Under the sun

Friday, November 25, 2005

Satyajit Speaks

Only A Rasika Can Appreciate A Work Of Art
It is not easy to define what gives a film the distinction of a work of art. Some definitions will emerge in course of this talk, but it is necessary at this point to stress the fact that to be able to tell a work of art from a work of mere craftsmanship calls for a trained response. In other words, it calls for what the shastras define as a rasika. One wouldn't think so from the way seemingly learned opinions on this or that film are brandied about by all and sundry.

Nevertheless, it is true that serious, accomplished films-films which use the language of cinema with insight and imagination-challenge our sensibilities in the same way as the more rarefied forms of music, painting and literature. Even an apparently simple film which makes a direct impact on the emotions may call for understanding.

The fact that some of the leading Bengali writers of the time-Sailajananda Mukherji, Premankur Atarthi, Premchandra Mitra, Saradindu Bandopadhyay-were involved in films as writers or directors or both, did little to improve the quality of Bengali films. When writing for films or directing them, they seemed to assume a totally different identity, and aim at the lowest of lowbrows. The idea seemed to be that cinema being a popular medium it should only lightly divert and not seriously engage the audience. That it was possible for a film to do both seems not to have struck them at all.

(The cinema) people were determined not to encroach into areas which would endanger the safety of their positions. What was singularly lacking was the spirit of adventure. Everyone played safe, and the result was stagnation.

Unfortunately, this double function of artist and entertainer was rarely sustained in the period of sound. Popular entertainment, too often, came to mean films of overt escapism, where the artist was conspicuous by his absence.

On Critics
A critic earns the right to analyse the merits and demerits of a film only when he has a true understanding of the art. He must be able to judge every aspect of film-making, from writing the scenario to its editing. In other words, he must always remember that cinema is a joint venture.

In my view, a critic performs a useful purpose only when he is able to build a bridge between the director and the audience. That is his main responsibility. A critic has to be a connoisseur since he makes a living out of making appraisals. Where a film is simple as well as good, the critic's responsibility is diminished because the viewer can appreciate its excellence without the critic's help. But there are some films which can be understood only if the viewer has the necessary knowledge and perception. In such a case, a critic has to step in and perform the role of a teacher.
Thus spake Satyajit Ray on cinema....


  • “I pooh-pooh this attitude of art cinema,” he announces. “Who are these guys who sit on a pedestal, calling themselves makers of art cinema? And who dares call my films, or for that matter those of Guru Dutt saab or K Asif saab, non-art cinema? When did this divide begin? I'm a fan of Shyam Benegal not because he’s an art cinema-maker but because he’s in cinema per se. And I admire Ramesh Sippy and Raj Khosla as much as I admire Gulzar saab or Shyam Benegal.

    Kamal in Filmfare

    By Blogger cellvi, at Fri Nov 25, 05:45:00 PM  

  • Cellvi,
    Nice interview.

    "The idea seemed to be that cinema being a popular medium it should only lightly divert and not seriously engage the audience. That it was possible for a film to do both seems not to have struck them at all."
    This is 100% consistent with Kamal's views :)

    By Blogger Bala (Karthik), at Fri Nov 25, 05:53:00 PM  

  • The book itself is an excellent read!! Right?

    By Blogger Zero, at Fri Nov 25, 06:05:00 PM  

  • Zero,

    By Blogger Bala (Karthik), at Fri Nov 25, 06:09:00 PM  

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