As an amateur film enthusiast, one of my biggest regrets has been discovering Satyajit Ray’s work late in life. For some reason, Ray’s movies always gave me the impression that they need to be seen with a certain level of nuance and understanding.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, the auteur was an expert in making movies for children with funny easy-to-understand plotlines, while still maintaining the deep political message you associate his movies with. A little something for both kids and their parents. This is what helped in attracting whole families to his movies.
So, on his 101st birthday, we’ve compiled a list of five children’s movies by Ray that can be seen by all ages.
5) Two (1964)
While not necessarily a feature-length film, this 12-minute short film by Ray explores the story of two kids, showcasing their toys to each other. As the movie progresses, the theme of greed and violence can be seen echoing throughout the narrative. Many say this was an allegory of the US-Vietnam war of the time. We’ll let you decide for yourself.
4) Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969)
Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne was perhaps one of the most ambitious projects of Ray’s career. The trilogy dealt with elements like fantasy, adventure and everything mainstream today, while still maintaining a socio-political message. The first movie follows the adventures of Goopy and Bagha, two social outcasts and aspiring musicians who somehow cross paths with The King of Ghosts, who after being impressed by their song, bestows them with three superpowers.
3) Hirak Rajar Deshe (1980)
In a sequel to Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, we see Goopy and Bagha returning to overthrow the tyrant ruler of Hirak, who rules over a famine-stricken rural Bengal. How do they do it? You’ll need to find that out yourself. But just like Ray’s other two entries on the list, Hirak Rajar Deshe consisted of many subtle metaphors on structural violence, labour oppression, capitalism and more. Back then, the movie was considered to be an important message against fascism, but we’re sure its themes remain relevant to this day.
2) Sonar Kella (1974)
After dabbling with fantastical elements, Ray next set his eyes on exploring the detective genre with Sonar Kella. Also called the Golden Fortress, the movie follows detective Prodosh C. Mitter, who is tasked with protecting a child who has memories of his previous life. Based on his novel by the same name, the movie explores themes relating to children’s innocence, the exploitation they suffer at the hands of adults and more. There’s something for everyone to learn here.
1) Pather Panchali (1955)
Of course, no list of Ray is complete with talking about Pather Panchali, his directorial debut. Inspired by a novel of the same name written by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, the movie is essentially a social drama set in a rural Indian village. It explores a world which is rapidly changing. This is brilliantly captured by Ray through the innocence of a child named Apu and his relationship with Durga. Both of them deal with the loss of their childhood and the oncoming societal expectations which are yet to be thrust onto them.