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Taking the story forward

All in the family : Sandip with actors during the shooting of 'Phatik Chand'.

All in the family : Sandip with actors during the shooting of 'Phatik Chand'.  

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Sandip Ray talks to Jagyaseni Chatterjee about his latest in the Feluda series and being Satyajit Ray’s son.

He belongs to an eminent family, whose creative talents came through in poetry, story writing and film making. Son of Satyajit Ray, the only Indian filmmaker to receive both the Oscar and the Bharat Ratna, and grandson of Sukumar Ray, who was known for his humorous writings for children, Sandip has followed in his father’s footsteps.

Clad in a beige kurta, he is seated at his desk, surrounded by heaps of files and books. Having grown up on film sets, Sandip imbibed his father’s love for filmmaking.

Born in 1953, it took Sandip some time to realise the prominence of his family. “Letters with foreign stamps would often arrive at our house, but my friends never saw such mails at their homes. Then I would find persons featured on film posters dinning with us at home. These are some of the things that made me realise that my family was different,” he recalls.

He studied at the South Point School and Patha Bhavan in Calcutta and later went to the University of Calcutta.

Beginning his career as a still photographer for his father’s works, he joined his father as an assistant director at the age of 22 in ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ (The Chess Players, 1977).

Sandip’s directorial debut, however, was ‘Phatik Chand’ in 1983 that received an award at the International Children's Film Festival in Vancouver.

“My father had told me that if he liked the film, he would score the music for it. The film’s shooting took 18 months and during that time I never allowed him to enter the sets. When he did see the film, he told me it had to be edited and that I must be ruthless. Finally, he said, ‘Let’s do the music now’,” shares Sandip, who feels this was his father’s way of encouraging him.

‘Goopy Gyan Phire Elo’ was a turning point in his life. Making a sequel of his father’s work, ‘Goopy Gyan Bagha Byne’ was not easy. At that time Satyajit was unwell. Yet, Sandip took him to the studio, because his father loved its musty smell and atmosphere. This time, when Sandip showed him the first cut, Satyajit remarked, “Let it go on.” “Those words meant I had done a good job,” says Sandip.

Talking about Satyajit’s most revered film, ‘Pather Panchali,’ Sandip says, “No one imagined that the film would be considered a masterpiece. My father couldn’t get a producer to invest in the film. So he borrowed money from his insurance policy and even pawned my mother’s jewellery, but the money was not enough. Finally, it was Dr. B.C. Ray, the then Chief Minister of Bengal, who helped him with some funds and the film was made.”

In 2003, Sandip adapted his father’s story, ‘Bankhubabur Bandhu,’ for the small screen, and it was telecast in 2006. He then took up the tale of Feluda (a fictional character of a private detective created by Satyajit) for a film in 2003. “Delving into the Feluda stories was not on my list. But the character was fascinating and appealed to people of all ages,” he points out.

So then came the Feluda series beginning with ‘Bombaiyer Bombete’ (2003), ‘Kailashey Kelenkari’ (2007), ‘Tintorettor Jishu’ (2008), ‘Gorosthaney Sabdhan’ (2010), Royal Bengal Rahasya (2011), and now, he is working on ‘Double Feluda’, to be released by the end of this year.

But which one of Satyajit’s work does he like the best? He immediately replies, “Kanchenjanga. It is an exemplary work.”

Satyajit also had a connection with Madras. All initial Satyajit films were processed in the city. In fact, Satyajit had also made a documentary on Balasaraswati.

For Satyajit’s last three films, ‘Ganashatru’ (An Enemy of the People, 1989), ‘Shakha Proshakha’ (The Branches of the Tree, 1990) and ‘Agantuk’ (The Stranger, 1991), Sandip was the director of photography.

“My father was exceptionally good with children and that is why many of his films have children as important characters. He was also interested in chess and word games such as Scrabbles,” he says.

Sandip’s great-grandfather Upendrakishore Ray founded a children’s magazine, Sandesh, in 1913. He now serves as the editor of the magazine.

Talking about Bengali films, Sandip rues, “Bengali films are screened outside India, but not within the country.”

On the comparison with his famous father, he says, “That our works will be compared is just as expected, as the eternal truth that I am his son.”





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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 1:16:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/Taking-the-story-forward/article14425906.ece

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