Satyajit Ray, whose films of Bengali squalor introduced Indian cinema to the West much as Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" had done for Japan, died yesterday in Calcutta, India.
Mr. Ray, whose stark portrayals of the desperately poor were appreciated around the world but not in his homeland, was 70.
Mr. Ray, the son of an Indian family prominent in the arts, won an honorary Oscar three weeks ago for lifetime achievement.
He had been admitted to the hospital Jan. 29 suffering from breathing problems compounded by a longtime heart ailment.
Besides the honorary Oscar, he also recently won two top Indian awards -- best film and best director -- for his latest movie "Agantuk," ("The Stranger").
Despite the accolades, his films never attracted a mass following in movie-mad India, where light song-and-dance comedies or violent, simplistic melodramas attract most of the crowds.
His "Apu" trilogy traced the life and times of a poor Bengal boy from childhood in the country to maturity in the city.
The story of Apu, which was a cataclysmic introduction to the West of the daily tragedy that is India, won the Grand Prix at the 1956 Cannes film festival and enabled Mr. Ray to leave the advertising business and became a film maker. Most of his remaining films, including two Apu sequels "Aparajito" in 1956 and "The World of Apu" in 1959, were set in Bengal, an impecunious but culturally rich region bordering Bangladesh. But Ray maintained they were not films about India or Indians but about people.