2 May 2013

Ray Day


On "Ray Day", I just innocently 'ogled at the Google-Doodle'. I think this is the first time that the Google team has honoured themselves by paying tribute to the Great Man on his birthday. 

On 1st April 1992, The Telegraph newspaper headline read "Hollywood Bows to Ray". Satyajit Ray was awarded an honorary Oscar for his lifetime achievement. He had given his reactions from his hospital bed. He said that he had once written to the actress Ginger Rogers to express his interest in motion pictures. He didn't get a reply. On another occasion he had written a 12 page letter to Billy Wilder after watching 'Double Indemnity'. Again the reply never came from Hollywood-land. 


When Satyajit Ray left us physically, I was only 10 years old then. Just a few days before HE had received an honorary Oscar. Bangla-Doordarshan decided to show a retrospective of HIS films. If I remember correctly, the films were shown late at night. I distinctly remember watching all the films. That was my first brush with the cinema of Ray. 

Here is the then Doordarshan schedule: 

25th April 1992 
09:50 pm  - Introspection : Satyajit Ray 

26th April 1992
10:50 pm  -  Nayak

27th April 1992 
10:40 pm  -  Great Masters : Satyajit Ray 

28th April 1992 
10:40 pm  -  Sonar Kella 

29th April 1992 
11:10 pm  -  Documentary on Satyajit Ray by Shyam                       Benegal 

30th April 1992 
10:40 pm  - Kanchenjungha 

After watching "Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne", I wanted to watch it again and again and again. However I didn't like one scene where Bagha was thinking of and fantasizing about that young and beautiful princess. As a child I felt awkward with that scene in a children's film. 

Also I clearly remember now that the animated scene in "Shatranj Ke Khiladi" had left me bewildered because inside my 10 year old mind, I just couldn't understand what a cartoon-clip is doing inside a serious film? And at that time I didn't know about the history of 'Awadh' too. Watch it below from around the 8th minute: 

In 1993 the original negatives of six Ray classics including the Apu Trilogy were destroyed in a mysterious fire at the Henderson Film Laboratory in London. When this news was first broadcast on Doordarshan, I then felt tremendous rage and also sadness. 

Also around mid-90's I watched James Ivory's "Shakespeare Wallah" on DD-I and was pleasantly surprised to see in the opening credits that the music of the film was given by Satyajit Ray. The film was good, but I thought then that it could have been better had it also been directed by the Music-Director HIMself.  

School vacations meant "Chhuti-Chhuti" and to watch Manik Babu's children's films. Each film shown part by part over maybe a period of 3 or 4 days. Today's children will find it difficult to accept the fact that the first half hour of their favourite film shown in one day, the next half hour shown the next day. That was the slow pace of our childhood. Still it was so fascinating. I distinctly remember Kushal Chakraborty addressing the viewers before a certain screening of "Sonar Kella" on "Chhuti-Chhuti" and talking about how many eggs he had to eat during the train sequence. 

In my childhood, our school library provided me with all the Feluda, Professor Shonku, Tarini-khuro gems and HIS other short-stories and other literary output. Some of the library's books used to be in bad shape and I used to bring them home and put on celotape and bring them in proper condition. I used to hate our Librarian-Madam very much because she was unfriendly, never helpful and always non-cooperating. Even today when I am in a depressed or miserable mood, I just need to re-read those stories again to have a feel-good aura all around.

In the pre-'Pathher Panchali' days, Tapan Sinha once saw Satyajit Ray walking along the tram-tracks of Esplanade. Both of them were struggling then to find financiers for their first films. Tapan Sinha went and asked HIM whether he had got the money for HIS film. Ray pointed at HIS footwear and replied that HE needed a new pair. Later they went to drink coffee at 'Cathay' near 'Grand Hotel'. Ray kept on talking about John Ford's film "Fugitive" and admitted that HE had taken about 35 still-photographs from the screen with HIS Leica camera. Whenever HE liked a frame in the movie, HE captured it with HIS camera. 

A few years back I saw Jean Renoir's "The Southerner" at Kolkata Film Festival and was pleasantly surprised. If someone is wondering about the reason for my surprise then I would suggest that person to watch this film. 

In later years, I saw all HIS feature films, short films, documentaries, except "Sikkim", for which I had to wait for a long time. Only a couple of years back, I had the golden chance to watch "Sikkim" and that also at Nandan-I during Kolkata Film Festival. There was pin-drop silence inside the auditorium and not even a single mobile phone rang. Just as the narration started in HIS voice, a middle-aged man from the audience remarked, "Aha-ha, Ki Konthoswor". When the documentary ended, there were tears in most of the people's eyes. There was suppressed anger also that the Master's creation was banned and made unavailable for so many years. A few days later at the next show of "Sikkim", the queue had started from Nandan-I and almost gone past Exide-crossing. There was pandemonium and a mini-stampede when the hall-gates were opened. 

This is true for every Bong in every part of the world that even today while surfing through hundreds of TV channels, the finger on the remote-control gets automatically frozen at the sight of a Satyajit Ray film.

Every year I make it a point to go and walk at Bishop Lefroy Road on "Ray Day" and stand for some time in front of the address 1/1. Last year during the Film Festival I had the chance to meet Sandip Ray at his residence and then touch the Great Master's door with my own hands. And today I had the great privilege to enter Satyajit Ray's house again and especially HIS room. Special thanks to Sandip Ray with whom I had a wonderful conversation. What a great euphoria it was to enter the Master's room and that too on HIS birthday. It was like entering a temple. Couldn't control my tears. Here I am just uploading a few pics taken today inside HIS house, will upload the rest of the pics on Facebook...