While India celebrates Chennai Express, the world salutes Satyajit Ray!

Cineswami reminds us of an important milestone that we missed out in all the hoo haa about Chennai Express’s grand box office record

We are in 2013. It is still the centenary of Indian cinema, a temporal milestone that India seems to have already forgotten after a brief outbreak of celebrations in May. Ever in search of mindless entertainment, the country is flocking to cinemas to watch the goofily enjoyable Chennai Express. Meanwhile, spare a thought for the late Satyajit Ray, the greatest filmmaker that India has ever produced. India appears to have little or no regard for his body of work, while the world does.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the August body that awards the Oscars, in celebration of the restoration of 19 Satyajit Ray films by the Academy Film Archive, will present new prints of the prolific filmmaker’s renowned early work known as The Apu Trilogy. The two-evening screening series kicks off with a double feature of 1955’s Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) and 1956’s Aparajito (The Unvanquished) on September 6, and concludes with 1959’s Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) on September 9, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Special guests for the program include actor Sharmila Tagore, who made her film debut in Apur Sansar, and Dilip Basu, founding director of the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center Collection at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The Academy has also partnered with the British Film Institute (BFI), the American Cinematheque and the Austrian Film Museum to screen prints from the Academy Film Archive’s collection.

In London, a comprehensive Ray retrospective began at the BFI Southbank on August 14 and will play through October 5. In Los Angeles, the American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre, in partnership with the Academy, will present Unlocking the Golden Fortress: Satyajit Ray Restored, from September 12 through October 21, featuring all 19 of the Ray films that the Academy Film Archive has restored to date. In Vienna, the Austrian Film Museum will present Satyajit Ray: Early Works from December 4 through January 8, 2014.

The Academy Film Archive’s Satyajit Ray Preservation Project is an ongoing effort to preserve and restore Ray’s entire filmography. It began in 1992, after the producers of the Oscar telecast, who were gathering clips for the presentation of Ray’s Honorary Award, discovered that there were very few prints or video masters of Ray’s films in the United States and that they were incomplete and in poor condition. The Academy decided to create a catalogue of the surviving elements of all Ray’s films to assess whether any were in danger of being lost. The final report was chilling and prompted resolute action. For its preservation efforts, the Academy has collaborated closely with the Satyajit Ray Society; a group of producers who worked with Ray; the National Archives of India; the Merchant and Ivory Foundation; the Film Foundation; and the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz.