Satyajit Ray was a brilliant filmmaker who transformed the face of Indian cinema with his films. However, not many are familiar with Ray's work as a graphic designer and artist. He created the posters for many of his films, capturing the central ideas into one image. You will come across these on the web, but a better, more personal, way to discover these would be via a walk on the street where he lived.
Bishop Lefroy Road in South Kolkata is famous by association. Ray stayed here for 22 years. In 2016, the street underwent a makeover of sorts. The Ray house was declared a grade-1 heritage building by Kolkata's civic body. And the sodium vapour lights on the street were installed with Victorian-era street lightis on which you can see replicas of the posters of celebrated films designed by Ray himself. This stretch is now an open-air gallery of his work.
It is his background in art and design that gets reflected in his posters. Isabel Stevens, the production editor of Sight & Sound magazine, had pointed out Ray's talent in an article, saying “Directors such as Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock may have collaborated closely with their film poster designers; other filmmakers may have had a background in graphic design [Abbas Kiarostami] or started their careers illustrating posters [Polish surrealist Walerian Borowczyk]; some have even occasionally designed their own [Akira Kurosawa]. But none have authored such an imaginative collection of posters for their own films as Indian director Satyajit Ray.”
One of the most striking posters on the road is that of the film Devi which showcases an important scene in the film about religious superstition, when an elderly man dreams his daughter-in-law is the embodiment of goddess Kali. The divided face of Sharmila Tagore represents this split identity.
The poster for the film Ganashatru (shown above in the main image), with fingers pointing at the protagonist in a circle, symbolises the accusatory crowds of people and big business who declared the doctor a heretic for saying that the so-called holy water of the temple was polluting and killing local people.Now thanks to this city project, you can view his work in a setting that was close to him.
Ray had no formal training in filmmaking. He dropped out of his fine-art degree and signed up as a junior visualiser at the British advertising agency DJ Keymer. He became well-known for his book cover designs while at Signet Press. Ray was trained in calligraphy and could create typefaces in Bangla and English fonts.
Now thanks to this city project, you can view his work in a setting that was close to him.