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Satyajit Ray: 4 Must-Watch Movies from the Celebrated Filmmaker

A file photo of Satyajit Ray.

A file photo of Satyajit Ray.

Satyajit Ray, one of the most respected filmmakers India has ever seen, was known for the realistic portrayal of life in his films.

Born on May 2, 1921, Satyajit Ray is being remembered today on his 98th birth anniversary. While you can binge-watch Netflix, Amazon and other online video platforms all the time, here are some masterpieces by Satyajit Ray that you can watch and pay tribute to the Bengali auteur who brought Indian cinema on the world map.  

Apu Trilogy
Satyajit Ray’s seminal Apu Trilogy details the three different stages of the protagonist, Apu's life, in three different movies, including Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar.
Without including Indian cinema’s usual musicals and melodramas, Pather Panchali announced the arrival of a new filmmaking talent and put Indian cinema on the map when it was released in 1956.
Prominent film critic Pauline Kael, who wrote for The New York magazine, had this to say for Ray’s masterpiece, “The first film by the masterly Satyajit Ray – possibly the most unembarrassed and natural of directors – is a quiet reverie about the life of an impoverished Brahman family in a Bengali village. Beautiful, sometimes funny, and full of love, it brought a new vision of India to the screen.” 
Mahanagar or the Big City (1963)
Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar or The Big City was a short story of a housewife railing against the ‘woman’s- place- is- in- the- home’ mentality. The piece, originally written by Narendra Nath Mitra, was brought to the world of cinema long before feminism was ‘cool’.
The late Roger Ebert, an influential Chicago Sun-Times critic, said the power of “this extraordinary film seems to come in equal parts from the serene narrative style of director Satyajit Ray and the sensitive performances of the cast members. At a time when we are engaged in the annual ritual of choosing our ‘best actress’, it might be useful to see the performance of Madhabi Mukherjee in this film. She is a beautiful deep, wonderful actress who simply surpasses all ordinary standards of judgment.”
Charulata (1964)
Charulata is set almost entirely within a house and its environs in 1880s Kolkata. The movie depicts the story of a bored housewife whose wealthy husband is too occupied with running his newspaper. The story later unfolds how the arrival of her husband’s young cousin creates ripples in her life.  
Writing for Slant Magazine, Jay Antani wrote, “Though Charulata has been obscured in the Ray canon by a certain the trilogy made at the outset of his career; it remains a singularly accomplished song to love, idealism, heartbreak, and disillusionment.”
Days And Nights in the Forest (1970)
1970’s Days And Nights in the Forest is a story about middle-class city slicks from Kolkata going on a road trip to rural Bihar. A tribute to Satyajit Ray’s mentor Jean Renoir, Days And Nights in the Forest tells the events that follow as these city slicks put up at a forest guest house in Bihar.

“(Satyajit) Ray gradually distills a magical world of absolute stasis: a shimmering summer’s day, a tranquil forest clearing, the two women strolling in a shady avenue, wistful yearnings as love and the need for love echo plangently […] Beautifully shot and acted, it’s probably Ray’s masterpiece,” wrote Tom Milne for Time Out magazine.