Martin Scorsese’s tribute to Satyajit Ray: ‘The Apu trilogy took my breath away’
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As we celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray, we revisit a piece that celebrated American filmmaker Martin Scorsese penned for Indian Express in 2020. He wrote about the inimitable Ray, “In the relatively short history of cinema, Satyajit Ray is one of the names that we all need to know, whose films we all need to see. And to revisit, as I do pretty frequently.” (Photo: AP and Express Archive)
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Scorsese went on to praise Ray for presenting a nuanced perspective of India to the international audiences. Previously, what was made in the west about the country was tinged with colonial hangover. "For those of us here in the West, the Apu trilogy — Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) — was a milestone," Scorsese said. "We were used to seeing India on screen but through a purely colonial perspective, which obviously meant that the principal characters were Westerners and the “extras”, the people who provided the local colour and the background detail, were Indians. We had no idea whether the stories were happening in Gujarat, Kashmir, West Bengal or Maharashtra — it was just “India”." (Photo: Express archive)
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“The pictures told stories of everyday life in a vein that was somewhat similar to Italian neo-realism. And the artistry? The filmmaking? It took my breath away. It was poetic, immediate, sweeping and intimate, all at the same time,” he wrote about Ray’s complete control over his craft. (Photo: Express archive)
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Scorsese recalled that he saw all three pictures in one sitting in a theatre in Manhattan. “I was mesmerised. That remarkable close-up of Apu’s eye in Pather Panchali, the way the cut works with the sudden burst of Ravi Shankar’s music — for me, that was one of those precious revelatory moments you have in a movie theatre, and it had a profound and lasting effect on me as a filmmaker.”
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He spoke about Satyajit Ray’s filmography. “And the trilogy was only the beginning of one of the greatest bodies of work in the history of cinema.”
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Scorsese concluded, We all need to see the films of Satyajit Ray and re-see them, again and again. Taken all together, they’re one of our greatest treasures.