As we enter the birth centenary year of undoubtedly the best Indian filmmaker of all times – Satyajit Ray (May 02, 1921 – April 23, 1992) – noted director and multiple National Film Award winner GOUTAM GHOSE talks about the legend on his 99th birth anniversary today
In my opinion, he was one of the last Mohicans of the Bengal Renaissance. He was not just a filmmaker but a great mind. Very rich mind. Very cultivated mind. All this he inherited from his family. His grandfather, father and other family members were all very highly cultured. But he was a very simple and down-to-earth person. They don’t create like Manik da (he was known to his intimates by this name) anymore. He led a versatile but decent middle class life.
Whenever he was through with a film, he would call up and ask me to reach his place early next morning. He used to get up early even though he had worked through the previous day without rest. And then he would share his observations, “You have made a good film and I loved it but there are certain points that could have been better. In cinema, you cannot erase. Like you can write a poem and if you don’t like it, you can throw it and write again. But in cinema, you can’t do it. You can only take corrective measures in your next movie.” Now, this is great advice. And that’s not it. He would keep discussing the movie for hours as he had watched it so minutely and had so many points about it to share. Sadly that generation of people is gone – the humanity and the simplicity they had. And most importantly, the concept of time management they followed has evaporated too. There was so much discipline.
When I made a film after his death and it was shown at a film festival abroad, noted Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci came up to me and said, “I am a great admirer of Ray but didn’t know he was such a great illustrator, composer, writer… all rolled into one.” So comprehensively had the film been created.
Manikda was also immensely passionate about literature and science so much so that he revived the children’s magazine, Sandesh, which his grandfather had started in the 19th century. The magazine aimed at children having a scientific mind along with a sense of art. A combination of art and science. The idea was to teach kids, from a young age, about various aspects related with life. The intention was to spread true knowledge to young people.
Not that he only worked and didn’t enjoy. He was a great addabaaz– evenings were reserved for having guests over, cracking of jokes, laughing at high pitches, loads of talking. Interestingly, all this while there used to be a sheet of paper on his lap on which he used to be sketching — multitasking and preparing for tomorrow.
I hope Manikda’s life, especially his simplicity and his works will keep inspiring generations to come.
As told to Saurabh Tankha