Best of Satyajit Ray

Let me begin with a question: Who is the only Indian to ever receive an Academy Award for a lifetime achievement?

(Take a moment to think)

Yes, you guessed it correctly— Satyajit Ray.

Although his prolific work primarily graces the Bengali film industry, his influence extends beyond regional boundaries.

Therefore, it is not going to be easy for me to select a few of his works from his complete filmography. But for those seeking an entry point into the world of Ray, I have got you covered.

If you have only heard of Ray and have never experienced his magic, I have curated a selection of eight of his best films for you to begin with.

I like Satyajit Ray’s work for its socially relevant themes, audacious take on societal norms, thoughtful characters, and exploration of their intrinsic emotions in the outer world.

When you watch these movies, you will realize how they haven’t just aged; they have aged well. His cinema is as relevant today as it was 75 years ago.


Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s story ‘The Broken Nest’, ‘Charulata’ revolves around an isolated and artistically inclined woman who sees very little of her journalist husband due to his busy schedule. When the husband’s cousin visits the family, the husband requests him to spend time with Charulata to ignite her artistic aspirations and alleviate her boredom. Soon, they develop a bond over their shared love for art. However, as they begin to feel sexually attracted to each other, everything changes, leading to emotional turmoil that impacts everyone involved.

With the theme of forbidden love and incompatible companionship, Charulata stands out as a rare gem in the history of cinema.


A recent college graduate struggles to find a job in a city undergoing political unrest. The movie beautifully captures how personal struggles mirror societal and political conflicts of the time.

Known in English as ‘The Adversary,’ this film remains as relevant today as it was in 1970. Apart from its black and white canvas and the absence of modern technical prowess, there is nothing to prevent it from being considered a film made today. Especially for its exploration of issues like unemployment, it aptly reflects 21st-century India.


‘Mahanagar’ tells the story of a housewife who takes up a door-to-door salesman job, much to the dismay of her husband and his parents. By quietly observing a co-worker who considers herself equal to the men, she begins to learn from her and grow professionally. The film takes an interesting turn when her husband loses his job, and the dynamics of the family begin to change.

This film makes me chuckle at the evolution of our society in the last 60 years. What has changed? Everything, yet, nothing. The theme of women empowerment and standing up for oneself remains the most talked about issue today. What’s interesting is that we are still talking.

Pather Panchali

The first-ever project by Satyajit Ray and the initial installment of Apu’s trilogy, ‘Pather Panchali,’ remains Satyajit’s best work to date, according to some critics. The film, still a favorite at many festivals, follows the childhood of Apu, the youngest member of a poverty-stricken family.

The story begins with the head of the family, Apu’s father, leaving his village for a city in the hope of finding better lives for himself and his family back home.

Set in Bengal during a time of famine, Pather Panchali highlights the impact and devastating aftermath of the crisis.

Upon its release, the film immediately captured the attention of both critics and admirers worldwide. While critics at home blamed Ray for portraying India as a poverty-stricken state on the global stage, admirers outside considered Pather Panchali a landmark in Indian cinema for its profound societal and political commentary.


When a long-lost uncle suddenly appears at her niece’s doorstep, she can’t contain her joy and invites him to stay. However, soon they begin to suspect him as an impostor. This is when the husband, along with other friends and family, embarks on a quest to uncover his real identity.

‘Agantuk’ is thoughtful and draws from lived experiences. Utpal Dutt’s character as a global traveller will make you question notions of individuality and societal conditioning.

Jana Aranya

‘Jana Aranya’ tells the story of a man who, due to joblessness, takes up a middleman’s job but is soon forced to choose between his ideals and his job. The film beautifully captures the innocence and naivety of recent college graduates when they are faced with the real world.

It is a brutal depiction of a man’s desire to play by his own rules and his plight in not being able to do so even with the pure intent of changing the world for the better.


The second installment of Apu’s Trilogy, ‘Aparajito,’ follows Apu’s life during his growing-up years and his separation from his mother.

The story begins with the untimely demise of Apu’s father, causing him and his mother to move to a small village. Soon, Apu leaves his home to study in a faraway place, while his mother battles loneliness at home and eagerly awaits Apu’s return.

At the heart it, lies the mother-son relationship, and the nuanced storytelling that will melt your heart and may bring tears to your eyes.


Long ago, I came across an article that stated, ‘there are movies about movies, and then there is Satyajit Ray’s Nayak.’ This succinctly encapsulates why Nayak stands atop my list of all-time favorite Satyajit Ray films.

In this cinematic masterpiece, a renowned movie star embarks on a train journey to attend an event and receive an award. During this voyage, he encounters a reporter who requests an interview. The interview prompts him to revisit his past, reflect on his personal life, and confront his deepest insecurities and fears, ultimately leaving him distraught.

Nayak serves as both a commentary and an exploration into the personal lives of film stars and gives a valuable insight into their psyche and personal struggles they endure to maintain their stardom.

This concludes the list of my ultimate favorites by Satyajit Ray. I hope you enjoy these films.

Pankaj Madaan

A filmmaker and a screenwriter known for his comprehensive knowledge of world cinema and insightful commentary on the Hindi film industry.

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