Dipen Guhawrote on Sep 16 2009 1:17AM
Satyajit Ray had a close, lifelong friendship with Bansi Chandragupta, the Art Director of all the films from "Pather Panchal" to "Pratideandi" Thereafter he went away to Mumbai, where he was of course successful. Ray recalled him for his ambitious period film "Shatranj Ke Khilati" in 1977. The two had such a warm relationship and identity of views that they were able to work together as one, as it ewre.
Chandragupta had given up his colleague studies in Srinagar. Kashmir during the 1942 agitatio. Around this time he met Subho Tagore, the artist, who urged him to become a painter. Off went Ghandragupta to Kolkata, then devasted by the man-made 1943 famine. He found work as assistant to an art director and acted in the film as well. Ray happened to see the film sometime later and liked Bansi's work in it. The met and became friends in no time. They saw together " Battleship Potemkin". It was around 1947 that Jean Renoir came to Kolkata to survey locations for his "The River". A reception given to him by the Calcutta FRilm Soceity brought Renoir together with Ray, Chandragupta and Subrata Mitra. Chandragupta became Assistant to Eugene Lourie, Renoir's Art Director. The next landmark eas to be the Rt Director of "Pather Panchali" Chandragupta was given the liberty of providing complete flexibility for the camera. "The set should be one seameless whole" This was the principle he applied in "Jalsaghar". A very important factor in doing so was the weathering of all elements to show the gradualty of the effect of aging upon various articles. He often used devices like burning a surface, sandpapering, bleaching with caustic soda etc.
In fact, Bansi and Ray used to enjoy an infaliable psychlogical rapport. What Ray would conceptualise, coud seen through by Bansi. In "Teen Kanya" Bansi's designing the set for "Manihara" creates an elfish, Victorian ambiance. Whether indoors or oitdoors, Chandragupta put the director's canvass in practical execution. Such is the gase in "Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen". But, " Shatranj Ke Khilari' is undoubedly the best of the lot.