On 30 march 1992, at Hollywood’s sixty-fourth Academy Awards, the British actor Audrey Hepburn presents the Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray with an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in filmmaking. Ray’s health had deteriorated due to heart disease, so he could not attend the ceremony in Los Angeles. Instead, he acknowledged the award, via a pre-taped video statement, from a hospital bed in his native Calcutta.
Over a 40-year career, Ray directed 36 films across varied genres. He made three of his most acclaimed movies in the 1950s: Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar. Known collectively as the Apu Trilogy, these films focus on the coming-of-age of one man in rural Bengal.
In his acceptance speech, Ray said, “I have learned everything I’ve learned about the craft of cinema from the making of American films.” During the Second World War, when many American soldiers were stationed in Calcutta to counter a potential Japanese invasion, local cinema halls often played Hollywood films. Ray devoured these movies, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers became two of his favourite actors. Ray’s appreciation for American films evolved from there. He said in his speech, “I loved them for what they entertain, and then later loved them for what they taught.”
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