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BIOGRAPHY: SATYAJIT RAY

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    Satyajit Ray (2 May 1921 – 23 April 1992) was an Indian film director, scriptwriter, documentary filmmaker, author, essayist, lyricist, magazine editor, illustrator, calligrapher, and music composer. He is celebrated for works such as The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959), The Music Room (1958), The Big City (1963) and Charulata (1964). Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta to renowned writer Sukumar Ray who was prominent in the field of art and literature. Starting his career as a commercial artist, he was drawn into independent filmmaking after meeting French film-maker Jean Renoir and viewing Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neo-realist film Bicycle Thieves (1948) during his visit to London.

    Ray directed 36 films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts and authored several short stories and novels, primarily for young children and teenagers. Feluda, the sleuth, Professor Shonku, the scientist in his science fiction stories, Tarini Khuro, the storyteller and Lalmohan Ganguly, the novelist are popular fictional characters created by him. In 1978, he was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University.

    Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, including the inaugural Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. This film, along with Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (1959), form The Apu Trilogy. Ray did the scripting, casting, scoring, and editing, and designed his own credit titles and publicity material. Ray received many major awards in his career, including 36 Indian National Film Awards, a Golden Lion, a Golden Bear, 2 Silver Bears, many additional awards at international film festivals and ceremonies, and an Academy Honorary Award in 1992. The Government of India honoured him with the Bharat Ratna, its highest civilian award, in 1992. Ray had received many notable awards during his lifetime.

    Satyajit Ray’s ancestry can be traced back for at least ten generations. His family had acquired the name ‘Ray’ (originally ‘Rai’) from the Mughals. Although they were Bengali Kayasthas, the Rays were ‘Vaishnavas’ (worshippers of Vishnu) as against majority Bengali Kayasthas who were ‘Shaktos’ (worshippers of Shakti or Shiva).

    According to the history of the Ray family, one of their ancestors, Shri Ramsunder Deo (Deb), was a native of Chakdah village in Nadia district of present-day West Bengal, India. In search of fortune he migrated to Sherpur in East Bengal. There he met Raja Gunichandra, the zamindar of Jashodal, at the zamindar house of Sherpur. King Gunichandra was immediately impressed by Ramsunder’s beautiful appearance and sharp intellect and took Ramsunder with him to his zamindari estate. He made Ramsunder his son-in-law and granted him some property at Jashodal in Kishorganj District. From then on Ramsunder started living in Jashodal. His descendants migrated from there and settled down in the village of Masua in Katiadi upazila of Kishoreganj district.

    Satyajit Ray’s grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray, was a writer, illustrator, philosopher, publisher, amateur astronomer, and a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, a religious and social movement in 19th-century Bengal. He also set up a printing press by the name of U. Ray and Sons, which formed a crucial backdrop to Satyajit’s life. Sukumar Ray, Upendrakishore’s son and father of Satyajit, was an illustrator, critic, and a pioneering Bengali writer of nonsense rhyme (Abol Tabol) and children’s literature. Social worker and children’s book author Shukhalata Rao was his aunt.

    Satyajit Ray was born to Sukumar and Suprabha Ray in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Sukumar died when Satyajit was barely three, and the family survived on Suprabha Ray’s meager income. Ray studied at Ballygunge Government High School in Calcutta, and completed his BA in economics at Presidency College, Calcutta (then affiliated to the University of Calcutta), though his interest was always in the fine arts.

    In 1940, his mother insisted that he study at Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Ray was reluctant to go, due to his fondness for Calcutta and the low regard for the intellectual life at Santiniketan. His mother’s persuasiveness and his respect for Tagore finally convinced him to try. In Santiniketan, Ray came to appreciate Oriental Art. He later admitted that he learned much from the famous painters Nandalal Bose and Benode Behari Mukherjee. He later produced a documentary, The Inner Eye, about Mukherjee. His visits to Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta stimulated his admiration for Indian Art.

    In 1943, Ray started working at D.J. Keymer, a British advertising agency, as a junior visualizer, earning 80 rupees a month. Although he liked visual design (graphic design) and he was mostly treated well, there was tension between the British and Indian employees of the firm. The British were better paid, and Ray felt that “the clients were generally stupid.” Later, Ray worked for the Signet Press, a new press started by D. K. Gupta. Gupta asked Ray to create book cover designs for the company and gave him complete artistic freedom. Ray designed covers for many books, including Jibanananda Das’s, Banalata Sen, and Rupasi Bangla, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s Chander Pahar, Jim Corbett’s Maneaters of Kumaon, and Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India. He worked on a children’s version of Pather Panchali, a classic Bengali novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, renamed as Aam Antir Bhepu (The mango-seed whistle).

    Along with Chidananda Dasgupta and others, Ray founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947. They screened many foreign films, many of which Ray watched and seriously studied. He befriended the American soldiers stationed in Calcutta during World War II, who kept him informed about the latest American films showing in the city. He came to know a RAF employee, Norman Clare, who shared Ray’s passion for films, chess and western classical music.

    In 1949, Ray married Bijoya Das, his first cousin and long-time sweetheart. The couple had a son named, Sandip Ray, who is a film director. In the same year, French director Jean Renoir came to Calcutta to shoot his film- The River. Ray helped him to find locations in the countryside. Ray told Renoir about his idea of filming Pather Panchali, which had long been on his mind, and Renoir encouraged him in the project. In 1950, D.J. Keymer & Co sent Ray to London to work at their headquarters. During his six months in London, Ray watched 99 films. Among these was the neorealist film Bicycle Thieves (1948) by Vittorio De Sica, which had a profound impact on him. Ray later said that he walked out of the theatre determined to become a filmmaker.

    In 1983, while working on Ghare Baire (Home and the World), Ray suffered a heart attack which limited his productivity in the remaining 9 years of his life. Ghare Baire, an adaptation of the novel of the same name, was completed in 1984 with the help of Ray’s son, who served as a camera operator from then-onward. It is about the dangers of fervent nationalism; he wrote the first draft of a script for it in the 1940s. Despite rough patches due to Ray’s illness, the film did receive some acclaim; critic Vincent Canby gave the film a maximum rating of five stars and praised the performances of the three lead actors. It also featured the first kiss scene portrayed in Ray’s films.

    In 1987, Ray recovered to an extent to direct the 1990 film Shakha Proshakha (Branches of the Tree). It depicts an old man, who has lived a life of honesty, and learns of the corruption of three of his sons. The final scene shows the father finding solace only in the companionship of his fourth son, who is uncorrupted but mentally ill due to a head injury sustained while he was studying in England. Ray’s last film, Agantuk (The Stranger), is lighter in mood but not in theme; when a long-lost uncle arrives to visit his niece in Calcutta, he arouses suspicion as to his motive. It provokes far-ranging questions in the film about civilisation. Critic Hal Hinson was impressed, and thought Agantuk shows “all the virtues of a master artist in full maturity”.

    A heavy-smoker but non-drinker. Ray valued work more than anything else. He would work 12 hours a day, and go to bed at two o’clock in the morning. He also enjoyed collecting antiques, manuscripts, rare gramophone records, paintings and rare books. In 1992, Ray’s health deteriorated due to heart complications. He was admitted to a hospital but never recovered. Twenty-four days before his death, Ray was presented with an Honorary Academy Award by Audrey Hepburn via video-link. He was in a gravely ill condition, but gave an acceptance speech, calling it the “best achievement of [his] movie-making career.” He died on 23 April 1992, 9 days before his 71st birthday.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our Publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai; Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida; India. Shoolini University, Yogananda Knowledge Center, Himachal Pradesh and Azim Premzi University, Bangalore).  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K; Herrick District Library, Holland and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, USA).

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

MIRAGE

(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)

Short stories and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: Reality and Perception, 15.10.19; Sending the Wrong Message, 31.5.20; Eagle versus Scholars June, 15 & 20 2020; Indica, 15.8.20; The Story of King Chitraketu, August 31 2020; Breaking Through the Chakravyuh, September 30 2020. The Questioning Spouse, October 31, 2020; Happy Days, November 15, 2020; The Karma Cycle of Paddy and Wheat, December 15,2020; Power Vs Influence, January 31, 2021; Three Refugees, March 15, 2021; Rise and Fall of Ajatashatru, March 31, 2021; Reformed Ruler, May 15, 2021; A Lasting Name, May 31, 2021; Are Animals Better Teachers?, June 16, 2021; Book Review: The Gram Swaraj, 1.7.21; Right Age for Achievements, 15.7.21;

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

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BOOK REVIEW: TROUBLE IN GANGTOK (Gangtokey Gondogol) by Satyajit Ray

Copyright@shravancharitymission

Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

The original Bengali title of this novel is ‘Gangtokey Gondogol.’ In English it would mean, ‘Trouble in Gangtok.’ This novella featuring a private detective Feluda was first published in the Desh Magazine in 1970 and then published in book form in 1971 by Ananda Publishers. The main characters of this book are:

  • Prodosh Chandra Mitter aka Feluda.
  • Tapesh Ranjan Mitter aka Topshe.
  • Sasadhar Bose/Dr. Vaidya are the names of the same character.
  • Nishikanto Sarkar.
  • Helmut Ungar/Virendra Shelvankar are the names of the same character.
  • Shivkumar Shelvankar.
  • The curator of the Tibetan Institute.

    The story is an intricate murder mystery. Feluda and Topshe travel to Gangtok for their summer holidays on the start of the Bengali New Year. While eating breakfast at Bagdogra Airport, they meet a man by the name of Sasadhar Bose, who works for a chemical firm dealing with aromatic perfumes. He tells that he had attended a nephew’s wedding in Ghatshila post which he came to Sikkim. While stopping at a place called Teesta Bazaar, the trio comes to know about an accident that took place in the North Sikkim Highway.

    They learn that a huge boulder crashed on the taxi and the taxi fell off a cliff. But the driver escaped unhurt. Feluda and Topshe are staying at Hotel Snow View while Sasadhar Bose is staying in the dak bungalow.

    In the evening, Sasadhar Bose comes to Feluda’s hotel and informs him that the man who fell off the cliff in the accident, was no one else but his partner Shivkumar Shelvankar, who was also the owner of the company. Sasadhar Bose walks out of the hotel to find a flight to Bombay the next day. This is when Feluda meets another Bengali in the hotel by the name of, Nishikanto Sarkar. He reveals that he had a statue of a Tibetan God named Yamantak, which had nine heads and 34 hands. He says that he had sold the statue to Shelvankar for a 1000 rupees. While walking on the road, they meet a German hippie, Helmut Ungar, who tells them more about Shelvankar. He tells them that he had a son, whom he loved. But the son ran away from his father. Helmut tells Feluda that on the day of the accident, Mr. Shelvankar and he had decided to travel to a gumpha a place on the way to Singik. But Helmut changed his mind and left early to take some photographs. He reveals to Feluda that Shelvankar used to keep the figurine with him in his pocket as he thought it to be a lucky charm. But after the accident, the figurine had gone missing. Helmut also tells that the reason of this superstition is because of the advice of a certain Dr. Vaidya.

    Later in the evening, Feluda and Topshe go to the Tibetan Institute to learn more about the statue. Feluda asks the driver of the taxi he is travelling in, to come in the morning the next day because he wants to see the scene of the accident. They reach the Tibetan Institute, where the curator declares that the Yamantak which Shelvankar had would cost a little more than 10000 rupees. Feluda returns to the hotel to find Bose waiting for him. Bose tells Feluda that tomorrow he will be leaving for Bombay. 

    Next day, Nishikanto Sarkar tells Feluda that someone threw a paper in his room. The paper consisted of a Tibetan word, which simply meant—death. Later Feluda and Topshe travel to the accident site. There Feluda finds a white button. He also reveals that someone had tried to make the boulder fall by using a strong iron rod and that this accident was nothing but a well-planned murder. Feluda sends a telegram to Bose asking him to come back to Gangtok. The next day, Nishikanto Sarkar, Helmut Ungar, Topshe and Feluda travel to Rumtek for seeing the lama dance. Feluda learns, through a telegram, that Shelvankar’s estranged son is present in a Sikkim monastery and a detective agency has found him. Then, Feluda hears someone shouting. He and Topshe come to the source of the sound and find that Mr. Sarkar had been pushed down the cliff. They rescue him and they come back to Gangtok. In the evening, they come to the dak bungalow, where Helmut is staying. There they meet a strange looking man. Helmut introduces himself as Dr. Vaidya.

    Dr. Vaidya, who specializes in talking to souls of the departed, tells all of them (through Shelvankar’s spirit) that he was murdered and Virendra is responsible for his death. Helmut tells that Virendra is Shelvankar’s only son. Dr. Vaidya tells Feluda that tomorrow he will be traveling to Pemiangchi. Next morning, Topshe finds a paper near Feluda’s ashtray. The paper consists of the same Tibetan word, meaning death. Feluda tells Topshe that today he will conduct an experiment on the North Sikkim Highway. After conducting the experiment, Feluda concludes that the murder was done by first hitting Shelvankar with a rod and then throwing the vehicle down the cliff. Then, a boulder was thrown to make it look like an accident. The driver was bribed. While Feluda was telling this, a boulder comes crashing down. Topshe saves Feluda from being crushed.

    In the evening, Helmut comes to Feluda’s room and shows him two photographs. The photographs were taken during the crime. It shows a man wearing red clothes standing on top of the mountain and seeing the car falling down. When Feluda tells that he is that man Virendra, Helmut tells that it is impossible because he is only Virendra. He tells Feluda and Topshe that he did not like his father marrying twice and thus ran away from home. Then his father approached a detective agency to find his son. Then Helmut (or Virendra) came to Sikkim. Helmut tells Feluda that he suspects Dr. Vaidya to be the murderer. They decide to travel to Pemiangchi to apprehend Dr. Vaidya. They pull in Mr. Sarkar also. Next day, while travelling to Pemiangchi, Sasadhar Bose also follows them and requests them to also take him. They reach Pemiangchi in the evening. There they discover that Dr. Vaidya is not there but has left his stick in the dak bungalow.

    Feluda then announces that Sasadhar Bose is the killer. He killed Shelvankar to take over the ownership of the company. When Bose says that he had gone to his nephew’s wedding during the murder, Feluda reminds him that in the Bengali calendar no wedding is held during the month of Chaitra since it is an inauspicious month and that they had come together to Sikkim during the starting of the month of Baishakh, the first month of the Bengali calendar. Feluda tells that Sasadhar Bose and Dr. Vaidya are the same person. Dr. Vaidya told Shel-vankar about his own life and impressed him. While going to the Gumpha, Dr. Vaidya and Shelvankar travelled in the same car. Then Dr. Vaidya or Sasadhar Bose who happen to be the same person hit Shelvankar with a rod and murdered him. Then he came back to Kolkatta. Then as Sasadhar Bose, he travelled in the same plane with Feluda. Dr. Vaidya tried to put the blame on Virendra, even when he did not know that Helmut was actually Virendra. When he saw that Feluda was conducting an investigation, he tried to kill Feluda. Feluda also tells that Mr. Sarkar wanted to steal the figurine of Yamantak from Shelvankar. So after the murder, he came down to find the statue, but Bose saw him and started harassing him. Bose tries to escape but is caught by leeches. Feluda finds the statue in the belongings of Sasadhar Bose. Sasadhar Bose is arrested and Feluda solves one of his most complex cases.

I would give the book seven out of ten.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

*****