HORRIFIED BY THE cultural illiteracy of American undergraduates, a French intellectual fumes in Philip Roth's The Human Stain that, 'By the time she was their age, she'd seen all the Kurosawas, all the Tarkovskys, all the Fellinis, all the Antonionis, all the Fassbinders, all the Wertrniillers, all the Satyajit Rays . . . and all these kids have seen is Star Wars.' British undergraduates, too, would fail her test, but they could plead extenuating circumstances as far as the Indian film-maker Satyajit Ray (1921-1992) is concerned. Ray made some forty films, but, try as you might, you can buy only about six of them on video or DVD in Britain. Things are a little better in America, but not much; for most film buffs in the West, Ray's name continues to be better known than his work.
Is this because Ray never worked outside Calcutta, a city that is peripheral even to the Indian movie industry? Hardly. He was showered Ray: a drop of golden with international recognition from the very beginning of his career. His first film Pather Patuhali (1955), made on a shoestring budget, won