Veteran actor Barun Chanda and noted film critic Shoma A. Chatterji launched Amitava Nag’s book Satyajit Ray’s Heroes & Heroines at Abar Baithak in Kolkata, on January 27, 2019.
In the late 1940s /early 1950s two young erudite men would meet at Coffee House in Calcutta to discuss the craft of film making. After that both of them together would start walking back to their respective destinations. However if there was a street-altercation among strangers on their way back, one of the friends, who was around six feet tall with a wheatish complexion, would ask the other to move away and change the path. Perhaps due to his Brahmo upbringing, he always evaded violence in both his real and reel life. The person concerned was Satyajit Ray, who needs no introduction and his friend was the noted film critic Chidananda Dasgupta.
All these interesting anecdotes got revealed on 27 January 2019 at Abar Baithak, The Coffee Shop at Jodhpur Park in South Kolkata, where veteran actor Barun Chanda and noted film critic Shoma A. Chatterji were present to launch Amitava Nag’s book Satyajit Ray’s Heroes & Heroines. Amitava is an independent film scholar and edits the film magazine Silhouette. He has authored books on cinema, including Beyond Apu-20 Favourite Film Roles of Soumitra Chatterjee and Reading the Silhouette: Collection of Writings on Selected Indian Films.
In the discussion that took place on a crispy winter morning innumerable hitherto unknown facets of Satyajit Ray’s work behind the scenes got unfolded. For example Satyajit Ray is often regarded as a strict disciplinarian who would not allow his actors probably except Soumitra Chatttopadhyay to improvise on screen. But Barun Chanda revealed that in his maiden venture with Ray in the film Seemabaddha, Ray did allow him to follow his mind in the scene where Chanda as Shyamalendu was to receive a phone call. Ray also took hints from Chanda about the prevalent corporate mannerisms which were used in an artistic manner in the same film. In the beginning itself Shoma A. Chatterji admitted that though she generally does her homework quite meticulously before moderating any discussion, but for this programme she was not that prepared since the book reached her late. Nonetheless she could make out the pain and hardwork Amitava endured to write such a book.
Amitava pointed out the rationale behind writing this book – that except a few of Ray’s actors who are recognized nationally and internationally, the rest is mostly beyond public knowledge to a non-Bengali-understanding audience. So, he wanted to write a book in English which will give visibility to these excellent actors alongside analyzing the different character profiles present in Ray’s cinematic oeuvre. Chanda on the other hand pointed out innumerable instances where the different facets of Satyajit Ray’s persona gets revealed to the audience, for example the warmth, understanding, and sensitivity he displayed while dealing with child and also adult artists.
The speakers also touched upon Ray’s dealing with violence or negative characters ‘with a difference’. The subtlety of human emotions of love, lust, anger, betrayal, patriotism, prejudice got expressed in the films he directed. In the end, from a discussion on his heroes and heroines and the different aspects of his art, Ray, the humanist emerges. In spite of more than two and a half decades of Ray’s death, he and his unparallel creativity expressed in forms of films and detective novels remain close to the hearts of genteel Bengalis and global film fraternity. Anybody interested in Ray’s work will be lured to turn the pages of this book.
Reviews of Satyajit Ray’s Heroes and Heroines in the Media:
On the Master, and his galaxy of stars by Aruna Vasudev in The Asian Age
LOS VILLANOS EN EL CINE DE SATYAJIT RAY (AMITAVA NAG) book extract in ImageIndia.net
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I am a Sikh non Bengali but have passion fort Bengali movies and music especially Rabindra Sangeet and happened to see most of Ray’s and Ghatak’s movies. I had no problem with language. People sitting by my side in the cinema hall very enthusiastically offered me help to understand then movie but I very politely used to say. But also use to warn them not to disturb me while I am watching it. I can watch even Malayali as well Tamil, Kannad language and had no problem in understanding the matter of fact of the directors. Thanks for the opportunity to express my appreciation for films.