There seems to be a argument going on about whether Satyajit Ray is underrated or not. Certainly over in the USA he seems to be rather under-represented on DVD, but that’s not the case in other countries (such as the UK and Japan) where we can readily get hold of at least a few of his works on DVD. I also note that despite being ‘underrated’ he has a number of books rated 5 stars at Amazon.com and appears in most of my film history textbooks.
It seems to me, if anything, that Ray is overrated. Actually, let me clarify that, I’m not very fond of the word ‘overrated’ as to some people it seems to mean ‘crap’ and the works of Satyajit Ray are certainly not that. On the other hand, he does seem to have dominated the whole of India. What Indian auteurs do you know? Well there’s Ray…and…
It’s odd, Ray seems to fall into the same category as Theo Angolopolous. The less we see, the more convinced the world is that he’s the master and nothing else in his country matters. Somewhat unfortunate.
I’m not disputing that they’re both great directors, I think they’re both excellent and love almost everything I’ve seen from them, but sometimes you want to see something different.
Perhaps the problem is Bollywood. It’s pretty much the first thing that springs to mind when people talk about Indian film, and for those who wouldn’t touch it with a very long stick it’s hard enough explaining why they should go out and watch the Apu trilogy let alone a movie by some guy who isn’t a critically aclaimed super-auteur. Ray represents Indian cinema outside of Bollywood, but unfortuantely also obscures it somewhat.
I’m looking forward to to the upcoming Shyam Benegel match. Never heard of the fellow before today, but a quick browse of Wikipedia has made me interested.
So, I’m sure there are lots of people out there much more knowledgable about Indian cinema (outside of Bollywood) than me. I know Ray’s work of course, I went to a retrospective of Ritwik Ghatak’s movies a few years ago (which lead me to the conclusion that there’s not only more to India than Satyajit ray, but that some of it might actually be better) and I’ve recently seen a couple of works by documentary filmmaker Amar Kanwar (not likely to see him in a future Mubi contest, as he seems more interested in making installations than ‘real’ films).
This isn’t a thread made to knock Satyajit Ray. Maybe he is the greatest of the great Indian auteurs, I don’t know. But I’d like to know more.
Also, I appreciate Bollywood as a concept but I really am looking for something different. I’m aware that some directors trancsend the standard genres but I’d really like to see a discussion on India outside of the mainstream.
- Satyajit Ray (Charulata)
- Ritwik Ghatak (Subarnarekha)
- Mrinal Sen (In Search of the Famine)
- Tapan Sinha (Nirjan Saikate)
- Gautam Gosh (Boatman of the River Padma)
- Buddhadev Dasgupta (Tahader Katha)
- Aparna Sen (36 Chowringhee Lane)
Hindi Parallel Cinema:
- Shyam Benegal (Bhumika: The Role)
- Mani Kaul (Our Daily Bread)
- Kumar Shahani (Kasba)
- Govind Nihalani (Aakrosh)
- Girish Kasaravalli (The Ritual)
- Adoor Gopalakrishnan (Rat-Trap)
- Govindan Aravindan (The Circus Tent)
- John Abraham (Donkey in a Brahmin Village)
Oh, fantastic. That’ll keep me busy for a while!
For those who are not fond of musicals, can you distinguish between them for us?
I don’t mind a single song being sung, like the old woman sings in Pather Panchali, or like the scene in Ivan the Terrible Part II, but I am not big on song and dance numbers.
Also, I have a friend from Hyderbad, any auteurs from there?
There are no directors of musicals on my list, maybe aside Benegal’s Bhumika that is actually a satire on Bollywood musicals. Those directors listed are representatives of the Indian Parallel Cinema movement which doesn’t rely on songs or dance, but is actually a reaction to the commercial cinema of Bollywood, and displays an insightful portrayal of the human condition. I’m not aware of any relevant auteurs from Hyderabad even though I get a lot of DVDs from there, the Southern state of Kerala is far more well known in this regard.
In Bengal, I’ll add:
Rituparno Ghosh (Unishe April)
Are there any specific features which you think differentiate the regions either in style or content?
I subscribe your list absolutely.I would only add a couple of names in Hindi cinema. On the one hand there is Kamal Swaroop with his “Om dar-ba-dar”, and on the other, now in the 00’s, there is also Amit Dutta, whoseshort “Kramasha” and feature “Aadmi ki aurat aur anya kahanya” are really original, very personal, with amazing cinematography and sound that sometimes reminds of Tarkovsky (oops! sorry for the comparison). As for Shahani, I think that his masterwork is “Maya darpan”.
More than the regional aspect, I would highlight the personal vision of each of the authors mentioned by Apu. Of course, in most of them you can make the differences between one region or the other, but only in matters of wardrobe, landscape, but I don’t think this is what differentiates one from one another.