At 6ft 4½in tall, Satyajit Ray was head and shoulders above his countrymen. His height was unheard of among Bengalis, ‘a low-lying people in a low-lying land’, as the colonial saying went. With his stature, jawline and baritone voice, he might have been a Bollywood hero. Instead, he chose to tower over the world of art-house cinema, a directorial giant among the likes of Bergman, Kurosawa and Fellini, alongside whom he is credited with inducting cinema into the temple of high culture.
His standing was secured with his first film, Pather Panchali, which premièred at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1955. India then only churned out musicals which, as Ray later put it, ‘present a synthetic, non-existent society’.