Tahmina Laskar remembers Satyajit Ray, the storyteller on his 94th birthday. The summer holidays used to be full of reading the adventures of Feluda, the fascinating character created by Ray, and the rest of the time in imagining as to how it would feel to be actually part of such an adventure
Almost everyone in India is aware of the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray but few have experienced the taste of his fiction. My earliest memories of knowing him through his writings take me back to my school days. As a child I was fond of detective fiction and when I once discovered Ray’s “Feluda Series” there was no looking back.
My summer holidays used to be full of reading his adventures and the rest of the time in imagining as to how it would feel to be actually part of such an adventure. I remember how I used to long to finish a story amidst my daily routine of going to school and finishing my homework. How I coaxed my mother to buy me some more books with adventures of Feluda.
The Feluda series has been like a collection of quirky factoids, of fascinating individuals as antagonists and a journey to far-off locales without moving an inch. Ray’s writings were marked by a certain clarity which is rare, this clarity however did not affect his ability to be intriguing. Incidentally his fictional character-cult figure “Feluda” turned 50 this year but the fun around reading those books remains the same I feel.
His stories bring alive the time, place and the feel simply through words. His language was that of simplicity and his characters seemed real. The Bengali “bhadralok” were the part of his stories but then you could also place them into any other setting and not feel disconnected. That was the beauty of Ray, he could take you out of the Bengali theme but make you feel perfectly at home.
Another very fascinating side of Ray was that he used to sketch for his own books. He just put forth the idea before your eyes twinkling and sparkling with his sketches. His short stories which were sometimes fantasy themed were nothing short of amazing. The only limitations with Ray’s writings were that they never reached a broader audience, although translations are available but that I think takes the punch out of his stories.
However his abilities as a filmmaker always have inspired filmmaking across the world and that in itself proves the kind of appeal his work always held. Ray has shaped my adolescent thinking to a great extent and a lot of my fantasies were inspired by his writings. No matter how hard I try I cannot really thank this man for being the unseen mentor of mine. Mr. Ray you remain as relevant for me today as you were yesterday–very close, very real and very fantastic.