The name of Satyajit Ray, the famous filmmaker is known to film lovers across India. But most Bengalis of my generation would know that Satyajit Ray (1921–1992) was far more than an extraordinary filmmaker. He was an immensely talented music composer, a best-selling writer and one of Bengal’s most gifted illustrators and typeface designers. He revived and edited Sandesh, the highly-respected children’s magazine started by his grandfather in 1913. Sandesh had to be discontinued in 1935 but was revived in 1961 by Satyajit and the poet Subhash Mukhopadhyay. Ray’s fictional detective Pradosh Mitter alias Pheluda, and Professor Shonku, his sci-fi hero are household names in Bengal. Satyajit Ray’s achievements in a diversity of arts are simply staggering. Equally famous are the names of Satyajit’s father Sukumar and grandfather Upendrakishore. Generations of Bengalis have grown up reading Sukumar Ray’s nonsense verse and Upendrakishore’s stories for children. Chandak Sengoopta’s Rays before Satyajit is a collective biography of an ensemble of characters from the Ray family whose lives play out against the great social and political ferment of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
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