of an independent life.

 

Apart from the actual creative work, filmmaking is exciting because it brings me closer to my country and my people. Each film contributes to a process of self-education, making me conscious of the enormous diversity of life around me. I find myself trying, through my films, to trace the underlying pattern that binds this life together. It is the true stuff of the cinema, this dizzying contrast of sight and sound and milieu. And, it's a challenge for any filmmaker to try and shape its various conflicting elements into a work of art.

 

Before I made my first film, Pather Panchali, I had only a superficial knowledge of what life in a Bengali village was like. Now I know a good deal about it. I know its soil, its seasons, its trees and forests and flowers, I know how the man in field works and how the women at the well gossip, and I know the children out in the sun and the rain, behaving as all children in all parts of the world do.

 

My own city of Calcutta, too, I know much better now that I've made a film about it. It isn't quite like any other city in the world to look at. Yet, people are born here and live and make love and earn bread as they do in London and New York and Tokyo.

 

And, this is what amazes you most and makes you feel indebted to the cinema: this discovery that although you have roots here in Bengal, in India, you are at the same time part of a large plan, a universal pattern. This uniqueness and this universality, and the co-existence of the two, is what I mainly try to convey through my films.”

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