Satyajit Ray's name may not sound familiar, but in film circles, the Indian director's name can be found alongside those of Francois Truffaut and Akira Kurosawa.
"It's a cliched phrase that film is a window onto a world," says Museum of Fine Arts Film Curator Marian Luntz. Ray's films did for India in the 1960s what Kurosawa's did for Japan in the 1950s: generate greater cultural awareness of his homeland.
"His films enabled western audiences, who might not have a chance to go to India, to have a sense of the society, the politics, the sensibility, the language," Luntz says. In addition, Ray's work went on to influence countless other filmmakers of different nationalities and even generations.
MFAH films will show Ray's Charulata (The Lonely Wife) next week and will show his documentary about Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose novella was the basis for Charulata, Friday night. The screenings are meant to jointly commemorate Tagore's 150th anniversary year and Ray's 90th.
Charulata is set in British India and tells the story of a lonely woman who begins an affair after her wealthy-but-perpetually-busy husband asks a family member to keep her company. All is well until tragedy strikes.
Ray's documentary on Tagore, meanwhile, uses both dramatized episodes and archived materials to tell the story of the poet's life. According to the MFAH website, Ray was reported to have said of the film "Ten or 12 minutes of it are among the most moving and powerful things that I have produced."
Rabinadrath Tagore will be screened Friday at 7 p.m. and Charulata will be shown next Friday, June 17 at 7 p.m. Screenings are at the Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films