Young World

Ray of sunshine

All rounder: Many facets of Satyajit Ray. Photo: The Hindu Photo Library  

India’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. He is around 27 years old, 6’ 2”, has an athletic figure, is well-built, is an expert in martial arts and resides at 21, Rajani Sen Road, Ballygunge, Calcutta. Have you met him? His name is Prodosh Chandra Mitra and he is a private investigator. He is better known as Feluda.

Created by Satyajit Ray, the Feluda stories are narrated by Topesh Ranjan Mitra, also known as Topse — Feluda’s nephew and assistant (much like Watson). Feluda first made his appearance in 1965 in a Bengali Children’s magazine called Sandesh. This year Feluda completed half a century.

Ray created another interesting character — Professor Shonku, a scientist, who has not been heard of for a while. Then, one day, a large meteor hits the Matharia areas of the Sunderbans. A man called Tarak Chatterjee decides to visit the place to search for tiger skin. He does not find any but instead finds a red diary. This becomes the first book — The Astronaut’s Diary. The stories of Shonku are presented as diaries that were discovered after the scientist mysteriously disappeared. Shonku’s help is Prahlad and he also has a cat named Newton. Chatterjee, the narrator, visits Professor Shonku’s house and finds 21 other diaries! The stories are an amazing compilation of science fiction.

Ray wrote a collection of nonsense verse called Today Bandha Ghorar Dim. In this collection is a translation of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”. He wrote humorous stories on Mullah Nasiruddin, a Selijug (Turko-Persion) satirical Sufi who was considered a philosopher of sorts and is remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes.

Cultural icon

Satyajit Raj was born on May 2, 1921. He came from a family that were prominent in the world of arts and literature. When he was three years old, his father Sukumar Ray passed away. Sukumar Ray was a Bengali writer of nonsense rhyme. He and his mother managed to live with her earnings. He studied at Ballygunge Government High School, Calcutta and later at the Presidency College. His mother was insistent that he should study in Santiniketan, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. He was not too keen, but when he graduated he said he learned to appreciate Oriental Art because of his stint in Santiniketan.

His first job was as a junior visualiser in an advertising agency and he was paid Rs. 80 a month! Later, he joined Signet Press, a publishing house. He designed book covers for them. It is here that he began to work on a children’s version of Pather Panchali, a classic Bengali novel. He renamed it Aam Antir Bhepu, which means The Mango Seed Whistle. He designed the cover and did the illustrations for the book. This book moved him deeply and he used it as the subject of his first film. After the filming of Pather Panchali, there was no looking back for him. He received many awards — national as well as international — for his films. In Moscow, at the International film festival, he was awarded a prize for his contribution to cinema. He won the Silver Bear for Best Director more than once, which in itself is a rarity.

Satyajit Ray was a cultural icon of not only Calcutta but all of India. He died on April 22, 1992.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:50:42 AM |

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