You do not have to wait for your little one to grow up before introducing him or her to Satyajit Ray’s classics. The author and filmmaker, known for his sensitivity towards a child’s mind, takes care of it himself by incorporating tropes–from fantastical elements, adventure, song and dance to fable-like storytelling–in many of his works, which appeal to children a lot. So, you enjoy many of his works as a child as much as you do as an adult. Get your child interested in Ray’s world of art through these books and films:
Feluda and Shonku
Two of Ray’s favourite characters among children are detective Feluda and scientist Professor Shonku. Ray’s popular Feluda series follows the young private detective as he solves complex crime cases, accompanied by his younger cousin Topshe, who is also the narrator. Feluda’s skills, knowledge and intelligence makes the young reader admire him, while Ray’s narration paints a graphic world of mysteries. Not to forget the iconic Lalmohan Ganguly or Jatayu, fictional author of crime thrillers, who offers comic relief amid gripping suspense that will keep your child hooked. The Feluda stories have been translated in English, including The Complete Adventures of Feluda and Feluda Omnibus, among other books.
Ray’s Shonku from his Bengali science fiction series, on the other hand, is a renowned scientist, who makes fantastic inventions in his laboratory. Shonku’s adventures take him to real and imaginary places across countries, some with historical significance and some with revelations associated with the human civilisation. The Shonku series has also been translated in English. You can pick up The Incredible Adventures of Professor Shonku, published by Penguin.
The author also penned a lot of short stories for children like Bonku Babu’s Friend, The Two Magicians and The Hungry Septopus, among others. Books include The Collected Short Stories (City Plans) by Penguin, and The Magic Moonlight Flower and Other Enchanting Stories, translated by Arunava Sinha, to name a few.
The first characters that come to one’s mind are young Apu and his sister Durga from Pather Panchali, the first installment from Ray’s iconic Apu trilogy. Ray’s cinematic retelling of the siblings’ story from Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay’s novel of the same name, is sure to resonate with your child. The simple joys of rural life that Apu and Durga relish–making mango pickle, attending folk theatre or watching the train for the first time–will move the young audience even if they are unable to comprehend the underlying theme of social realism.
The same holds true for Ray’s Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne series based on Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury’s book of the same name. Through village simpletons Goopy and Bagha and their rags-to-riches story, Ray weaves a tale of socio-political satire indeed, but adds to it ghosts (bhooter raja), magic, rhyming dialogues, brilliant song and dance in very simple language, composed by Ray himself, and fairytale motifs. Kids would enjoy the marvellous dance-of-ghosts scene, the eccentric scientist in Hirak Rajar Deshe, Goopy-Bagha using magic to travel the world and indulge in grand feasts, thanks to the king of ghosts, and saving kingdoms.
Recently, the Goopy-Bagha adventure was also made into an animated movie Goopi Gawaiya, Bagha Bajaiya, by Shilpa Ranade. “I grew up watching the film. Of course, it has all these values built into it–anti-war, peace-loving, brotherhood–but is told in such a fun, non-didactic way. And yet, it leaves you with important lessons, which parents need to teach their children, especially in today’s time where there is so much strife and hatred around us. Again, the whole landscape of the film addresses the imagination of the child, in terms of fun, fantasy and quirky characters,” Ranade told Express Parenting. Watch the trailer:
Ray also made two Feluda movies–Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath. The movies have stood the test of time and have emerged as classics, which kids and adults alike love to watch. Especially in Sonar Kella, kids will connect with Mukul, a little boy who goes to Rajasthan in search of the golden fortress from his past life. Actor Soumitra Chatterjee is quite convincing as Feluda we all want to look up to while Santosh Dutta as Lalmohan is a treat to watch.