The setting is rural Bengal. Snow-white “kaash” flowers, Bengal’s native flora, which fill the fields, sway to the breeze. A small girl, along with her younger brother, rushes across the fields to watch a passing train. This is a scene etched into the minds of every Bengali and perhaps every movie-lover.

The famous shot, of Durga and her brother, Apu, is from legendary film-maker and Oscar winner Satyajit Ray’s first film, now a classic, “Pather Panchali.”

Search engine major Google celebrated Ray’s 92nd birth-anniversary on Thursday with a doodle depicting this classic scene. According to a press release issued by Google, the doodle is a “humble tribute” and a “gesture to say thank you” to Ray.

Satyajit Ray, born in Kolkata in 1921, was a director, writer, illustrator and composer of music. His grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray, was a writer, illustrator and publisher. Ray’s father, Sukumar, was a pioneer of Bengali nonsensical rhymes, called Abol Tabol, and children’s literature.

Ray’s illustrious career spanned 32 National Awards and an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Many of his films were chosen as India’s submission to the Oscars. He breathed his last on April 23, 1992.

Movies

Pather Panchali (1955), the first of the Apu trilogy, was followed by Apur Sansar (1956) and Aparajito (1959). Pather Panchali, depicting rural Bengal through the eyes of its young protagonists, marked the emergence of Indian cinema on a global platform. The film won 11 awards at different festivals including Cannes.

Other Ray classics included Charulata, Jalsaghar, Nayak, Devi, Mahanagar, Aranyer Din Ratri and Jana Aranya.

Besides serious cinema, his forte included children’s films like Goopy Gyne Bagha Byene. The two movies in the Goopy-Bagha series include the adventures of two good-hearted but foolish musicians having no knowledge of music.

Ray’s lone Hindi film, Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) is based on an eponymous short story by Munshi Prem Chand.

As his health started deteriorating, Ray opted for movies that required less travel and involved mainly indoor-shooting.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 3, 2013)
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