Best of Satyajit Ray Films: Indian Cinematic Wonders You Can’t Miss

Satyajit Ray is known as the maestro who changed Indian cinema. His sheer brilliance in filmmaking is recognized not just for the ceiling shattering cinematic aesthete but also for being the most honest authorial representation of India that you can find to date.

Akira Kurosawa, the Japanese filmmaker, known as one of the most influential directors of all time once said, “not to have seen the cinema of (Satyajit) Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.”

Ray directed 36 films including 29 features, five documentaries, and two short films. His “Apu Trilogy” found its footing in Time’s All-time 100 movies. His effort in putting Indian cinema on the global map was recognized in the 64th Academy Awards with an honorary Oscar. In short, Satyajit Ray took Indian cinemas to a realm that wasn’t possible to imagine before.

To make headway in his vast artifice of filmography, we have picked the first few movies with which you can start this mesmerizing journey.

 Apu Trilogy

With Pather Panchali, Satyajit Ray made his debut in filmmaking, shattered the glass ceiling of the set-limit of where Indian cinema can go, and never looked back. His Apu Trilogy is made of three films, Pather Panchali, Aparajita, and The World of Apu where he takes his protagonist through a novelistic journey of life, harrowing through ordeals, confronting grave responsibilities of life. Apu Trilogy is as real a cinema can get to modern man’s agonizing reality.

Ghare Baire (The Home and the World)

Based on Tagore’s novel by the same name, Ghare Baire is inarguably one of India’s first stark representations of gender politics and Indian women’s place during the 20th-century nationalistic (Swadeshi) movement. As Bimala navigates through the tumultuous time trying to help her husband Nikhil’s friend Sandip who is set to make India free from the Britishers, Ray shows the dichotomy of women’s struggles with sharp commentary on the movement itself.

Jalsaghar (The Music Room)

Jalsaghar portrays the world of a decaying decadence, a story of the rich aristocrat’s final conflict with modernity which tries to take away his opulence while he lives till the last minute savoring his former glory in the music room where he held lavish concerts once. Jalsaghar’s sheer brilliance lies in its beautiful marriage of nostalgic yearning cinematography and vivid social commentary.

Mahanagar (The Big City)

Trust Ray to portray women’s lives in its truest authenticity without shrouding or glossing it over. Mahanagar is a story of a woman (Arati) who has finally put her feet out to earn a living and finding out what lies outside the doors of a domestic household. Watch it for Arati’s resilience, watch it as one of the pioneering works of feminist storytelling by the Bengali filmmaker.

Hirak Rajar Deshe

Ray’s satirical take on state oppression and the ever-deteriorating condition of the public welfare in his country in Hirak Rajar Deshe always strikes as an accurate representation, even after so many years. The second part of the Goopy Bagha series, Hirak Rajar Deshe which is supposed to be a children’s film, doesn’t sweeten the grotesque reality of oppression. Rather it teaches a very important lesson, to never stop fighting the fascism and the injustice that happens to the poor and helpless. A goosebump moment for all when in the end, the mass chants, “Dari dhore Maro taan, raja hobe khan.”

Pull the ropes, the king would fall.

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