Satyajit Ray: The Perfectionist Messiah of Movies

Satyajit Ray: The Perfectionist Messiah of Movies

Rahul Sengupta06 Sep 2008

The name ‘Satyajit Ray’ itself brings a flash of ray within the consciousness of every true movie maniac. For years we have been watching his works and admiring them. But every medium of art is exceptionally difficult and the domain of films leaves no exception. Satyajit Ray is an utmost perfectionist by any standards. His knowledge, dedication, grit, humanity, talent and thoughts went beyond most other film makers of his era. At this juncture, when we Indians are standing in an abyss of despair and clodhoppers, we should try to unravel the incidents which happened behind the camera of each and every Ray endeavour.

Rahul Sengupta, an avid Movie Lover discusses a few incidents connected to the making of Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar.

The name ‘Satyajit Ray’ itself brings a flash of ray within the consciousness of every true movie maniac. For years we have been watching his works and admiring them. But every medium of art is exceptionally difficult and the domain of films leaves no exception. Satyajit Ray is an utmost perfectionist by any standards. His knowledge, dedication, grit, humanity, talent and thoughts went beyond most other film makers of his era. At this juncture, when we Indians are standing in an abyss of despair and clodhoppers, we should try to unravel the incidents which happened behind the camera of each and every Ray endeavour. The hurdles which Ray had overcome and dedication with which he caressed every single take of his films may change even the most cynical paranoid.

Satyajit RaySatyajit Ray

In this article we shall discuss the incidents which happened before the making of the film ‘Apur Sansar’ (Incidentally it was Soumitra Chatterjee’s debut film). We shall also peep into the secrets that needs to be revealed (which happened during the making of the movie) regarding Ray’s notions on the film. 9th August 1958 This was the first day when ‘Lights! Camera! Action!’ were called in the sets of ‘Apur Sansar’. This first day of shooting was certainly a memorable day for rank newcomers like Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore. Satyajit Ray had handed over the primary draft of the script to Soumitra quite a while before the commencement of the shooting. An interesting fact is that he wrote the scripts in English at that time. This once again proves Ray’s non parochial approach towards life. Ray was also a man who loved to use adequate parlance. Soumitra Chattopadhay recalls that the very script which Ray handed him was a glaring proof of his inbuilt genius. The very script made him respectful towards Ray. Soumitra recalls what a brilliant script it was! He recapitulates the last sequence when Apu, carrying Kajol on his shoulders is returning to Kolkata.Ray enclosed some lines describing the sequence: Faceswhere despair has given way to hope and bitterness to love. And the river flows on. The whole script was bejeweled with magnificent lines. The wonderful sequence where Apu scatters the pages of his own novel standing over the cliff of the mountains when all his hope succumbed into despair written by the immortal Ray as: Then Apu lets the whole manuscript go & they seem like an enormous flock of some strange migratory birds disappearing into the depths of the mountain. Not only this, Ray was enlightened entity. The way he gave freedom to his actors was only a proof of his visionary consciousness. To import the characters of Apu within Soumitra, Ray gave him continuous tips, lectures, short notes, character motifs, traits and so on. But this continuous process Ray was able to instill the look and feel of Apu right within Soumitra’s heart. To make the character more human Ray himself accepted some sub-text which Soumitra had prepared to provide a new and precise look for Apu’s character. The first day of the shooting commenced at Behala Label and Bolting Factory. There was a sequence where Soumitra was required to express his despair and frustration but in a subtle fashion. Soumitra himself made a short yelp to carve out the niche within the character. Ray had acknowledged it immediately by saying, Excellent, but Okay. These short but stupendous boost ups provided by Ray not only motivated the actors but also increased the entire level of movie making to a different attitude. The professionalism and vivified nature of Ray came from the love for his downtrodden nation and the miserable social dilemma from which the entire nation has been suffering brutally. This nation has come back to his films and again.

Each and every actor acknowledges that what ever he/she has been depict on screen has been an extension of Manik Da’s (Satyajit Ray’s nickname) relentless endeavour. Ray also discussed every single preview of films and movie making with Soumitra on the sets of ‘Apur Sansar’ and nevertheless he had his habit of explaining things vividly and minutely to every individual. Ray had asked Soumitra for a voice test before the shooting of ‘Apur Sansar’. He had asked Soumitra to recite a poem. A great recitist by hobby and love Soumitra recited Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Bhasi’. Ray recorded the entire recital and heard it with immense concentration back in the sound van. Beside Ray was Niren Lahiri. After hearing the recorded voice, Ray asked Lahiri, How was that? Niren Lahiri knew Soumitra too. He recommended it as an above average performance. Ray responded gleefully by saying that his search for the apt Apu had been ultimately successful. This proved the mettle which he had in selecting each and every minute detail for his films.

Satyajit Ray also guided Soumitra in selecting his forth coming movies. When director Tapan Sinha approached Soumitra with ‘Kshudita Pashan’ Ray recommended Sinha’s project and advice Soumitra to do it without giving any recherch thought. I prefer to end this article by highlighting a funny incident memorized by Soumitra Chatterjee.

A party was held after the release of ‘Apur Sansar’. Satyajit Ray met Tapan Sinha in that party. After Sinha gave kudos to Ray for the film and Soumitra’s acting. Ray responded by saying yes, got a great sample (Soumitra) after long time! The peers then burst out in high voltage laugh. Thus Ray was the ‘recidivist’ when every autocratic suppressive regime would find it impossible to contain on suppress by any means.

Reference:

  1. Manikdar Songe Soumitra Chattopadhay.
  2. Our Films, Their Films by Satyajit Ray.
  3. Kollol (Film Magazine)

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