Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Review: Deep Focus, Reflections on Cinema

Reviewed by: Purvi Shah

If you are looking for a walk down the lane of black and white movies, or some anecdotes on the making of films, there are few things that you will come across in this volume of collected essays by Ray. Its not a story of how films were made or a documentary on cinema of age. If you feel you can flip through the pages and find some exotic pictures of identifiable old movie stars, wrong again, unless of course you are a 50 plus Bengali. 

What it reflects at is much more than all of that as the title goes: it is indeed a DEEP FOCUS. The book identifies Satyajit Ray, as a thinker, an analyst and writer apart from being a film maker. You come to know about the evolution of Regional Bengali cinema and what the artists of those times used for inspiration. Not much of a guess work there, it is also a reflection on the works of parallel Hollywood movies and the competition it posed to Bengali cinema.
The  book brings alive the award winning movie " Pather Panchali" which has been made from a Bengali classic and the trilogy that followed. Ray describes in depth, how the movie was conceived and made . It comes forth as a living representation of the person Satyajit Ray himself, not to mention that it seemed to be his pet project , a much loved brain child. He highlights everything from ground work, to camera work  to the trials and tribulations that come along with an acclaimed international award for the movie. The still black and white pictures of the movie make the reading experience enchanting and so does the thought process Ray mentions he goes through while working. 

It also appears from his essays that he indeed is in love with the instrument of the camera as he appreciates detailed aspects of using the device in various ways and the technology that follows and is adapted. This love for evolving technology is evident and understandable as we are talking about the time when silent cinema transforms to sound and still pictures to continuously moving images. As any artist or technician would appreciate the ease in work which technology brings, Ray cannot hide his passion and enthusiasm for the instrument.

Included also are chapters on the research done by Ray on older than the old years of how the moving picture came into being and is where it is today. He compels the reader to think about cinema as an art and not a mere way of entertainment or story telling. He takes the pains to bring the average movie goer to go through the nuances of camera angles, light focus , background music and slow scenes, converting the reader into somewhat of a critic.

The revelation that Satyajit Ray was an artist, designed the lobby cards and film posters himself and was amongst one of the best story writer for children of times is astounding. We all think about our work and have our own way of describing it but putting it into such elaborate language with ample metaphors and deep insights requires commitment. His passion for his work outlives the commercial success. Ray has made a film called " The Adventures of Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne" , a comedy without a love story or a central character. Wow. 

Post read, it makes me go out in search of a DVD of " Pather Panchali" , "Apur Sansar" and "Aparijito". Though I don't know whether I would be able to follow anything without subtitles, but worth a try. The language is rich, the content clear and the sketches made by Ray speak volumes. A slightly different but profound experience put together.

A must read for a student of cinema or any art, it is a delightful experience for any movie lover. I for one was not aware of any of his works or any work of that age for that matter, but the book came as a pleasant surprise with its multiple metaphors and lovely language. Since it compels the reader to think , it is not a book you cannot just keep down. It is a slow read, but extremely well compiled and edited. The flow is maintained throughout and though it can be a little monotonous on some notes, it is a wonderful book. 


  1. what a wonderful blog it is!
    all the wishes...

  2. wonderful blog! can we publish it on the website of long live cinema? you'll be credited as guest author.

  3. Sure Prakash please do

    Thanks Mushadique!