Satyajit Ray Tony Mallerman - Essay

Tony Mallerman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Satyajit Ray can reveal reality as can no other director in the world. He can give us the squelch of mud so that our feet are sucked into it; and the sound of birds frantically chattering so that we might reach out and touch a wing in flight; and the nearness of a great sluggish river so that we, too, are governed by it. One feels it possible to touch a Ray film, to make real tactile contact with objects and people which, in other films, we might admire for the patterns they made or the attitudes they struck.

One might see a thousand well-intentioned documentaries about India, yet learn less from them than from either of the two stories in Two Daughters. And besides his benevolently accurate eye, Satyajit Ray has a heart he has not controlled in the interests of sophistication. Director, producer, writer, composer—Ray has credits for all these in Two Daughters. But at the risk of seeming arch I'd say it is for something uncredited that he earns our undying gratitude. Every frame in this film proclaims his love for his people and their environment. In neither of his treatments of the two Rabindranath Tagore stories on which he has based his film need we care about his direction, in the formal sense of the word. Or whether his lighting could be improved. Or whether his camera is at times too static. If he lingers on a close-up for what, in a western film might seem too long, it is because for every second that close-up is on screen, we learn a little more. It is as though his standards were arbitrary, having little to do with the oeuvre of the cinema, and almost everything to do with his marvellous intuition, and his love. (pp. 29-30)

Tony Mallerman, "'Two Daughters'" (© copyright Tony Mallerman 1963; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 9, No. 9, June, 1963, pp. 29-30.