‘An honour for me to be here among the thousands who adore Ray. Life’s biggest regret is that (I) never worked with him.’ Naseeruddin Shah wrote in the visitors’ book as he came, on the afternoon of 15 February 2013, to the inauguration of the long-awaited exhibition of the artworks and still photographs by Satyajit Ray held at Rabindra Natya Mandir in Mumbai.
The three-day show, which was the first ever Ray exhibition in Mumbai in the last thirty years, was organized by Satyajit Ray Society under the aegis of the Presidency College (Calcutta) Alumni Association.
The inauguration was a joint affair in which film personalities like Govind Nihalani, Naseeruddin Shah, Dhritiman Chaterji, Tinnu Anand and Sandip Ray lent a hand. Shyam Benegal, who calls Ray his ‘mentor’, came the next day as he had failed to turn up at the inauguration.
‘A rare glimpse into Satyajit Ray’s graphic work,’ wrote Govind Nihalani in the visitors’ book. “Brought back memories of my interactions with Ray. Enlightening and delightful!’
‘My heart is in this exhibition of the works of my Master,’ wrote Tinnu Anand. ‘My soul too belongs to him.’
Dhritiman Chaterji wrtote, ‘Wonderful to see so much effort go into this collection. (It is) happening in Mumbai after a long time. We, in the Ray Society, will support these endeavours whenever they are planned.’
Exhibition shows Ray's many talents and passions
Published: Sunday, Feb 17, 2013
By Pratik Ghosh | Place: Mumbai | Courtesy: DNA
In 1962, the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray made Kanchenjungha, his first colour film and first original screenplay. A meticulous planner, the homework Ray did before he embarked on the shooting was extensive.
At the inauguration of a three-day exhibition of Ray’s sketches, illustrations and prints in Mumbai, his son Sandip recounted an anecdote that shows just how remarkable and varied Satyajit Ray’s talents were. “He had made four aerial maps of Darjeeling, for the amount of light available for shooting: sunny, cloudy, cloudy-bright and misty,” recalled Sandip Ray, who is also a filmmaker. “In each map, the areas had been marked out, and on the far right of the sheet was the list of actors needed for the shots. Years later, when I showed the maps to Geological Survey of India, they were astounded by the precision.”
Celebrated as he is for his filmmaking, Ray’s artistic skills are less well-known even though it was as an illustrator and graphic artist that he began his career. After studying Oriental art as a student at Shantiniketan, a career in advertising at DJ Keymer followed and in this exhibition organized by Ray Society and Presidency College Alumni, Mumbai, are exhibits like layouts for Chelsea cigarettes and Jabakusum hair oil that suggest advertising lost one of its impressive creative talents when Ray chose filmmaking as his career.
At the inauguration on Friday, the panel of special guests comprising Naseeruddin Shah, Tinu Anand, Dhritiman Chatterjee and Sandip Ray made no secret of their admiration for Ray, who was a true Renaissance man. Shah voiced an anxiety that’s shared by many — the archiving and preservation of Ray’s works. . “The fact that Sandip is working towards preserving them is reassuring,” said Shah. Among Shah’s dearest possessions is a letter from Ray, requesting him to do the commentary for a film. “I told him ‘I’d stand on my head if you want, to give it my best shot,’ said Shah. But the project didn’t work out. Maybe I came across too strongly,” he chuckled.
Watch all videos
The book is published by the Delhi-based HarperCollins Publishers India in association with the Kolkata-based Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films, popularly known as Satyajit Ray Society or just Ray Society. The book is an outcome of an intensive search by the Society for long-lost articles by Ray, lying scattered in dailies, magazines, film bulletins and suchlike publications some of which have now gone extinct.
The book is edited by Ray's filmmaker son Sandip in association with Dhritiman Chaterji, Deepak Mukerjee, Arup K. De and Debasis Mukhopadhyay. Eminent film-maker Shyam Benegal has contributed a foreword to the book.
Benegal released the book in Kolkata at an event which took place on 28 January 2012 at the Satyajit Ray Auditorium of the Indian Council for Cultural Relation's Rabindranath Tagore Centre . He also gave a Ray Menorial Lecture, organized by Ray Society. The Society screened Benegal's two-hour documentary on Ray at the event.
The book contains 22 essays and talks --- long and short. The oldest of them was published in The Statesman, dating back to 1949. These essays have been divided into three sections: "The Film-maker's Craft", "Pen Portraits" and "Celebrating Cinema". The first section contains Ray's articles and talks on cinema, the second his views on such other great directors as Godard, Antonioni, Bergman, Chaplin as also on Uttam Kumar, the matinee idol of the Bengali screen who played the lead roles in his Nayak (The Hero) and Chiriakhana (The Zoo). The third section deals with Ray's experiences of, and views on, film festivals at home and overseas.
The book is rich with images like film and production stills, rare portraits of Ray, and a substantial number of sketches and photographs by the great director. In addition to the images in the main part, the book contains 24-page photo-inserts printed in art paper.
The publications the essays have been culled from include The Statesman, Anrita Bazar Patrika, Hindustan Standard, Link, Filmfare, Sight & Sound, Sunday and Mainstream.
The cover spread is designed by Pinaki De.
From Shyam Benegal's Foreword
"The longest essay in this collection is Under Western Eyes, which is also the most rewarding could well be his film Testament.
"The present collection of essays in Deep Focus serves as an excellent introduction to Satyajit Ray's thoughts on the Cinema. It also opens yet another window to a deeper appreciation of his films.
"A valuable addition to the not too many worthwhile books on Indian cinema."
Watch all videos
From Sandip Ray's Preface
Watch all videos
"We had, however, a few articles in our archives. For others, we launched a search, a difficult one at that, as some of the dailies and periodicals where they had appeared were no longer extant. Our efforts ultimately yielded a number of essays and talks, long and short, which seemed good enough material for a full-fledged book. The search for more is still on."
Deep Focus: What they say
”It is a long time - 1976, to be precise - since Satyajit Ray published his first collection of articles, Our Films, Their Films...Now, at last, we have it. Deep Focus contains Under Western Eyes and 21 other previously published pieces by Ray, under the editorship of his son Sandip Ray, with a foreword by Shyam Benegal, garnished throughout with stills from Ray’s films, film posters created by Ray and witty caricatures from his pen, and some unfamiliar photos of Ray at work by the documentary film-maker B.D. Garga, plus a few striking photos by Ray himself.” - Andrew Robinson in Outlook
”Deep Focus would prove to be a prominent source of reference for all those who love cinema and wish to acquaint themselves with Ray’s vision on different themes, in a different timeframe. If the respective countries (France,Japan and Italy) could be proud on Jean Renior, Akira Kurosowa and Vittorio De Sica, India too could nominate some of the most epoch making cinema makers from her land. But in any case, Ray would be the ranked first and his works would serve to know about India in making and complete totality.” - Atul Kumar Thakur in Businessworld
”The book (Deep Focus)...has a detailed foreword by Shyam Benegal who was very close to Ray and shot a two-hour documentary on the legendary filmmaker. Benegal says, ’I felt honoured when I was requested by Harper Collins to write a foreword for the book. The articles are priceless and provide valuable lessons to us and countless others involved in the art of filmmaking’.” - Ranjan Dasgupta in The Hindu
”Deep Focus, a book by Satyajit Ray, is a collection of rare articles penned by the internationally acclaimed filmmaker on Charlie Chaplin, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean Luc Goddard and Bengal’s matinee idol Uttam Kumar, along with writings on the film festivals he attended.” - The Hindustan Times
”Sandip Ray has recently accomplished a tough task - he’s managed to bring out the second book (Deep Focus: Reflections on Cinema) of original writings by his father, Oscar Award winner Satyajit Ray. ’Deep Focus has writings by my father from 1949. We, at Ray Society, got in touch with a lot of Ray collectors in and around Kolkata, who willingly helped us with whatever writings they had. The book is quite a substantial collection of essays on Charlie Chaplin, Godard, Uttam Kumar, various international film festivals that he attended with his films as well as a jury member - in short, Deep Focus is his personal cinematic experience’.” - Dipankar Ghosh Biswas in DNA
”You get a sense of who he was, this tall, austere, distinguished Bengali Renaissance Man, from his writings and some of its famous luminaries. ...Deep Focus: Refections on Cinema is only the second volume of his writings. ...And it is a delight, because you can dip into it for the forthrightness (some would call it arrogance) of Ray’s views on the world and movies.” - Shubhra Gupta in The Indian Express
”In all, a brilliant read. No wonder, Ray was to become the most authoritative voice Indian cinema has known.” - Derek Bose in The Pioneer
”After thirty-five years, an original collection on cinema by Ray, with photographs.” - The Financial Express
”The essays, in a way, still reflect cinema as it is. Nothing changes except the master has gone - irreplaceable in his cinema and writing.” - Khalid Mohamed in The Asian Age
”Scattered in dailies, magazines and other publications, some of which are now extinct, some long-lost articles by Satyajit Ray have been compiled in book form. Rich with images, Deep Focus: Reflections on Cinema, reveals his views on names like Charlie Chaplin, Michelangelo and Bengal’s matinee idol Uttam Kumar.” - The Sunday Guardian
”And should you belong to the cult of Satyajit Ray, you want to get hold of Deep Focus: Refections on Cinema, which has been edited by his son Sandip Ray, in association with others. Ray was a great writer, a fluent, fluid writer, and that’s always a reason to read someone. And he was a genius in his field of endeavour, a second good reason.” - Man’s World
”Our Films, Their Films was released in 1976. ...Deep Focus contains 22 essays and talks ~ some long, some very brief ~ focusing on Ray’s views on other film-makers; his experiences at film festivals he competed in and attended as a jury member; what he thought of the art and craft of cinema and a discussion on adapting literary works to the big screen. The oldest article, dating back to 1949, well before Ray became a film-maker himself, is called ”National Styles in Cinema” and was published in The Statesman on 14 August 1949.” - Somdatta Mandal in The Statesman
A legacy revisited
The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films, a non-profit organisation better known as Satyajit Ray Society or just Ray Society, organised a weeklong (May 3 and May 5 - 10, 2009) Satyajit Ray Festival, ‘Ray Today: A Legacy Revisited’ at Kolkata’s Birla Academy of Art & Culture and Star, one of the best known city theatres, to mark the 88th birth anniversary of the man who became a legend in his own lifetime.
The Festival, featuring music from his films, plays based on his stories, films by him, a debate on his heritage, and a quiz contest on his life and work, was held at the grounds and the auditorium of the Birla Academy as well as at the Star Theatre. The Society also brought out a brochure containing contributions by Ray and others who had an opportunity to observe and work with him.
Why this festival?
It may not be unlikely for people to ask why the Society decided to organise a Satyajit Ray Festival after all.
The reasons are not far to seek. As stated, restoration and preservation of the priceless Ray legacies is an avowed objective of the Society. Another object is the dissemination of the maestro’s work. The festival was an exercise in dissemination.
But there was yet another reason. The Society had for some time looking for ways of setting up a Satyajit Ray Heritage Centre in or around the hometown of the master director. Lack of funds was a roadblock. So the Society resolved they should hold a festival on a large scale which would serve the twin purposes of dissemination and fundraising. The idea was to raise the seed money required to start the construction of the Heritage Centre. Perhaps now the time has come to say that the Society is on the threshold of turning their vision into a reality.
Ray was not merely a filmmaker. Apart from having a complete mastery over all areas of filmmaking, Ray was an author, essayist, editor of a magazine for children, lyricist, music composer, typographer and artist. And the last but not the least, he was also a consummate photographer whose output of still photographs was as large and impressive as it was rich in its variety. As part of the festival, the Society, in association with the Birla Academy, presented, for the first time ever in the world, a large exhibition of Ray’s artworks and photographs, which form a significant part of the Society’s archive. The exhibition was inaugurated by renowned painter Jogen Choudhury at one of the galleries of the Birla Academy on May 3, in the presence of such film luminaries as Mrinal Sen, Javed Akhtar, Dhritiman Chaterji, Sandip Ray, Haradhan Bannerjee, Dipankar De, Pradip Mukherjee, Barun Chanda and others.
Ray memorial lecture
The opening of the exhibition was followed by another ceremony on the Birla Academy grounds where D. N. Ghose, president of the Society, announced that a small part of the Festival proceeds would go to fund the Society’s ongoing work of the restoration and preservation of the priceless Ray legacies and the rest was to be used to begin the construction of the Satyajit Ray Heritage Centre. The representatives of the organisation that had sponsored the festival inauguration were felicitated. Javed Akhtar, poet, lyricist and screenplay writer, then delivered his scintillating Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture and took questions from the audience. Dhritiman Chaterji was the Master of Ceremony.
A two-part quiz contest was held at the auditorium of the Birla Academy on the evening of May 5. The first part featured a quiz contest on Ray’s life and work, while the second was on Feluda, the super-sleuth Ray immortalised in his fiction and films. Students from schools, colleges and universities situated in Kolkata and other parts of Bengal participated. The quiz contest was conducted by Somenath Roy.
A debate on the motion, ‘Bengali cinema has forgotten the heritage of Satyajit Ray’, was held at the Birla Academy auditorium on the evening of May 6. It was moderated by Dhritiman Chaterji. Well known authors, filmmakers, actors, journalists, and TV personalities such as Saibal Mitra, Tilottama Majumdar, Sangeeta Banerjee, Anindyo Chatterjee, Sudipta Chakraborty, Rajat Roychoudhury, Bidipta Chakraborty and Ujjal Chakraborty attended the debate as speakers.
Three plays based on Ray stories (Anukul, Apsara Theatre-er Maamla and Bonku Babur Bondhu), were staged at Star theatre by three leading drama groups of Kolkata, Theatre Passion, Charbak and Swapnasandhani, on May 8 - 10.
Films and music
The Society chose to screen three documentaries and a short film by Ray, namely Rabindranath Tagore, The Inner Eye, Sukumar Ray and Two, at the Birla Academy auditorium on May 7. The same evening, the Satyajit Ray Festival shifted to the Star Theatre with an enthralling musical performance by Bhoomi, a popular Bangla Band.
There were yet other musical programmes. The Aul Baul orchestra played Ray music on May 9, while the following morning Chandrabindoo, another popular Bangla Band, entertained the audience with their performance as a closing treat. Madhabi Mukherjee, the actress who played the lead female roles in three major Ray classics, and Bibhas Chakraborty, a leading stage director and actor, were present as chief guest on May 8 and May 10, respectively. O.P. Bhatt, chairman of the State Bank of India who was present as special guest on May 8, paid a glowing tribute to Ray and acclaimed the Society’s long and patient efforts in restoring and preserving the Ray legacies.
Ray Festivals in Europe
By Arup K. De
Reproduced from The Statesman, October 2006
Though contemporary India displays a curious indifference to Satyajit Ray and his works, the remaining world, the western hemisphere in particular, presents a lesson in contrast. It may be coincidental that as many as three European countries had decided to celebrate Ray hard on the heels of one another, but that sure shows their enduring fascination for one of the greatest masters of world cinema.
In June 2006, it was in the Portuguese town of Setubal. In October, it was in Valladolid, a city 180 miles from the Spanish capital of Madrid. The following month, it was in Nantes, a French town not too far from Cannes, where Ray’s trailblazing Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) picked up the Best Human Document Award way back in 1956. The countries, which held and continue to hold Ray events on a moderate to large scale, may have some cultural affinity because of their shared European lineage and geographical proximity, but they hardly know Bengal, Ray’s home province where his films are rooted, and Bengali, the language he spoke and made his films in. Yet they recall not only Ray’s contributions to filmmaking by screening his films at well organised festivals but chose to present him in all his versatile splendour. This bears eloquent testimony to the fact that the appeal of Ray’s cinema and other creative works is on the rise rather than decline in the world at large, and that the tribe of his admirers overseas is growing.
Portugal kicked off the present wave of the unlinked Ray celebrations in Europe by screening five of his films at Festroia (Festival International de Cinema), held from June 2 to 11 in Setubal. The Ray Retrospective at the festival included Mahanagar (The Big City), Charulata (The Lonely Wife), Kapurush O Mahapurush (The Coward and the Holy Man), Nayak (The Hero) and Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God). On top of this, the festival panel conferred on Ray the posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award, Golden Dolphin, which was received by Sandip, his filmmaker son who was present there as a jury member along with wife Lolita.
Spain was the next to pay the maestro its tribute. It held an exhibition and a film festival in October to mark the formal inauguration of the headquarters of Casa de la India (India House) in Valladolid. The exhibition, opened jointly by Sandip Ray and others, continued till end December at its present place. The show had on display a large number of Ray portraits by Hirak Sen (who was present) and Tarapada Banerjee, stills from films, and photographic reproductions of sketches, costumes and set designs, posters, booklets, music notations, book covers, illustrations, and pages from his scripts and scrapbooks. But perhaps the best attractions at the show were some clothes used by Ray... a kurta, a pair of pajamas and a shawl. A sari, worn by actresses Madhabi Mukherjee and Swatilekha Sengupta during the shooting of Charulata and Ghare Baire (The Home and the World), respectively, too forms part of the exhibits. The bulk of the exhibits were loaned to Casa de la India by the Kolkata based ‘The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films’, better known as the Satyajit Ray Society, which has been engaged since 1994 in the restoration and preservation of the priceless legacies, both on celluloid and on paper, that Ray left to the world when he passed away in 1992. The Satyajit Ray Society is the only organisation in the world which preserves all the Ray legacies, excluding the majority of the film prints which belong to producers, in the original. The rest came from the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Collection, UCSC. The exhibition and film festival authorities brought out two exquisitely produced souvenirs on Ray on the occasion.
France has been especially known for her love of Ray. It was at the French request that Ray donated his original treatment of Pather Panchali containing sketches and jottings to the Cinematheque in Paris. Ray had never done a fully developed screenplay for the film; he had everything that was not there in the treatment in his head. France had on November 21 to 29, her first ever complete Retrospective of Ray films. This is remarkable news, because India has never had a complete Ray Retrospective to date.
“Ray’s films, like Jalsaghar for example, are regularly shown in France, mainly on television. It's much more rare in movie theaters. Some of them have been released on DVD. But his work is not very well known,” said Alain Jalladeau, director of the Festival of 3 Continents. “Here people have heard of ten films at the most. Considering that Ray did 36 movies and that he is one of the few great masters in the history of cinema, those ten are not enough. That's the reason why we have decided to propose this complete Retrospective of Ray's work. This is the first time in France that a complete Retrospective is gathered. Just after Ray's death, the French Cinematheque had a tribute to him, but could not show all his films.”
‘Symbol of modern India’
Why was Satyajit Ray picked up in particular for the events to open the headquarters of Casa de la India? “Many reasons,” said Cristina Carrilo de Albornoz Fisac, exhibition curator. “First of all, we were moved by his deep humanism and simple and austere way of life. He represented the Renaissance tradition in India and was himself one of the geniuses that life offers from time to time. He was the first film director to create a style of cinema showing the soul of India, and he touchingly mixed the real and the poetic in his films. He was also the symbol of the modern India initiating a dialogue between the East and the West. We wanted to project the many-faceted genius that Ray was, and so we had the exhibition along with the Retrospective.”
The 51st Valladolid International Film Festival, which opened on October 20, featured a Retrospective of seven Ray classics, which, according to the festival coordinator, were shown for the first time in Spain. The Retrospective was inaugurated on October 22 with a screening of Jalsaghar (The Music Room) to a packed house. Sandip Ray presented the film to the audience comprising people of all age groups. It was followed on the next few days by Parash Pathar, (The Philosopher’s Stone), Abhijan (The Expedition), Nayak (The Hero), Agantuk (The Stranger), Rabindranath Tagore and Sadgati (The Deliverance).
Since 1979, the purpose of the Festival of the 3 Continents has been to discover and show films from Africa, Latin America and Asia. In 1980, a Ray tribute was a major event. Tributes to other Indian filmmakers like Ritwik Ghatak, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor were also organised. According to Alain, Satyajit Ray is very well appreciated by the intelligentsia in France. “His name is very well known to intellectuals as well as cine buffs. Of course, older people, the ones who have seen his movies in the sixties and seventies in the then existing cine clubs know him better. But, when showing films such as Pratidwandi (The Adversary) or Mahanagar to younger audiences, we've been impressed by their enthusiasm. They knew Ray's name, but not his films, and they were far from being disappointed,” he said.
Alain’s love affair with Ray movies began when he saw Pather Panchali, which changed the face of the Indian cinema and drew the world’s attention to her. “I have known and loved his films since Pather Panchali,” said Alain. I met him personally for the first and second time in 1980 in April in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and in November in Nantes, where he came to present Seemabaddha (Company Limited). Then, in 1982, I came back to Calcutta with the French critic Serge Daney, who wanted to have with him an extensive interview for the daily newspaper Liberation. We mostly had conversations about movies and books and music. He was for example always very eager to hear about European or American films he could not see in Bengal.”
'One of the greatests’
Alain’s opinion of Ray and his films is an indication of what the West thinks of India’s cultural ambassador, who, after Rabindranath, built a fresh bridge of East-West understanding. “As a filmmaker, Satyajit Ray simply was and still is one of the greatest of the history of cinema, and I don't mean only in India,” said Alain. “He was always an affable man, a little distant. Of course you would be respectful to him. While chatting with him you became aware how much mixed his culture was, part Bengali but also part English. In this respect, he was very different from pure Bengali directors like Ritwik Ghatak.”
France waited for a complete Ray Retrospective for a long time, and the Festival of 3 Continents took 15 years to plan it. “We thought of this complete Retrospective for 15 years, and we're very proud and happy to pay this kind of tribute to such a great filmmaker,” said Alain.
Art of Ray: A Ray Society Exhibition
The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films, better known as Satyajit Ray Society or just Ray Society, presented the first-ever exhibition of the artworks of Satyajit Ray at the North Gallery of Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, from January 19 to 25, 2008. The show, which pulled a large number of art lovers as also vast crowds of ordinary Ray admirers, offered rare insights into the legendary filmmaker’s fascinating world of art.
The weeklong exhibition opened on the afternoon of January 19, with Sri Gopal Krishna Gandhi, then Governor of West Bengal, inaugurating the grand show by lighting a ceremonial lamp placed in front of a large black-and-white photograph of the great master. Madhabi Chakraborty (nee Mukhopadhyay), who had played lead female roles in three unforgettable Ray classics including Charulata, and Soumitra Chattopadhyay, who had the privilege of being Ray’s chosen hero in many films, were present as special guests.
Also present at the inauguration ceremony were, among others, D.N. Ghosh, the Society President, Sandip Ray, Ray’s filmmaker son and the Society Member-Secretary, and a number of actors and actresses like Subir Banerjee (who played Apu in Pather Panchali) and Mamata Shankar (who played important roles in the last three Ray films).
In his welcome address, D.N. Ghosh outlined the Society’s activities and future plans. Sandip Ray spoke on the scheme followed in choosing the exhibits from among a huge number of artworks preserved after restoration at the Society archive. Soumitra Chattopadhyay reminisced about his long association, spanning over three decades, with Ray. In his speech, the Governor made a sensitive and insightful appreciation of the legend that Ray was.
The Society brought out a special brochure, released at the inauguration ceremony by Madhabi Chakraborty, to mark the occasion. The cover design of the brochure was based on a well-known Signet Press book jacket that Ray had designed in the 1950s. The cover types were set in Holiday Script, one of the four English typefaces he had created.
The inauguration ceremony was followed by the screening of Two, a short film Ray made in 1964 at the request of the US Public Television Service, which produced it under the banner of Esso World Theatre.