This documentary presents a portrait of a dancer of “Bharata Natyam,” Balasaraswati, whom Ray had seen in performance in Calcutta in 1935, when he was fourteen years old and she was seventeen. Ray conceived this film in 1966 but, for various reasons, couldn’t properly undertake it until much later. Ray ascertained that Bala, 58 years old in 1976, had never been filmed, in spite of having danced extensively throughout her life. He made the film to document her art for future generations. –Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center
Satyajit Ray is one of cinema’s truest Renaissance men. In addition to his films, he is a reputed writer of short stories, a music composer (scores for his own films and other film-makers, notably Merchant-Ivory’s Shakespeare Wallah) and a painter and graphic designer of considerable skill. Appropriately enough, Ray derived from a background of great culture, the son of poet Sukumar Ray who died when he was three years old. His interest in fine arts, literature and painting led him to reside at Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan (an intellectual retreat for artists and thinkers) for a significant period of time. Ray’s true love however was the cinema. The cinema of 30s Hollywood, which included Fred Astaire musicals and comedies by Ernst Lubitsch; Russian films he devoured in repeated viewings at the Calcutta Film Society (which he co-founded in 1947) and later the Italian neorealist films which he discovered in London.
At the time of the Second World War, and the final period of… read more