His interests in films and music, particulaly western classical music, developed quite early in his life. After graduation he spent a year in Santinikentan ( a university founded by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel Prize winner whose work became the source material for many of Ray's film), studying art. Then he began his career as a commercial artist. But films had become a passion; he began writing film treatments/scripts as a hobby and was lucky enough to have one of his script outlines seen by the French film maker Jean Renoir, who at the time was making his film "The River" in India.
It was with Renoir's encouragement that Ray made his first film, PATHER PANCHALI (The Song of the Road) in 1955. It was successfully received in Bengal, thus fully vindicating the years of dedicated work it took to complete on a minuscule budget. Its outstanding reception at the Cannes Film Festival the following year anticpated the revelation it was to become to further audiences world-wide. This was the first of what was eventually to become the Apu Trilogy, a brilliantly sustained chronicle of Apu's fortunes. It established the Ray hallmark of sensitivity to character, whether central or peripheral to the story.
In later works (he was to make 29 features and 7 short films), he explained his wish to present situations without propaganda or didactic statements, and to 'leave the public to draw their own conclusions'. He wrote all his own scripts. For the music, always an essential component to his work, he either commissioned the best Indian classical composers and musicians, or wrote the music himself. He also wrote the musical scores for others, notably for James Ivory's "Shakespeare Wallah"(1965). He was a distinguished graphic designer, and his wide cultural interests included an informed appreciation of western cinema. All his films were about, and set in, India. His achievement, nonetheless, was their universality. One identifies with his characters, and their humanity and spirit is recognisable to everyone, wherever thay may come from.
But that is not all. In addition to being a film maker, Ray was also a writer of eminence, and a gifted illustrator (examples on this page). In 1961, he revived Sandesh, the children's magazine his grandfather had started. It was in the pages of theis magazine that two of his famous creations were born: Feluda, the detective; and Professor Shonku, the scientist. Their arrival created a major stir in Bengali literature, for no other author had ever handled detective and science fiction for the young with the competence that Ray showed. Between 1961 and 1992, he wrote 35 Fedula stories, and 40 stories featuring Shonku. Besides these, he produced nearly 80 short stories for Sandesh, in addition to limericks, puzzles and crosswords - all in Bengali. Fortunately for the non-Bengali reader, many of his stories have now been translated into English and other European languages.
Ray illustrated most of his stories himself. In fact, even when he worked on his films, he drew little pictures of almost every shot, and sometimes designed and drew the posters as well. He also produced some memorable dust jackets.
Only three weeks before his death in April 1992, an Honorary Oscar was awarded to him by the American Acadamy. The large number of other awards that he received include an Oxford University honorary doctorate, one of the first six fellowships given by the British Film Institute, the Legion of Honour from President Mitterand of France (who went to Calcutta to present it)