Notes to the Audience

Satyajit Ray’s artistry was not restricted to the camera alone,it flowed into prop detailing and an Indian sensibility that he brought to book covers. An exhibition celebrates the multifaceted social aesthete.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published:April 26, 2013 12:46 am

Satyajit Ray’s artistry was not restricted to the camera alone,it flowed into prop detailing and an Indian sensibility that he brought to book covers. An exhibition celebrates the multifaceted social aesthete.

Actor Kamu Mukherjee as Arjun in Satyajit Ray’s Joi Baba Felunath has a wickedly funny knife-throwing scene,which is one of the more remembered scenes from the filmmaker’s oeuvre. But what also captivates attention is the intricately designed “knife thrower’s board” against which Jatayu stands,as Arjun throws 10 knives at him. The board,the only prop in the five-minute scene,has a huge Ravana-like figurine standing with its tongue out,was drawn by Ray himself. As was the set design for General Outram’s study for Shatranj Ke Khiladi,and a sketch of Dayamoyee played by Sharmila Tagore in Devi (1960) besides numerous posters for all his films and a host of book jackets and costume designs. “It is known that Ray was a filmmaker par excellence and that cinema was his main passion,but Ray was such an extraordinary man. He did so many things and not many people know of it. The exhibition is an effort to tell people about other facets of Ray,” says Arup Dey,CEO of Satyajit Ray Society,which is presenting the prints of these drawings at Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium as a part of the 100 Years of Cinema Festival.

There is a poster for Ray’s cinematic masterpiece,Pather Panchali. Another for Aparajito,finds a place in the show apart from Charulata (1964) and Nayak (1966). With fish and sun motifs beside a picture of Apu and his mother in the Pather Panchali poster and straight simple brush strokes creating a woman’s face for Charulata,Ray displays his training as a graphic artist. The filmmaker had trained in Shantiniketan under Nandlal Bose and BB Mukherjee,who inspired him immensely.

Another element of the exhibition are the character sketches created by Ray. There is Mirza’s sketch that does look like Sanjeev Kumar,for Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1978) apart from a coloured drawing of detective Felu’s drawing room from Sonar Kella (1974). “Every sketch tells us about the time and energy Ray would put in a project,” says Dey.

Ray brought in Indian aesthetics in book cover designing by designing jackets for Signet Press. Aam Antir Benpu,a book by Bibhuti Bhusan Banerjee,has the simplicity of a picturesque village with bold brushstrokes,a shift from the British designs on books. There are advertisements for Jabakusum hair oil and Central Tea Board,full of his innocent wit.

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