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8 - ‘An Essay on Man’: The Wise Person in Ganashatru, Shakha Prosakha and Agantuk

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2023

Devapriya Sanyal
Affiliation:
Mount Carmel College, Bangalore
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Summary

The films covered in this chapter are the very last that Satyajit Ray made before he passed away in 1992 and they differ on many counts from the ones which he made earlier in his career. The last few years of his life saw Ray being given the highest accolades in cinema and in India as a citizen – the Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement and the Bharat Ratna. In 1987 he was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French President Mitterrand, who himself travelled to Calcutta to confer the award on Ray as he was too unwell to travel outside the country. Ray's health was precarious and had already started breaking down before he began filming Ghare Baire in 1984. However, as he told his biographers, it was the thought of making more films that kept him alive and hopeful.

As noted in the previous chapter, Ray had found himself on the wrong side of the Indira Gandhi administration, which prevented him from being recognised for what he truly was – the ‘gold standard’ in cinema that India had to offer to the world – and acknowledged through the Honorary Oscar before getting the Bharat Ratna in India. Ray, as a Bengali, knew that Tagore suffered the same fate – recognition outside India before he was accepted by his compatriots. In 1913 Tagore had won the Nobel Prize in Literature – the first Asian and the only Indian to have won in this category. He received his knighthood only later in 1915 after winning the Nobel Prize, although he repudiated the knighthood in 1919 in protest against the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.

His health having broken down in 1984, Ray was now restricted to his bed, but thoughts of filming kept him going. When the doctors sensed an improvement in his health, they allowed him to shoot, but movement was restricted and so location shooting was limited and mostly relegated to the studio. The last three films are thus more verbose, relying more on the spoken word than on the moving image, always a hallmark of a Satyajit Ray film, but they are also more polemical.

The period of rest was perhaps a period of introspection for Ray, but one cannot say that he was at the height of his powers when he recovered enough to make films.

Type
Chapter
Information
Failed Masculinities
The Men in Satyajit Ray's Films
, pp. 141 - 158
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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