Ray’s films on economic hardship still resonate: NYT

April 11th, 2009 - 10:45 am ICT by IANS  

New York, April 11 (IANS) As a perspective of Satyajit Ray’s films opens in New York Wednesday, the New York Times says the great Indian director’s films dealing with economic hardship may resonate strongly with audiences during the current downturn.
“This series is full of memorable, affecting movies that have been just about impossible to see in recent years, like ‘Devi’ (1960), a remarkable exploration of religious madness, and ‘Kanchenjungha’(1962), Ray’s first colour film,” the influential US daily wrote Friday.

“The films that may resonate most strongly in 2009, though, are the ones that deal with economic hardship and the strange parallel universe that is business, big or small,” it said.

The perspective “First Light: Satyajit Ray From the Apu Trilogy to the Calcutta Trilogy” showcasing Ray’s first 20 films opens Wednesday and runs through April 30 at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Centre.

“The grinding rural poverty of ‘Pather Panchali’ is powerfully rendered, but it’s not entirely typical of Ray’s approach to the vexed question of money and its absence,” the Times said. “Abject need is, in a way, too stark, too absolute for his restless sensibility.”

“He’s more at home with situations like that of the struggling middle-class family of ‘Mahanagar’ (1963), who have just a bit less income than they require and therefore have to make awkward choices,” it said.

“By the time Ray made ‘The Adversary’ (1971) - the first of what has come to be called the Calcutta Trilogy, though the plots and characters of the three films are unrelated - the economic and political landscape of India had darkened considerably,” the Times critic wrote.

“He had to watch even more closely, and more coldly, to understand this changing world,” the daily said. “And in the audience you watch in melancholy horror because you’re looking through the eyes of Satyajit Ray.”

“The “underlying something” of his rich, various body of work is, ultimately, a kind of close observer’s faith: if you can see the world clearly enough, you’ll never be a stranger to yourself,” the Times said.

“The Apu Trilogy is easily Ray’s best-known work, largely by default,” the Times said noting “few of the films he made between “The World of Apu” and his death in 1992 are available on DVD in the United States and Britain, and theatrical retrospectives like Lincoln Centre’s are, for an artist of his stature, shockingly rare”.

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