By Renu Mehta, Toronto
As part of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) summer lineup, TIFF Cinematheque is celebrating the centenary of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray from August 4-27. The showcase of ten films will be presented exploring life and struggle in post-independence India, including Charulata and Nayak, along with films from Ray’s parallel cinema contemporaries, like Mani Kaul’s Siddheshwari and a free screening of Aparna Sen’s Mr. and Mrs. Iyer [August 6th].
Ray directed 37 works between the 1950s and early 1990s, including fiction, documentaries, and shorts, mainly in Bengali. A leader of India’s Parallel Cinema movement, he questioned the nation’s post-independence legacy, including poverty, patriarchy, and corruption — yet his films remained deeply humanist, and usually hopeful. Satyajit Ray: His Contemporaries and Legacy is curated by independent programmer Meenakshi Shedde.
TIFF’s presentation of Satyajit Ray’s legendary works opens with the filmmaker’s personal favourite, Charulata (The Lonely Wife, 1964), about a married woman snuffing out her literary talent to save her affair; Devi (The Goddess, 1960), in which a patriarch’s dream turns his daughter-in-law into a goddess incarnate; Nayak (The Hero, 1966), about a matinee idol’s insecurities; and Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players, 1977), a magnificent historical film in Hindi about the British overthrow of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh in 1856.
Also showcased in the series are films by four Ray contemporaries: Ritwik Ghatak’s Partition masterpiece Subarnarekha (The Golden Thread, 1965); Aparna Sen’s Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002), which addresses communalism through a love story; Jago Hua Savera (Day Shall Dawn, 1959), directed by A.J. Kardar (born in Lahore, part of West Pakistan when the film was made), and shot in Bangladesh (then in East Pakistan); and Mani Kaul’s astonishing, avant-garde documentary Siddheshwari (1989). Works by more contemporary filmmakers include Amit Dutta’s breathtaking Nainsukh (2010), which drew inspiration from both Ray and Kaul, and Anik Dutta’s Aparajito (The Undefeated, 2022), a charming primer on how Ray made his first film.