Looking at Ray, the musician

“Not to have seen Ray’s cinema is to exist in the world without seeing the sun or the moon” – the famous Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa had said this in 1975 about one of the most influential filmmakers and most famous of all time – Satyajit Ray.

A brilliant illustrator, seasoned writer and master songwriter – these are some of the terms we associate with Satyajit Ray, whose centenary we are celebrating today. Even after 29 years of the master author’s disappearance, his films are still studied, analyzed and criticized for the amount of detail they contain. The names of filmmakers around the world who have been influenced by his cinematic style include Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan and Francis Ford Coppola, among others, and rightly so, as Ray’s mastery over the art of filmmaking movies was not just limited. to storytelling.

The mood he created in his films was mostly accompanied by elements that he used to build from scratch. Elements from the costume design, the way his characters interacted with each other, where his characters are placed over the music, the most important. Born into a creative Bengali family that boasts of legends like Upendra Kishore Raychowdhuri and Sukumar Ray, Satyajit Ray’s passion for music dates back to his childhood rich in Indian and Western music. His passion for music has been reflected in almost all of his films and his collaboration with Maestro Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar and Vilayat Khan, and his use of classical music in his films is something that resonated with filmmakers at this. day.

Ray’s use of certain musical themes has been very crucial in building his characters and describing what his characters are going through. In Pather Panchali, the serene flute brings out the quiet village life, while in Jalsaghar dark and ominous tones of sitar portray the imminent fate of ‘zamindar’ life. Or in Teen Kanya, where we see individual themes accompanying individual stories – Ray used this component of cinema accordingly.

Likewise, in Sonar Kella, the folk song in the local dialect that accompanies the story succeeds in bringing out the tradition and culture of Rajasthan. In Joy Baba Felunath, the most poignant moments are accompanied by bhajan, which plays whenever the alleged antagonist “machli baba” appears on screen. The moving bhajan only connects with the idea of ​​Varanasi mysticism and somehow one can also hear a certain ghazal playing in the background as the film progresses.

His music was not limited only to instruments as the vocals formed an important part of the narrative in films like Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne or Hirak Rajar Deshe. The rhyming lyrics sung by the eponymous characters in the first provide a sense of joy but also convey the message of the story, while in the second the songs convey more than words. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne also has one of the most poignant and unique song sequences in Ray’s filmography, which is the scene where Bhooter Raja (King of the Phantoms) appears onscreen and chooses eccentric songs as a form of communication.

In Charulata, her interpretation of Rabindra Nath Tagore’s song “Ami Chini Go Chini” served the purpose of creating a nuanced relationship in Charu’s life.

A visionary, Ray not only knew the music of his time, but also tried to bridge the divide between Indian and Western musical styles by merging the two and creating something with a slightly modern touch, but which also retained its original qualities. .

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