Shaji N. Karun: Satyajit Ray Memorial talk
Right before the start of the third edition of Isola Cinema, we received a very special message from our friend from India. It came with a special gift:
I have received your information on the coming festival. It is indeed great that we work on a goal that itself is a light to remove the darkness ofour sensibility.
Shaji N. Karun
I also attach a speech delivered
at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute
Calcutta. It expresses my stand on Cinema.
I consider it as a great honor of mine to be here and deliver a speech on this day of India’s great filmmaker’s 85th birth anniversary at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute.
On this day I wish to look into any Filmmaker’s position as a philosopher in the society in general. We know that we consider Tarkovsky as a philosopher from filmmaking community and Einstein another philosopher from science community. We have Satyajit Ray from our Cinema.
Earlier we have seen Einstein and Russell, co- existed as philosopher and scientist, interacted each other, addressed each other and protected their society with their vision of future. Many filmmakers, writers, poets, musicians, dancers, painters became inspiration for the people and the land we breathe or settle. Hence this day, May 5th, 2006 is the best day for analyzing the moving imagery of Television and Film from philosophical outlook.
We argue that spectators perceive, think, apply knowledge, infer, interpret, feel and make use of knowledge, assumption. Expectations, prejudices when viewing, and making sense of Film.
Currently, we have on numerous occasions spoken of subtilization of cinema and subtle cinema in order to describe what contemporary cinema seems to them – strongest or newest? What should be understood by these terms? How subtle it is?
It is healthier to examine the role of Television, the newest image readings, in this context.
Nowadays Television is a piece of Furniture. It is designed by the advertisers or new type of ‘activists’. ‘They give us the memorandum that Television suits with the d??cor of our Living Room, or Bed Room, or Hotel Room. We know that physical forms are in piar with the current trends to suit with the colour of our living backdrops.
However, let us ‘notice’ the list of items it publicizes or what we are watching. We understand simply that the real heart of the image has been spirited away or stolen from the surroundings of Television. It is no longer treated as a symbol of ‘transparency’ or in other expression, ‘the purity’. Silently and powerfully, we are requested to categorize TV idiom as the best mass media!
During Satyajit Ray’s time, Cinema had to make its place to what was stronger. The Filmmaker’s vision was safeguarding the place of Cinema in the world. The task STILL lies with us. Currently, the real filmmaker is taking up a risk to undertake this task, in each of his or her film, probably to announce that we can build a NEW POSSIBLE WORLD again? However, truthfully, now it is a ‘menace’!
The world of humans is indeed remarkably rich, complex and with anonymities. It involves the understanding and experiences of the world around emotion and including sensation, perception, thought. For some in this world, the colour exists only as light of frequencies, but filmmakers or creators ‘see’ colour. Therefore call an artist’s world as a unique world. In their world, things ‘happen’, plant ‘grows’, prices are ‘raised’, people ‘loose’ their job, children ‘beat up’ their siblings, friends ‘become’ sad once in a while. Most of the artists do not treat these events as random and unbelievable, but they construct casual relations between events and existence. Concern is one of the fundamental parameters of filmmaker’s world. Then they are able to make clear distinctions between living and non-living affairs, between AGENTS and possessions. But for the filmmaker, the agents too have personality and characters driven by emotions, perception and intentions. They use them as code of communication; we project them, based on their ‘appearance’ like skin, face, bodily appearance, gender, clothing etc. What I mean to say is that the cultural and religious & personal rituals are important in our world to give sens and meaning to the world and above, all providing the audience for social interactions. Thus emotions become mechanism by which we relate to and make meaningful for the world around us.
Emotions are experiences that regulate and synchronize our behavior with others.
Therefore filmmaker’s world is the world that we perceive, experience, feel desire, think about, and have attitude about, it consist of the things with which we live and through which we live. Therefore it is multifaceted and multilayered. It intermingles with bodies, minds, cultures, artefacts, history, social processes and individual experiences. Hence it becomes the world of a creator who defines the meaning of ‘seeing’, a mental process of passion. Understanding the mental process involves the perception, conception, interpretation, evaluation, judgement, presumption and emotion and thereby becomes a natural practice of filmmaker’s ongoing life.
This is what Satyajit Ray taught to me. As a filmmaker with independent position, I too have undergone such experiences. I always remember the words of George Bernard Shaw while my creation is in progress. He said “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
Through the knowledge of science, or through the inventions of technology we have derived cultural artefacts such as knife, spear, fire, telephones, restaurants, computers to instigate a new way of thinking and practice that never existed before. Cultural artefacts are distributed, mass produced and shared by many individuals, thus ultimately became homogeneous thought. But the important question is: Are they shared culturally or socially? It is still a great notion for finding the reaction.
From communication point of view, it enables personal and mass distribution. But on the other hand it becomes a threat to cultural variation. Frankly, critical searches are required on this area because this Mass Media technology boosts its process at the speed of LIGHT. The enquiry is: Do we need it? Does it benefit us?
If we look into our natural pace, from Darwin like perspective, our world did not emerge in a day. It was developed through many ages of cultural history. Evolutionary theory argues that this development was not completely unprepared and random, but it was adapted from the features of our habitat. Our experiences of objects, spaces and causes are relevant in an environment in which it is critical for us to perceive and manipulate object, navigate in space, and understand casual relationship between events. Our gift of mind performs useful senses in the life of humans. We can strongly believe that it must have played for a place of evolutionary value.
The great towering personalities like Satyajit Ray, Russell, Aravindan, Ghatakh, Mrinal Sen, Gauthom Ghosh, Buddhadev Dasgupta have created an ambience to think that our mind or cultural faculty have become more critical than our ability to adapt changes in the current physical vicinities.
In a sense, culture takes superior responsibilities in the creation of new WORLD. Artist considers it more as a philosophical approach. They, filmmakers like us, investigate perceptual and emotional process involved in creating a world of beauty, then how it is evocative to the civilization or culture. Here comes the importance of Film Schools, Cultural Study Centres and teaching or meeting places for philosophies.
Today we live in 21st century. If we favour our evolutionary ability of storytelling for establishing a system for entertainment, for mental enlightenment or leisure, we can certainly acknowledge that Darwinism and fast growing technologies are moving in the same boat! To appreciate this state of ethos, we have to promote positive emotions of empathy and social bonding for strong survival beliefs. Cinema is a great protector for it. Its ability is to initiate fantasies and values. It is a focus for the senses or mind and it can perform useful functions of life. It has evolutionary values and it can link sciences and philosophies. Satyajit Ray’s imageries are example to combine our way of existing in the backdrops of our philosophies.
There are no filmmakers who exercised such a control over these philosophies as Satyajit Ray. By representing environments of substantial forms with utmost truth and by exploring human passions, delight, sadness and expressions to the thresholds, Ray made known many aspects of human conditions. Much of his Cinema’s strength lies in the whole consciousness of these values and preferences of his. It has made the society strong, rich and grand.
As a cinematographer, I always fancied the merits of perspectives he desired – the perspective of sight, perspective of emotion, perspective of justice, and perspective of hate and perspective of insignificant spectacles. When perspective attains the quality of immortality like Ray’s, we, the filmmakers, celebrate it with grace and pride. We know that Satyajit Ray’s metaphors and imageries have attained the meaning of thoughts with profound humanity. We call it the sensibility for an inspiration. It is what the filmmakers like me get moving and looking forward with courage! His mastery over craft is the inspiration for other creator’s awareness and wakefulness.
When the master filmmaker Satyajit Ray visited Poona Film Institute for the first time in 1974, thirty two years ago, as an examiner to judge the quality of cinema made by the students, he adjudged my film ‘The lady on the landing’ as the best photographed film of the year. It was the best moment of my career and I cherish it at every moment.
I still cherish it on this day, delivering a speech in honour of the memory of Satyajit Ray. I am enjoying a state of bliss, and I take this occasion to pay my respects to him in the presence of his admirers around me. I also thank Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Calcutta immensely for inviting me to be active participant and witness of this day.
(delivered on 5th May 2006 in connection with Ray’s 85th birth anniversary at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Calcutta.)