Ray is a drama-thriller anthology series consisting of four short stories by Satyajit Ray. The four shorts are directed by Srijit Mukherji, Vasan Bala and Abhishek Chaubey. The series stars Manoj Bajpayee, Ali Fazal, Harshvardhan Kapoor, Kay Kay Menon, Gajraj Rao and Radhika Madan, along with other cast members.
Satyajit Ray’s 100th birth anniversary is nothing short of a celebration for most Bengalis out there. But if you’re someone who is familiar with Ray’s works, you’ll understand where all that excitement stems from. Ray is a literary genius and his works are still celebrated. I grew up falling in love with his and Soumitra Chatterjee’s Feluda. Of course, Ray has hundreds of other works, but there’s something just so charismatic and charming about the titular detective that 26 years later, Feluda’s name still gives me goosebumps. But, I digress.
Netflix’s Ray is a retelling of four of Ray’s short stories – Spotlight, Bahurupi, Barin Bhowmik-er Byaram and Bipin Chowdhury-r Smritibhrom.
Ray Original Stories by Satyajit Ray
Bahurupi is about Nikunja Saha, a makeup artist who just cannot get a job that he desires in his chosen profession. However, he never stops practising and perfecting his profession and starts practising his craft on himself. He gets so good that his family and friends are unable to recognise him. However, will he lose himself while perfecting his craft?
Spotlight follows the Chowdhury family who goes to Nagpur for a yearly family vacation during Durga Puja. There, they meet Angshuman Chatterjee who is dealing with crippling anxiety regarding his fame. However, that comes to a head when he comes face-to-face with Kali Ghoshal. Who gets the upper hand?
Barin Bhowmick-er Byaram follows Barin Bhowmick, a singer and kleptomaniac, who is travelling to Delhi on a train. As the journey starts, he meets Pulak Chakraborty whom he had met years ago on another similar train journey. Not only that, Barin remembers that he had stolen a Swiss clock from him. Coming face-to-face with him brings those memories and guilt to the surface. Does Pulak remember him though?
Bipin Chowdhury-r Smritibhrom follows Bipin Chowdhury, a bibliophile with a photographic memory, who meets Parimal Ghosh at a bookstore. However, when the latter gives him all the correct details about his life, Chowdhury is shocked and confused because he remembers nothing about him. It also makes him question his life and makes him insecure.
Obviously, Ray’s stories have been adapted to fit the newer generation, but they still try hold on to the essence of their source materials.
Netflix’s Ray: The Stories
Forget Me Not (Bipin Chowdhury-r Smritibhrom) by Srijit Mukherji adapts the characters as Ipsit and Rhea. In this story, Rhea and Ipsit had a frisky night during a vacation to Ajanta Caves which Ipsit remembers nothing about. Confused and angry that he remembers nothing about Rhea who seems to know so much about him, Ipsit goes down a spiral. Once famed for his brilliant ability to remember things, Ipsit can’t believe that everyone remembers Ajanta Caves, except for him. What happens later is darker and much more difficult to register.
Srijit Mukherji’s Bahrupiya (Bahurupi) follows Indrashish Shah, a makeup artist who’s in a rut both professionally and personally. His grandmother’s death puts him in a spot, although when he gets to know what she has left behind for him changes his life. But is it for the better?
Hungama Hain Kyon Barpa (Barin Bhowmick-er Byaram), by Abhishek Chaubey follows Musafir Ali, a Ghazal singer and a kleptomaniac. He is travelling to Delhi and on the journey meets Aslam Baig. Soon, he remembers that the two have met before, and Ali had done something untoward against him. How does the journey go?
Spotlight follows a self-obsessed star who goes off the rails when he comes across a bigger star, and god-woman, Didi.
Discussing Netflix’s Ray
The thing that is really great about Satyajit Ray is that his stories are simple, yet complex. There’s a thrill and confusion in the story, true, but it is also so incredibly simple to understand that when the twist comes at the end, you find yourself scratching your head and laughing. However, Netflix’s Ray, in order to go darker and pack on the psychological aspects of it, becomes more complex and gruesome than Ray’s original works.
Is that a bad thing? Not really, but it also fails to capture the simplicity and subtility of Ray’s works. Sure, the shock factor is there and I found myself wincing a few times, but it eventually did not give me the same amount of merry pleasure as well as confusion when things finally came to a head.
Another thing that really shocked me about Ray is the fact that there’s just so much sex where it’s not necessary. I understand adding your own touch to the story, but why does it always have to be sex? If you’re someone who has read or heard (Sunday Suspense, this one’s for you!) the original stories, there is something so relatable and naïve about them – that is lost somewhere in the Netflix series. I won’t spoil one bit of the story or how they are different in my Ray review, but I think somewhere I was disappointed.
That’s not to say that Ray is unpalatable. The stories, if seen on their own, are quite thrilling. Bahrupiya was the weakest of the four, in my opinion, as well as Forget Me Not, but Hungama Kyon Hai Barpa was fun, especially because of the cast. There’s something absolutely amazing about watching Manoj Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao together. Other than them, Kay Kay Menon is great too. Actually, I don’t think I have what it takes to say anything about the performances of such giants; they’re always great and are always delightful to see on-screen.
With that being said, I also wonder as to why the protagonists, who were mostly male in Ray’s works, couldn’t have been switched out for female characters? Women in Ray are mostly there to satisfy the men’s fantasies or to be a pawn in their games, something that wasn’t a thing in Ray’s original works. I am confused as to why this was added and what the anthology, or some of its stories, achieved by this unnecessary addition.
To be honest, I didn’t care about either of Mukherji’s entries. Hungama Kyon Hai Barpa was the most interesting and fun, and Spotlight was mostly hot and cold. I remember listening to Spotlight, it was delightful, quite baffling and very funny. I missed that feeling from the short. However, it’s still better than the first two.
The series deals with the different phases and frailty of human beings, sorry, men. Does it shine in bringing it forward? Well, that’s a grey area.
Ray is streaming on Netflix.