Aparna Sen had the singular honour of being Satyajit Ray’s heroine when she was 16. She played one of the three protagonists in Ray’s omnibus Teen Kanya in 1961.
Aparna , a globally acclaimed filmmaker herself, feels Ray’s relevance has not dimmed. “He is the most relevant filmmaker even today.”
However she feels there are Indian filmmakers too who have made an impact. “It’s not that there have been no other significant filmmakers though they may not be quite of Ray’s stature. Adoor Gopalakrishnan for one, Aravindan for another, both from Kerala. Mrinal Sen, Ritwick Ghatakand Buddhadeb Dasgupta from Bengal. Girish Kasaravally and Girish Karnad from Karnataka. The difference perhaps lies in the fact some of these others were so culture-specific, so ethno-specific that their films did not appeal as much to Western audiences.”
Aparna whose 36 Chowringhee Lane , Paroma, Sati and Yugant bear a direct kinship to the great school of Ray filmmaking feels , “Ray was deeply rooted in the soil of Bengal of course; yet his films still had a humane universal appeal ,especially his earlier films. Also, Ray came much earlier than most of these others. So, in an atmosphere vitiated with formula mainstream cinema that was coming out of India, Ray’s realism came like a breath of fresh air.”
Incidentally actress parliamentarian Nargis Dutt had condemned Ray in parliament for showing India in a poor light to foreign nations.
Says Aaprna, “Everyone knew that India was a poor country. It was stupid to pretend otherwise! But Ray gave faces to the rural poor and dignified them. He made them with their joys and sorrows relatable globally.”