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THE ELEPHANT GOD

India, 1979 (MIFF 1980, Programme 48)

Director: Satyajit Ray

Each new film by Satyajit Ray brings with it fond memories of earlier privileged moments from this master of cinema. Ray has now been at the height of his powers for some years, and his work in the seventies displays a mixture of humanity, grace and beauty that has led him to be compared with Chekhov and Mozart. Certainly, there is a similar mastery in creating and developing complex ranges of human experience. And in film terms he is one of the few creators who do everything equally well: scripting, photographing, directing actors, editing and composing the music.

His latest film The Elephant God further develops characters that Ray first introduced in his 1974 film The Golden Fortress. The leading character is an Indian Sherlock Holmes called Feluda, who is accompanied by a teenage "Dr. Watson". They investigate the mysterious theft of a valuable gold statuette of Ganesh (the Elephant God), whilst visiting Benares on holiday. Ray then lays out the plot and clues in easy stages as the detective interviews the suspects.

Gradually the atmosphere becomes more threatening and there are some superb set piece sequences including the pursuit of a suspect through the alleys and tenements of Benares and the satiric scenes on the ghats.

Ray's own music offers some piquant orchestrations that are an additional virtue in this light-hearted and less serious work by an acknowledged master.

Satyajit Ray - Born 1921

Feature films — Father Panchali (1952), Aparajito (1956), The Philosopher's Stone (1 957), The Music Room (1958). The World ofApu (1959), Devi (1960), Two Daughters (1961), Kanchenjungha (1 961). Abhijan (1961), Mar)anagar(1963), Charulata (1964), Kapurush-o-Mahapurush (1965), Nayak (1 966). Chiriakhana (1967), The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha (1968), Days and Nights in the Forest (1969), The Adversary (1970), Company Limited (1971), Distant Thunder (1972), The Golden Fortress (1974), The Middleman (1975), The Chess Players (1977), The Elephant God (1979).

See also...

KANCHENJUNGHA

The setting for Satyajit Ray's first film in colour is the beautiful hill station of Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas: a point suspended in time between modern India and the gracious ... More »

APARAJITO

In the second part of the Apu trilogy, we find Harihar, his wife, Sarbojaya, and their son, Apu, in the holy city of Benares. Here, the father ekes out a living by reading the scriptures; when he ... More »

MIDDLEMAN

Somnath is a bright student, but he only gets an ordinary pass in his BA exams. His indifferent results make it difficult for him to get a job. Frustrated by inconclusive interviews, he comes across ... More »

DISTANT THUNDER

This is Satyajit Ray's second film in colour, and the Grand Prize winner at the Berlin Festival. The film is set in 1942, and its subject is the impact of war on an isolated Bengali village. ... The ... More »

PATHER PANCHALI

The Apu Trilogy, India's most important contribution to world cinema so far, is based on the Bengali novel by Bibhuti Bhusan Bannerji. The book contains a great deal of autobiographical material and ... More »

Monihara

Monihara, a ghost story based on a tale by Rabmdranath Tagore, is told by a dishevelled teacher to a silent, dark-clad figure on a river bank. Phanibhushan, a rich jute merchant, brings his beautiful ... More »

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