Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the essence as a dewdrop on a little blade of grass...

satyajit ray book cover 1981

satyajit ray: i'll tell you a story here. in 1928, when i was seven, i went with my mother to tagore's university. i had my little autograph book, newly bought, and my mother gave the book to tagore and said, "my son would like a few lines of verse from you." and he said, "leave the book with me". next day i went to collect it, and he brought it out and said: "i have written something for you, which you won't understand now, but when you grow up you will understand it." it's one of the best things he ever wrote in a small manner, and what it means is this: "i have travelled all around the world to see the rivers and the mountains, and i've spent a lot of money. i have gone to great lengths, i have seen everything, but i have forgotten to see just outside of my house a dewdrop on a little blade of grass, a dewdrop which reflects in its convexity the whole universe around you."

interviewer: and this dewdrop is in the indian tradition?

ray: yes, this is indian tradition. it's very, very important. the presence of the essential thing in a very small detail, which you must catch in order to express the larger things; and this is in indian art, this is in rajput miniatures, this is in ajanta, this is in ellora, this is in the classics, in kalidasa, in sakuntala, in folk - poetry, in folk - singing. this is the essence i think.

interviewer: this essence is an enormous combination of the cosmic and the microscopic... or electron microscopic?

ray: yes, and this is becoming more and more clear to me. i recently bought a book with a whole series of electron-microscope photographs of points, pin-points, of this and that, maybe a little piece of algae, a piece of protoplasm or the head of a thing, and the patterns that it reveals, it goes back to the upanishads...i don't know what a two thousand times more powerful microscope is going to show... how far life extends in the cellular form. i think of this awareness of the cellular form in early classics... and i think of works of art as being cellular, as being little, little nodes, little, little molecules which connect up in details and details and also in a total conception of the general form and a conception of the detail, in a density, a richness...

an interview with satyajit ray, from the booksatyajit ray - film india, 1981, found at the flea market on sunday...

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