Satyajit Ray designing, rehearsing, shooting, editing, and scoring his films from the late 1960s through the 1980s as captured by photographer Nemai Ghosh.

When filmmakers meet…


"I adore Buster Keaton." — Luis Buñuel
"Just thinking about him moves me. He is one of my witnesses when I say that some of the very best filmmakers were athletes. He was the quintessential athlete, a real acrobat." — Werner Herzog
"My favorite director of all time is Buster Keaton, and it goes deeper than just being a comedian, because he is a great director and actor and funny in an extremely human way." — Jim Jarmusch
"Keaton had a great influence on me. A lot of his moves I intuitively copied in doing some numbers. I know I was thinking of him when I did a dance with a squeaky board and a newspaper. I didn’t look like him, but I often wish I did. He was a complete genius, and there was a lot of dance inherent in his movements." — Gene Kelly
"Bach is timeless. So is Masaccio. So is Buster Keaton…" — Satyajit Ray
"Keaton was beyond all praise, a very great artist, and one of the most beautiful men I ever saw on the screen. He was also a superb director. In the last analysis, nobody came near him." — Orson Welles

"I adore Buster Keaton." — Luis Buñuel

"Just thinking about him moves me. He is one of my witnesses when I say that some of the very best filmmakers were athletes. He was the quintessential athlete, a real acrobat." — Werner Herzog

"My favorite director of all time is Buster Keaton, and it goes deeper than just being a comedian, because he is a great director and actor and funny in an extremely human way." — Jim Jarmusch

"Keaton had a great influence on me. A lot of his moves I intuitively copied in doing some numbers. I know I was thinking of him when I did a dance with a squeaky board and a newspaper. I didn’t look like him, but I often wish I did. He was a complete genius, and there was a lot of dance inherent in his movements." — Gene Kelly

"Bach is timeless. So is Masaccio. So is Buster Keaton…" — Satyajit Ray

"Keaton was beyond all praise, a very great artist, and one of the most beautiful men I ever saw on the screen. He was also a superb director. In the last analysis, nobody came near him." — Orson Welles

Filmmakers as children: Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Yasujiro Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jacques Tati, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Stanley Kubrick.


"Somehow I feel that an ordinary person—the man in the street if you like—is a more challenging subject for exploration than people in the heroic mold. It is the half shades, the hardly audible notes that I want to capture and explore. […] My films are about human beings, human relationships, and social problems. I think it is possible for everyone to relate to these issues. On a certain level, foreign audiences can appreciate Indian works, but many details are missed. For example, when they see a woman with a red spot on her forehead, they don’t know that this is a sign showing that she is married, or that a woman dressed in a white sari is a widow. Indian audiences understand this at once; it is self-evident for them. So, on certain level, the cultural gap is too wide. But on a psychological level, on the level of social relations, it is possible to relate. I think I have been able to cross the barrier between cultures. My films are made for an Indian audience, but I think they have bridged the gap."
Satyajit RayMay 2, 1921 — April 23, 1992

"Somehow I feel that an ordinary person—the man in the street if you like—is a more challenging subject for exploration than people in the heroic mold. It is the half shades, the hardly audible notes that I want to capture and explore. […] My films are about human beings, human relationships, and social problems. I think it is possible for everyone to relate to these issues. On a certain level, foreign audiences can appreciate Indian works, but many details are missed. For example, when they see a woman with a red spot on her forehead, they don’t know that this is a sign showing that she is married, or that a woman dressed in a white sari is a widow. Indian audiences understand this at once; it is self-evident for them. So, on certain level, the cultural gap is too wide. But on a psychological level, on the level of social relations, it is possible to relate. I think I have been able to cross the barrier between cultures. My films are made for an Indian audience, but I think they have bridged the gap."

Satyajit Ray
May 2, 1921 — April 23, 1992

Satyajit RayIconsFilms

"I sit with my editor at every stage of the cutting. I feel editing to be one of the most vital and exciting aspects of filmmaking. Although my films are largely cut in the camera, there is still a lot of room left for refinements, especially in scenes of dialogue involving cutting back and forth between actors. Often a scene like this would be cut and re-cut several times until a final, satisfactory form has been achieved. Even after twenty-five years of filmmaking, I can truthfully say that I learn something new about the nature of cinema every time I cut a film with my editor." — Satyajit Ray

"I sit with my editor at every stage of the cutting. I feel editing to be one of the most vital and exciting aspects of filmmaking. Although my films are largely cut in the camera, there is still a lot of room left for refinements, especially in scenes of dialogue involving cutting back and forth between actors. Often a scene like this would be cut and re-cut several times until a final, satisfactory form has been achieved. Even after twenty-five years of filmmaking, I can truthfully say that I learn something new about the nature of cinema every time I cut a film with my editor." — Satyajit Ray

Satyajit RayFilm
FILMMAKERS ON JEAN-LUC GODARD
Chantal Akerman: You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner. For people like me, who started doing film because of him, it is a terrible fright. And the fact that the long evolution that Godard has been through can lead to this, almost brings me to despair. He was kind of a pioneer, an inventor who didn’t care much about anybody or anything. And that a man at this stage of his life isolates himself, should also be a lesson for us other film makers. 
Woody Allen: I think he’s a brilliant innovator. I don’t always love every film he’s made. I think he’s very inventive, but sometimes his inventions are taken by other people and used better. But he’s certainly one of the innovators of cinema.
Paul Thomas Anderson: I love Godard in a very film school way. I can’t say that I’ve ever been emotionally attacked by him. Where I have been emotionally attacked by Truffaut.
Michelangelo Antonioni: Godard flings reality in our faces, and I’m struck by this. But never by Truffaut.
Ingmar Bergman: I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them. Truffaut and I used to meet on several occasions at film festivals. We had an instant understanding that extended to his films. But Godard: I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull. Endless and tiresome. Godard is a desperate bore. I’ve always thought that he made films for critics. He made one here in Sweden, Masculin Féminin, so boring that my hair stood on end.
Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.
Jean-Luc Godard: I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway. We once believed we were auteurs but we weren’t. We had no idea, really. Film is over. It’s sad nobody is really exploring it. But what to do? And anyway, with mobile phones and everything, everyone is now an auteur.
Werner Herzog: Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.
Fritz Lang: I like him a great deal: he is very honest, he loves the cinema, he is just as fanatical as I was. In fact, I think he tries to continue what we started one day, the day when we began making our first films. Only his approach is different. Not the spirit. 
Roman Polanski: In fact the worst thing possible is to be absolutely certain about things. Hitler, for example, must have been convinced in the certainty of his ideas and that he was right. I don’t think he did anything without believing in it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it to start with. And I think Jean-Luc Godard believes he makes good films, but maybe they aren’t that good.
Satyajit Ray: Godard especially opened up new ways of… making points, let us say. And he shook the foundations of film grammar in a very healthy sort of way, which is excellent.
Quentin Tarantino: To me, Godard did to movies what Bob Dylan did to music: they both revolutionized their forms.
François Truffaut: You’re nothing but a piece of shit on a pedestal. […] You fostered the myth, you accentuated that side of you that was mysterious, inaccessible and temperamental, all for the slavish admiration of those around you. You need to play a role and the role needs to be a prestigious one; I’ve always had the impression that real militants are like cleaning women, doing a thankless, daily but necessary job. But you, you’re the Ursula Andress of militancy, you make a brief appearance, just enough time for the cameras to flash, you make two or three duly startling remarks and then you disappear again, trailing clouds of self-serving mystery.
Orson Welles: He’s the definitive influence if not really the first film artist of this last decade, and his gifts as a director are enormous. I just can’t take him very seriously as a thinker—and that’s where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin. But what’s so admirable about him is his marvelous contempt for the machinery of movies and even movies themselves—a kind of anarchistic, nihilistic contempt for the medium—which, when he’s at his best and most vigorous, is very exciting.
Wim Wenders: For me, discovering cinema was directly connected to his films. I was living in Paris at the time. When Made in USA opened, I went to the first show—it was around noon—and I sat there until midnight. I saw it six times in a row.

FILMMAKERS ON JEAN-LUC GODARD

Chantal Akerman: You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner. For people like me, who started doing film because of him, it is a terrible fright. And the fact that the long evolution that Godard has been through can lead to this, almost brings me to despair. He was kind of a pioneer, an inventor who didn’t care much about anybody or anything. And that a man at this stage of his life isolates himself, should also be a lesson for us other film makers. 

Woody Allen: I think he’s a brilliant innovator. I don’t always love every film he’s made. I think he’s very inventive, but sometimes his inventions are taken by other people and used better. But he’s certainly one of the innovators of cinema.

Paul Thomas Anderson: I love Godard in a very film school way. I can’t say that I’ve ever been emotionally attacked by him. Where I have been emotionally attacked by Truffaut.

Michelangelo Antonioni: Godard flings reality in our faces, and I’m struck by this. But never by Truffaut.

Ingmar Bergman: I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them. Truffaut and I used to meet on several occasions at film festivals. We had an instant understanding that extended to his films. But Godard: I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull. Endless and tiresome. Godard is a desperate bore. I’ve always thought that he made films for critics. He made one here in Sweden, Masculin Féminin, so boring that my hair stood on end.

Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.

Jean-Luc Godard: I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway. We once believed we were auteurs but we weren’t. We had no idea, really. Film is over. It’s sad nobody is really exploring it. But what to do? And anyway, with mobile phones and everything, everyone is now an auteur.

Werner Herzog: Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.

Fritz Lang: I like him a great deal: he is very honest, he loves the cinema, he is just as fanatical as I was. In fact, I think he tries to continue what we started one day, the day when we began making our first films. Only his approach is different. Not the spirit.

Roman Polanski: In fact the worst thing possible is to be absolutely certain about things. Hitler, for example, must have been convinced in the certainty of his ideas and that he was right. I don’t think he did anything without believing in it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it to start with. And I think Jean-Luc Godard believes he makes good films, but maybe they aren’t that good.

Satyajit Ray: Godard especially opened up new ways of… making points, let us say. And he shook the foundations of film grammar in a very healthy sort of way, which is excellent.

Quentin Tarantino: To me, Godard did to movies what Bob Dylan did to music: they both revolutionized their forms.

François Truffaut: You’re nothing but a piece of shit on a pedestal. […] You fostered the myth, you accentuated that side of you that was mysterious, inaccessible and temperamental, all for the slavish admiration of those around you. You need to play a role and the role needs to be a prestigious one; I’ve always had the impression that real militants are like cleaning women, doing a thankless, daily but necessary job. But you, you’re the Ursula Andress of militancy, you make a brief appearance, just enough time for the cameras to flash, you make two or three duly startling remarks and then you disappear again, trailing clouds of self-serving mystery.

Orson Welles: He’s the definitive influence if not really the first film artist of this last decade, and his gifts as a director are enormous. I just can’t take him very seriously as a thinker—and that’s where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin. But what’s so admirable about him is his marvelous contempt for the machinery of movies and even movies themselves—a kind of anarchistic, nihilistic contempt for the medium—which, when he’s at his best and most vigorous, is very exciting.

Wim Wenders: For me, discovering cinema was directly connected to his films. I was living in Paris at the time. When Made in USA opened, I went to the first show—it was around noon—and I sat there until midnight. I saw it six times in a row.


Folke Isaksson: I am certain that Italian neorealism meant a lot to you. When did you see your first De Sica?
Satyajit Ray: It was in 1950. I went to England to work in the head office of the Calcutta advertising agency. I was sent out for six months, and in the six months I was able to see 100 or 99 or 101 films, and the first film I saw there was Bicycle Thieves. It was in a double-bill at the Curzon with A Night at the Opera. It made a very, very interesting combination, but Bicycle Thieves… it just gored me. I was terribly excited, also, because I already had this idea of making Pather Panchali, but I wasn’t sure whether one could really work with an entirely amateur cast.
Isaksson: And here you had the proof.
Ray: I had the proof. And it was all shot on location, at least 90 percent shot on location. I had the proof that one could shoot out there, in all kinds of light. I had been told by professional directors here that you had to have control over the light, which meant you had to have artificial light. “You can’t control the sun,” that’s what they said. “And if you want rain, you have to create it artificially, because how could you control actual natural rain, it stops and goes and comes.”
[Sight and Sound, 1970]

Folke Isaksson: I am certain that Italian neorealism meant a lot to you. When did you see your first De Sica?

Satyajit Ray: It was in 1950. I went to England to work in the head office of the Calcutta advertising agency. I was sent out for six months, and in the six months I was able to see 100 or 99 or 101 films, and the first film I saw there was Bicycle Thieves. It was in a double-bill at the Curzon with A Night at the Opera. It made a very, very interesting combination, but Bicycle Thieves… it just gored me. I was terribly excited, also, because I already had this idea of making Pather Panchali, but I wasn’t sure whether one could really work with an entirely amateur cast.

Isaksson: And here you had the proof.

Ray: I had the proof. And it was all shot on location, at least 90 percent shot on location. I had the proof that one could shoot out there, in all kinds of light. I had been told by professional directors here that you had to have control over the light, which meant you had to have artificial light. “You can’t control the sun,” that’s what they said. “And if you want rain, you have to create it artificially, because how could you control actual natural rain, it stops and goes and comes.

[Sight and Sound, 1970]

Satyajit Ray:
I met Buñuel, incidentally, two years ago. We were staying in the same hotel in Acapulco. For about fifteen days he and I were the first to arrive at the breakfast table. (He is a very early riser, like me.) Very interesting to talk to. He was a tremendous admirer of Pather Panchali.

Folke Isaksson:
But he can’t hear?

Satyajit Ray:
Very deaf and very anti-Godard, I found him. He said, “I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.” And it just shows…

Conversation with Satyajit Ray / 1970 [x]

Satyajit Ray’s sketches of D.W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, Akira Kurosawa, and Pablo Picasso. [x]