Veteran actor Sharmila Tagore today recalled her experience of working with Satyajit Ray, one of the pioneers of Indian cinema, and said the director's films continue to be relevant even today as they leave people with a deep spirit of optimism.
The 73-year-old actor, who made her film debut with Ray's "Apur Sansar" and later worked in his film such as "Devi" and "Nayak", today inaugurated a two-day retrospective titled 'Revisiting Ray', on the filmmaker at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library here.
The event, celebrating Ray's 97th birth anniversary, is an amalgamation of a conference, exhibition and a retrospective.
"Ray took money for only two things -- screenplay and direction... His refusal to compromise, his steadfastness and commitment to his work is at the heart of his legacy.
"Today, we talk about world shrinking, thanks to technological innovations. Yet we are witness to a world that is increasingly fragmented along a number of fault lines. I feel, under such conditions, it is to the masters of art like Ray we can turn to for answers for an understanding of fellow men, for lessons of empathy, for the universe and for manpower," Tagore said in her address.
The actor also believes that Ray's appeal lies in the fact that he discovered and truthfully portrayed core human emotions that bind people globally.
"That he was appreciated across cultures, despite being firmly rooted in himself, reinforces our belief that the commonalities that we share far transcends our differences. That it is possible to maintain and respect each others individuality, and become part of the bigger dialogue," Tagore said.
"I believe we have much to learn from Ray's vision of critical inclusiveness and critical vocalness. Long after his films are over, the viewers are left with unshakable optimism that is paramount in Ray's outlook. You will agree that his films have stood the test of time. I have no doubt that Ray's films will remain relevant for times to come," she added.
Tagore said she is personally indebted to Ray for teaching her the language of cinema.
"Satyajit Ray with his rich legacy meant many things to many people. I owe him a personal debt. He taught me how to appreciate cinema, how to be in front of the camera, how to think in character, how to enjoy language and he taught me the importance of the moment. He led by example and from him, I learnt the value of commitment to one's work," she said.
"I think his first commitment was to get the face... To actually, in his own words, incarnation of flesh and blood of the characters he is writing. That was, I think, his first priority," Tagore said.
When asked whether modern-day filmmakers are inspired by Ray, she said the director's influence is visible in today's cinema.
"Today multiplex audience have turned to new films. We have changed the conventional way of making films. He didn't choose the tropes the people had over acting, theatrical dialogues and loud music, we have moved away from all that. It has also changed the viewers and the way people were viewing the films. His influence is there and many filmmakers have accepted it... His influence is in there in today's filmmaker.
"It's a big industry and huge market that employs a lot of people. There are different films for different people. I think there are a lot of good films that are being made," Tagore said.
The exhibition, which showcases the work by noted photographer Nemai Ghosh who closely worked with Ray starting with "Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne" in 1969 till his last film "Agantuk" (1991), was inaugurated by veteran actor Amol Palekar and director Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
The black-and-white photographs were put up on the walls of the museum which ranged from candid shots on the filmmaker's sets such as "Shatranj Ke Khilari", "Sonar Kella", "Ghare Baire", "Aranyer Din Ratri", "Sikkim", "Ashani Sanket" and "Seemabaddha".
Some of the pictures brought back days of the past which also showed Ray reading in his study; the director in a pensive mood looking over his storyboard with a pencil at the ready; to him clicking a local on the streets while shooting for "Sikkim"; sharing a meal with his crew on the sets of "Sonar Kella" to a candid picture with Tagore, among others.
Palekar said through Ray, he got an opportunity to take a walk down the memory lane as he got to reconnect with his friends and associates in the capital.
"We all are beyond Satyajit Ray and we all are because of him. I was able to meet Suresh Jindal, my first producer ('Rajnigandha'), Sharmila (Tagore), Samik Bandyopadhyay, Nabaneeta Dev Sen. I have spent some very beautiful moments of my life with all these people. It was great reconnecting with them," the actor told PTI.
He said Ghosh's work is "a great work of art" and he is blessed to have taken inspiration from the pictures.
"I have been fortunate to see Ray's work, take inspiration from his work. So, Nemai da was there and we had some wonderful moments together. They are as important as charming as beautiful as any other work... To capture those nostalgic moments and preserve them for posterity and so very artistically."
The exhibit will be on view at The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library till May 30.
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