Satyajit Ray specialized in a kind of cinematic naturalism in which the on-screen action unfolds in a manner that feels at once poetic and realistic.

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Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir revered him, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Wes Anderson are among the many filmmakers who have been inspired by him, and he’s considered one of the founding fathers of Indian cinema. But this titanic reputation, along with such a large body of work, could make tackling the films of Bengali director Satyajit Ray seem intimidating for even an avid film lover.

Inspired by the lyricism of his one-time mentor Jean Renoir and the street-level truthfulness of Italian neorealism, Ray specialized in a kind of cinematic naturalism in which the on-screen action unfolds in a manner that feels at once poetic and realistic. Ray’s films may at first feel quiet, gradual and undramatic, but it’s a testament to his skill as a storyteller that he gently folds us into their pace. His films have an irresistible knack for turning the ordinary into the exciting. Ray handles complicated experiences — like coming of age, taking a new direction in life, and when to defy social expectations — with simplicity and beauty.

While his long takes, deep focus and minimal camera movements feel worlds away from the mile-a-minute editing of modern Hollywood blockbusters, these allow Ray’s characters space and time to strike us as fully rounded human beings, not social representations or symbols. Even characters who should be condemned for their actions are allowed to engage us as people, and in Ray’s cinema, we catch an intimate glimpse of the many different kinds of lives lived in both colonial and modern India.

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(Courtesy- British Film Institute & Photo By Neemai Ghosh)

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