Quick quiz: who is Martin Scorsese talking about here? “I remember going to see my first film of his at 15 and witnessing a whole new world presented visually before my eyes. Without a doubt, in his films the line between poetry and cinema, dissolved… His work is something that I personally cannot wait to show my own daughter, once she is old enough to understand them.”
Hint: it’s not Michael Bay. No, he’s talking about legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray, who died in 1991. Watching his films, Scorsese did more than file them away for his daughter, too: when he was making Taxi Driver, it’s a fair bet he was referring to his notes from 1962’s Abhijan aka The Expedition.
Its lead character, Narsingh, is a taxi driver – sound familiar? Sure, he’s not a Vietnam veteran, and he never opts for a Mohican – but he is a volatile sort. A Rajput (a warrior caste), he’s been reduced to far lower social status than he feels he deserves, and vents his frustration and disillusionment by drinking. After an unwise passing manoeuvre on some local bigwigs, he flees to the sticks, gets involved with some opium smugglers, falls in love with a prostitute, and sets about rescuing from her sleazy associates. Frankly, the influence could only be clearer if Jodie Foster played her.
Of course, the films aren’t completely identical. Narsingh never thinks about assassinating any politicians, the mellow Ray had problems directing the film’s one fight scene, and we’re not sure how many porn cinemas there were in 1960s Bengal. Still, it’s impossible not to see the overlaps – and Scorsese’s not the only Ray fan in Hollywood, too: a well-known script by Ray is about a benevolent alien stranded on earth who befriends a group of children. Care to guess which Spielberg film this inspired?
See the Taxi Driver-esque footage above.
Main image: Getty Images