Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mr. ‘ RAY ‘ and Making of Pather Panchali .

Courtesy: www.satyajitray.org ; ‘The Inner Eye‘ - Book on Satyajit Ray ; and Youtube.

1950’s.. these are days where Film directors are busy making card board ‘Moon’s’ and making actors and actresses sing below it; Then there came a man; who thought of shooting outdoors and tried hard to get that real Indian culture milieu in the movies.

Satyajit Ray, maker of the ‘Apu ‘ triology and Charulatha, came from a family of writers. From childhood he had a great love for movies and western music. He thought of becoming a commercial artist at the age of 19. But his Mom insisted on his education; With initial reluctance he joined in Shantiniketan.

He discovered Oriental art - Indian sculpture and miniature painting, Japanese woodcuts and Chinese landscapes is Shantiniketan... Till then, his exposure to art had been limited to only the western masters. He used to travel with three of his peers.

But he quit Shantiniketan in two years; for he was unable to watch movies and he was also in love with his cousin Bijoya (his future wife).

He joined a British run advertising agency and spent the next ten years there and produced many innovative campaigns. Ray started writing screenplays for his own pleasure. He would take a story or a novel for which a film had been announced, and would write the screenplay. He would then compare his screenplay with the finished film. Some times, he would even write a second version after seeing the film.

And then he got the idea of making a movie from a novel written by Bibhuti Bhushan Banerjee.

In 1950 at the age of 30 with absolutely no experience in movie-making; He started collecting a group of young men as technicians.He said " I felt It was now or it will never happen in my life "

To explain his concept for the film to the potential producers, Ray had a small note-book, filled with sketches, dialogue and the treatment. This script along with another sketchbook that illustrated the key dramatic moments of the film was greeted with curiosity by producers. While many of them were impressed, none came forward to produce the film.

Many advised against shooting in outdoor locations as most films were shot in studios at that time. He was told that rain sequences could not be shot in the actual rains but required a well equipped studio. At the earliest opportunity, Ray rushed out with a 16 mm camera to test-shoot monsoon rains.

About two years were spent in vain to find a producer. Meanwhile, undeterred Ray had begun assembling the cast and looking for locations.

He thought of making some sequences in the film and by using them he thought of getting some financial back-up. So he borrowed some money against his insurance policy and from his friends and started shooting in 1952.

On 27 October 1952, he set out to take the first shot. The scene was the famous discovery of train by Apu and his sister Durga in the field of Kaash flowers.

He said "One day's work with camera and actors taught me more than all the dozen books" after his first day work.

The following Sunday when they returned to shoot, to their horror they discovered that the Kaash flowers had been feasted upon by a herd of cattle. He had to wait for the next season of flowers to complete the scene.

( check http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGaIAWn2PJo for this scene; one of the best scenes ever made in film history.. and he shot it in his first movie!!! Watch the video and continue with blog)


The cast was a mix of professional actors and a few with no prior experience in acting. And he dared to cast an 80 year old to play Indir Thakrun.

( Indir Thakrun )

He had to discover for himself, "how to catch the hushed stillness of dusk in a Bengali village when the wind drops and turns the ponds into sheets of glass, dappled by the leaves of Saluki and Shale, and the smoke from the ovens settles in wispy trails over the landscape and the plaintive blows on conch shells from homes far and near are joined by the chorus of crickets which rises as the light falls, until all one sees are the stars in the sky, and the stars that blink and swirl in the thickets."

Finally in 1953; he found a producer and they started shooting in the village. Ray took one month's leave without pay to shoot a few more sequences. Ray say's “that was a great learning experience and the film was shaping up well”. Pather Panchali was to be shot in sequence, but the funds soon ran out. The producer's latest film had been a box-office disaster so he was unable to provide any more finances. But they continued shooting for some more days. (Mr. Ray pawned his wife’s jewelry)

And there was a break for almost a year. I can understand what a torture it is; to stop the shooting especially when you believe that it is doing good.

Finally West Bengal produced the remaining movie; we can all understand how difficult it is to clear bills when we are dealing with government. But finally he completed the shooting.

They did non stop post production work; most of the music work was done by a sitar maestro and they recorded music in full stretch of eleven hours. "It was a marathon session and left us exhausted but happy, because most of the music sounded wonderful", says Ray. Ray and his editor worked ten days and nights continuously in the final stage of post-production.

Pather Panchali was finally released in Calcutta. The film did only moderately well in the first two weeks. By third week however, the word spread and it was running packed at three theaters.

Ray described that it is a miracle that while making the film, "One, Apu's voice did not break. Two, Durga did not grow up. Three, Indir Thakrun did not die".
The Then Prime Minister of India Jawarlal Nehru saw the movie and ensured it to enter the Cannes Film Festival. And the rest is history.

He says “What Indian cinema needs today is not more gloss (unlike Hollywood films), but more imagination, more integrity, and more intelligent appreciation of the limitations of the medium...The raw material of cinema is life itself. It is incredible that a country which has inspired so much painting and music and poetry should fail to move the film maker. He has only to keep his eyes open, and his ears. Let him do so.”

It requires great courage to take a path unknown; you absolutely did it and you did it with grace. Your making of Pather panchali is itself a great story , Sir. This is what I say is a heroic act.

Thank you Sir, and if everything goes fine I am planning to make this ‘ Making ‘ as a movie… HOPE SO..!!!

1 comment:

rajesh said...

i assure ur wish of 'making' movie is fulfilled