Director - Satyajit Ray

Genre - Drama

India's populace adore their big screen heroes and oftentimes they will go so far as to attach a god-like status to these actors. Basically, if you're an A-list star in Bollywood, you're Zeus. In 'Nayak', Satyajit Ray literally ripped apart any romantic illusion associated with this blessed and chosen circle. An unavoidable trip taken in a train brings a famous actor's audience up-close and in his personal space, forcing him to have many reflective episodes of self-discovery and subsequently, an understanding of true significance. Ray's formidable strength is in taking a seemingly simple script and turning it into a work of tremendous depth and insight. It is almost as if his films enter a realm of heightened reality, the ironies of life becoming magnified ten-fold in his hands. Now, that's god-like.


All about Nayak


Shubhajit said…
Yeah, this is a brilliant movie. The film's lead actor, Uttam Kumar, was the leading star of Bengali cinema at that time (in fact, there never has been a more popular star in Bengali cinema), and Satyajit Ray wrote the movie with him in mind.

I especially loved the clash between theatre & movies. A lot of really good actors in Indian cinema start their career with theatre & then move to movies. Consequently, there's always an undercurrent of clash who've stuck to stage plays, and those who 'sell out to money' by becoming a film actor.

As you aptly mentioned, this is one of the finest 'behind the scenes' kind of look at or poring into the mind of a popular star, otherwise essentially unknown to his/her legion of fans.
Thank you so much for giving us your insight of the film. If you didn't mention it, we never would have known that the leading actor was in reality a bona fide star of Indian cinema. This realization induces a certain edge to this film we didn't connect with when watching it.

We hope you can give us 3 more insights.
1) We know that in India now, the sort of movies Satyajit Ray makes will never be Box Office hits. What we want to know is, in his lifetime, did his films generate huge Box Office takings?
2) Can you recommend some Indian movies that are similar to Ray's?
3) Ray's movies put Indian cinema on an international level. Was Ray a revered figure in India when he was alive?
Shubhajit said…
Well, nice to know about your interest.

First of all, Indian cinema might be a slight misnomer, simply because there are over 20 languages spoken in India, and at least 10 in which movies get made quite regularly. One of them happens to be Bengali - the language spoken in the state of West Bengal, & also in Bangladesh (Bangladesh was a part of India before 1947, & together with West Bengal formed the single state of Bengal).

Though monetary-wise those made in Hindi, Tamil, & even Telegu languages might overshine Bengali films, but (in all due modesty, & no disrespect intended to the other languages, as Bengali happens to be my language too), the fact remains that some of the best Indian filmmakers, writers, poets, painters, etc. have been Bengalis.

By the way, when you noted through my previous comment that the movie's lead actor Uttam Kumar was a star, it would be a tad more appropriate to say that he was the bona fide star of Bengali cinema, as those following movies in Hindi, Tamil, etc. will not necessarily agree to that :)

Well, as for your queries:

1) Not all of Ray's classics were hits, but given his stature, as far as I know rarely his movies failed at the box-office. But yes some of his movies were pretty big hits - movies like, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (The Adventures of Goopy & Bagha), Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God), Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress), etc. Nayak, too, was a hit, if I'm not mistaken.

2) Well, if by similar to movies by Ray, you meant good cinema, there are really quite a few. You can try movies by Ray's contemporaries like Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak & Tapan Sinha. You could even try contemporary filmmakers like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen, Budhhadeb Dasgupta. That was for Bengali cinema. As for Hindi cinema you could try movies by Guru Dutt, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Vishal Bharadwaj, etc. Tamil cinema too has had some acclaimed filmmakers like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Ratnam, etc. It's really a hard task to pick a few Indian films. But yes, if you are interested, we certainly can discuss on this further.

3) Well, the answer to that is an overwhelming 'yes'. He wasn't just an acclaimed filmmaker, but also an immensely popular writer of fiction & a graphic artist. Songs written & composed by him for his musicals Adventures of Goopy & Bagha, & Hirak Rajar Deshe still continue to be heard on the radio. In fact his grandfather & his father were also geniuses in their own rights, and were (& are) loved by the people. Satyajit Ray's death brought over a lakh people onto the streets of Calcutta - so you can guess the massive love & respect people had for him from that.
We can't thank you enough for your valued information. If you don't mind, we would like to ask a few more questions.

1) If there are Arthouse films in India now, why aren't they competing in major film festivals? Is is because the government does not support such movies enough?

2) Are independent films being made in India now?

3) Why is there such a vast difference between Satyajit Ray films and the ones we see in India now? What was it that triggered the shift? It seems in India now almost 90% of movies made are commercial and only 10% are thought provoking and serious works. If Satyajit Ray was so respected, why don't filmmakers in India honor his contributions by making better films? It took Sir Richard Attenborough to make a film about Gandhi for god sakes! And he was played by Ben Kingsley! We feel the Indians should have made their version of Gandhi. It would have been great but seeing the cinema climate in India now, they'd just spoil it by making Gandhi dance and sing.
Shubhajit said…
In response to your questions I'd like to say that it is imperative for us to separate mainstream cinema from arthouse (or good) cinema; in other words, to demarcate movies for the masses vis-a-vis those for the classes.

Indian movies, I agree, has come to be identified to many (esp. in the West) for the 'song-and-dance' movies that get made regularly. But equating Indian movies in such sweeping generalised terms would be like equating American cinema with the 'no-brainer' action blockbusters or mindless teen/sex comedies, or for that matter Chinese cinema with the assembly-line kung-fu movies. I'm sure you'd agree to take each of these views would be parochial on our parts.

Arthouse movies were and are made in India. Unfortunately, for various reasons (lack of foreign distributors, and perhaps even lack of cultural inclination of the Indian government) they remain largely confined to within India. Consequently, most of the Indian movies that reach foreign shores are usually popular movies.

As I said in my previous comment, try movies by directors like Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Rituparno Ghosh et al and you'll realise there's a whole lot of Indian cinema outside and far removed from the 'song-and-dance' movies you are aware of.

And as for your observation that in India 90% movies are commercial and only 10% are of the serious kind, I will not contest your claim. Rather I'd like to add here that, such is the case with the cinema of any and every country you can possibly think of (perhaps with the exception of the likes of Romania where only a handful of movies get made).
Thank you. We're over the moon that you have answered our questions and more. What you have said is indeed very comforting as we now know there are plenty of good films in India. Finding them would be hard though as we have yet to see any dvds of the films by the directors you mentioned.

Interest in Indian culture has grown by leaps and bounds lately, brought on by the success of 'Slumdog Millionaire'. Hopefully this will bring more serious Indian cinema to our shores and the rest of the world. There exists great potential in Indian cinema as can be seen by its history and the abundance of talented actors. If there are detractors, these are people who have not seen proof of its brilliance.

We're grateful to have heeded your advice on Ray. We'll look out for the others you listed.
Shubhajit said…
Thank you too for initiating the discussion. It was a pleasure on my part. And yeah, do keep your eyes open for movies by those directors I mentioned, cos I've a feeling you'll like them.