Letters from Readers
Very well written cover story on Satyajit Ray
Kudos to Nikhil Bhambri for the extraordinary coverage of Satyajit Ray in the September issue (“Satyajit Ray: An Auteur of The Highest Order”), a task that involved a mammoth challenge. The article is not hyperbolic, well researched, well written and condenses an ocean of material in a confined space. Ray’s genius unfolds in a subdued and disciplined fashion while covering the vast canvas of inestimable human depth even when situated in Bengal.
I wanted to reemphasize some salient points regarding this phenomenal man as unearthed from this article:
* He picked his cast from relatively unknown talents and transformed them into extraordinary lifelike characters. V. Shantaram followed a similar trail in his movies. This quality is particularly adorable since it multiplies our pool of talents.
*He brought into limelight the integrity and the secret strength of a woman’s ingenuity without any earth-shattering movement. This catalyzed a silent social transformation similar to the one ushered by the women portrayed by the famous Bengali author, Sharadchandra Chattopadhyay.
*He searched the streets of Bengal to select his theme and transmitted it to people across the world. The tribute paid to him by the transcultural team of artists vouches for that.
* Artists are born rather than made, but the inborn talents need to be nurtured as evidenced by his going to Shantiniketan and being mentored by Rabindranath Tagore. Ray was orphaned by his father’s death early in his life. That did not stop him from reaching his full potential. “A diamond is not searched for, but is always found,” as expressed in Sanskrit axiom.
* A swing inhabits almost every Indian household, but Ray uses it as a symbol of powerful transformation.
Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D.
Give credit to Bandopadhyay for Pather Panchali
The cover story in the September issue (“Satyajit Ray: An Auteur of The Highest Order”) was a heartwarming tribute to one of the greatest creative minds. It covers much ground and is a good introduction to Satyajit Ray’s monumental works.
I wanted to draw attention to that portion of the article which notes that Pather Panchali lacked a script and was “solely made from Ray’s drawings and notes.” However, Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay is the author of the book by the same name which is replete with dialogues and vivid descriptions of each and every scene and character. Ray masterfully and faithfully used the very same dialogues and turned it into the superb Apu Trilogy. Bandyopadhyay deserves much credit and possibly a Nobel Prize, even if posthumously, for his work.
Indeed, Ray selected many totally untrained actors—quite a few by chance—as well as villagers and masterfully turned them into actors for major or minor roles. He spotted the 13-year-old Sharmila Thakur, and surprisingly and successfully made her perform the role of a teenage bride named Aparna in Apur Sansar.
But several actors in Ray’s Apu Trilogy were professionals. Pather Panchali included Karuna Banerjee as Sarbojaya, Kanu Banerjee as Harihar, Tulsi Chakraborty as the village teacher, Chunibala Debi as Indira Thakuran, and several others like the kind friend of Sarbojaya as well as the unkind lady. In Apur Sansar, he used Soumitra Chatterjee, who had worked with the famed stage-actor Sisir Bhaduri for several years, as the grown-up Apu.
Asit N. Sengupta
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