Aparna Sen had the singular honor of being the heroine of Satyajit Ray at the age of 16. She played one of the three protagonists of Ray’s omnibus Teen kanya in 1961. Aparna, a world-famous filmmaker herself, believes that Ray’s relevance has not waned. “He is the most relevant filmmaker still today.”
However, she believes there are also Indian filmmakers who have made an impact. “It’s not that there haven’t been other important filmmakers, although they may not be quite Ray’s stature. Adoor Gopalakrishnan for one, and Aravindan for another, both from Kerala, Mrinal Sen, Ritwick Ghatak and Buddhadeb Dasgupta from Bengal, Girish Kasaravally and Girish Karnad from Karnataka. Perhaps the difference was that some of these others were so culturally specific, so ethno-specific, that their films did not appeal to Western audiences as much.
Aparna, including 36 Chowringhee Lane, Paroma, Sati and Yugoslav having a direct kinship with Ray’s great film school feels, “Ray was deeply rooted in the soil of Bengal of course; yet his films still had a universal human appeal, especially his earlier films. Plus, Ray came a lot earlier than most of those others. So, in an atmosphere stale by the mainstream cinema formula coming out of India, Ray’s realism came like a breath of fresh air.
By the way, parliamentary actress Nargis Dutt had condemned Ray in parliament for showing India in a bad light to foreign nations. Aaprna says, “Everyone knew India was a poor country. It was stupid to pretend otherwise! But Ray gave faces to the rural poor and honored them. He made them with their joys and sorrows relatable all over the world.
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