From today begins the centenary celebration of a master craftsman. On this occasion let me recall some of his films.
The opening sequence in ‘Charulata’ (moving from one window to another in her house to observe the activities of the outside world) is a classic. The tender story of Postmaster Nandalal (Anil Chatterjee) and his pre-adolescent housekeeper Ratan (Chandana Banerjee) in a small village is told in the simplest language. The most enjoyable scene of the film is a get-together of old men of the village for a music session. ‘Mahanagar’ is about Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee) and Subroto (Anil Chatterjee), and their struggle in a lower middle class family in Calcutta. Arati’s growing self-confidence and Subroto’s insecurity are so naturally portrayed. So much was conveyed in so few words. ‘Nayak’ is about a successful but a lonely film actor. Like everyone else Nayak needs sympathy and understanding. Nayak’s interaction with an old fellow passenger is simply beautiful. I can’t think of any other actor than Uttam Kumar in the title role. I can’t remember how many times I have seen ‘Sonar Kella’, especially after moving to Jaipur. A young boy’s memories of his previous life in Rajasthan are a treat to watch. I liked the film because it could retain my interest till the end in spite of the fact that I knew how the story is going to unfold. There was no so-called suspense, the bad boys were identified at the beginning itself. Santosh Dutta as ‘Jatau’ is unforgettable. ‘Jana Aranya’ is about a middleman in a scarce job market. Utpal Dutta and Robi Ghosh are brilliant in the film. The understanding between Somnath (Pradip Mukherjee) and his sister-in-law (Lily Chakravarti) was so engaging in ‘Jana Aranya’. ‘Agantuk’ is a statement on our value system. ‘Choto Kaka’ is visiting his niece after 35 years. He has become a stranger even to his niece. He is treated with suspicion. There were many enjoyable moments in the film. My favourite is Mamta Shankar’s going to a ‘Santhal’ village and there her hesitatingly joining the performing dance group arranged by her uncle. Uncle is pleased: ‘Now I have no doubt that she is my sister’s daughter’. ‘Shakha Proshakha’ is the story of an idealist father and his not-so-ideal sons. In spite of personal success father’s sense of failure comes from the fact that his ideals and values have not seeped into the conscience of his sons. Unfortunately this was Ray’s last film.