Centenary exhibition at Durbar Hall Gallery in Kochi provides insight into Satyajit Ray’s inner world

0

The month-long show features rare collections of letters exchanged between Ray and the producer of one of his iconic films; brightly colored posters, press books and lobby cards (photographic images) of his films; and photographs of Ray in various moods

The month-long show features rare collections of letters exchanged between Ray and the producer of one of his iconic films; brightly colored posters, press books and lobby cards (photographic images) of his films; and photographs of Ray in various moods

There is little that has not been written about filmmaker Satyajit Ray and his immense work. Ray’s genius, his famous contemplative frameworks, his ideology and worldview have all been studied. The third volume of The Satyajit Ray Centenary Show, however, draws you back to the man Ray was. It offers new insights into Ray’s inner world. Celebrating the centenary of his birth, the show is an opportunity to once again marvel at Ray.

The month-long show, hosted by the Kolkata Center for Creativity and presented in association with the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, features rare collections of letters exchanged between Ray and the producer of his iconic 1955 Hindi film. Shatranj ke Khilari, Suresh Jindal. It’s obvious that Ray took letter writing seriously; they seem serious and without the airs of an accomplished calligrapher (he introduced a unique calligraphy in the Bengali text). While her letters to Jindal are in English, those to her longtime pen pal, Debjani Ray, are in Bengali.

Debjani, a fan of Ray’s work, wrote to him on a whim, after seeing his 1974 film Sonar Kella.

She didn’t expect Ray to respond, but he did, and it was the start of an exchange of letters that lasted over 16 years. If he talks about his films and his travels in the letters, he also inquires about his life in detail. In response to her wedding invitation, Ray apologizes for not being able to come, but invites the couple to the house, if her husband appreciated her work.

In his exchange with Jindal, Ray is friendly and laid back, yet professional at the same time. In a 1977 letter, he apologizes to Jindal for a “confrontation”. “No one is more sorry than I that things had to come to a point where a confrontation was inevitable. One advantage, I think, is that we know each other a little better now…”, writes- he. The correspondence between the two captures the entire journey of the realization of Shatranj ke Khilari.

The ground floor of the gallery is a one-of-a-kind showcase of the original costumes used in the film. Coming from Jindal himself, the costumes capture the creative process of screenwriter Shama Zaidi, who designed the film’s costumes. Even a print of Zaidi’s moodboard is on display, which shows tiny pieces of fabric glued to it.

“The idea was not just to celebrate 100 years of Ray, but to make him more accessible to the masses, to appreciate his art/craft and to get to know him more personally,” says Siddharth Sivakumar, Head of visual and publishing arts, Kolkata Center for Creativity, an organization that encourages participation in art, culture and creativity through multidisciplinary exchange. “Identifying galleries, talking to collectors, browsing through tons of material and organizing was a fun process that filled us with nervous excitement,” adds Siddharth.

Photographs of Ray by Nemai Ghosh and Tarapada Banerjee capture him in various moods – the collection includes one in which Ray is lost in thought, holding a cigarette in his hand; another shows him taking a tracking shot with a camera mounted on top of a car.

What really brings his films to life is a rare collection of brightly colored posters, press books and lobby cards (photographic images) of his films. From the collection of Kolkata-based Rasa Gallery, the lobby maps on display cover 22 years of Ray’s cinematic journey and cover 11 of his films.

The posters and pressbooks he designed, which stood out for their aesthetic value, were a highlight of the show. Blending Indian elements with a touch of pop art, the posters look like works of art on their own.

The Satyajit Ray Centenary Show Vol-III runs at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery until October 25.

Share.

Comments are closed.