For quite a long time, I didn’t understand what makes Satyajit Ray’s movies feel like home to me and why they gave me what I would call a warm and unromanticised feeling of consistent, fundamental goodness and emotional nourishment. Initially I thought it may simply have something to do with my affinity for the Indian culture and a certain atmosphere in Ray’s movies which, for me, cannot be completely separated from the cultural aspect (or, rather, my personal emotional associations in relation to it.)
But there’s something else too, at least as significant: Ray’s characters are deeply and joyfully alive, even in the midst of suffering. There’s a sense of fundamental trust in life, which is why Ray’s characters never despair or, if they do, it’s only temporary and they always rediscover hope. There’s something which is always there, supporting them, a cradle of unconditional love, which is firm and unshakable, but also gives them the freedom to explore, to live their lives fully (the joy, as well as the pain), to realize their potential, a love that is both impersonal and, on the other hand, very personal and intimate, a love or a presence which resists any potential attempts to intellectualize it. It is this deep connection to life, to full-fledged life that gives me that sense of home and reconnects me with it, or, much sooner, reminds me that it’s always there.
(You won’t find evil characters in Ray’s movies and even the more crooked ones are ultimately profoundly humane and rather funny. And as much as I don’t like cultural clichés, I see this as part of an Indian approach to life.)
Featured image: still from “Aparajito” by Satyajit Ray