Film retrospective of acclaimed director fulfills deathbed promise

Satyajit Ray's movies to be shown in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles

A deathbed promise to the internationally acclaimed filmmaker Satyajit Ray has led to the first comprehensive American retrospective of Ray's films. The Complete Satyajit Ray: Cinema Through the Inner Eye, which includes more than 35 feature films and documentaries produced from 1955 to 1991, opens in Washington, D.C., on March 1. Twenty films from the retrospective will also be shown in Los Angeles, CA.

Ray was fatally ill with heart disease and hospitalized in his hometown of Calcutta, India, in January of 1992, when he received a visitor from America, longtime family friend Dilip Basu. Basu was shocked to discover how ill Ray had become.

"He could see the sadness on my face," said Basu, "and I think out of kindness, to distract me, he said, 'Dilip, you remember you talked about making an archive of my work? I want you to do that.' Of course I promised I would."

After Ray's death in April 1992, Basu established the Ray Film and Study Collection (Ray FASC) at UC Santa Cruz, where Basu is a professor in the History Department. Backed by an advisory council which includes renowned director Martin Scorsese, Basu began assembling Ray's archive, currently comprising more than 10,000 items, including Ray's notes and sketchbooks for his films, stills, posters and articles about Ray. The archive resides in McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz.

A prolific writer, Ray authored 75 novels. But he is best known internationally as an auteur-style filmmaker. Ray wrote, produced, directed, and edited his movies; acted as director of photography for his films; scored music for those made from 1962 on; laid out the films scene-by-scene in his own storyboard drawings; and even designed publicity posters.

Collecting and restoring Ray's film negatives--the originals were found to be in critical condition--is painstaking and costly work. Basu has received grants in support of the project, including one from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"Nobody believed it could all be done," said Basu, who has been directing the Ray FASC while maintaining his teaching schedule. He has found himself working weekends in Los Angeles at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences labs and studios, translating dialogue to create new subtitles, then rushing back to Santa Cruz to teach during the week. After nearly a decade of work, Ray FASC has completed restoration of 11 films.

These films, in addition to unrestored movies, will be shown at The Complete Satyajit Ray: Cinema Through the Inner Eye. "We wanted to show everything," said Basu, "and also to make a point about the need for restoration." Because of the number of films, the retrospective screenings will be held at several venues, including the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Two major stars of Ray's films--Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore--will be featured speakers during the retrospective. Other speakers include distinguished Indian film directors Shyam Benegal and Mira Nair and American director Gregory Nava.

For more information on screenings of The Complete Satyajit Ray: Cinema Through the Inner Eye, see these web sites:

From March 30 to April 28, 2002, 20 films from the retrospective will be shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in Los Angeles, CA. Sharmila Tagore will also be a featured speaker at selected screenings in Los Angeles. For more information, see