When French filmmaking legend Jean Renoir visited India for the first time 66 years ago, little did he know that his influence on auteur Satyajit Ray would bring about the birth of modern Indian cinema.
Now, the 21st Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) is commemorating Renoir’s ties with the South Asian nation through a photography exhibition.
As part of its tribute to the maestro, the KIFF’s specially curated display at the Nandan theatre complex here comprises black-and-white photos, newspaper clippings and other documents that narrate Renoir’s tryst with Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1949 as he went location scouting and subsequently shot “The River” with a crew that included Indians.
Curated by Arun Roy, photographs show Renoir’s friendship with the cast and crew as well as peeks at moments from the shoot where crew members are taking a break. News paper clippings depict the stir caused by “The River” in foreign media.
“The River” was Renoir’s first colour film. It won the International Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. The filmmaker visited Kolkata twice in 1949: in February to hunt for a location and again in December to shoot.
Among other important people, his crew here also had Harisadhan Dasgupta, the doyen of documentary filmmaking in India.
Ray met Renoir quite a few times at the Great Eastern Hotel and attended several of his shoots and was drawn to independent filmmaking that eventually led to the making of “Pather Panchali” in 1955.
The exhibition, inaugurated by veteran actress Sharmila Tagore, also paid homage to another auteur-Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni.
Nemai Ghosh, Ray’s photographer, has contributed several photographs from his exclusive collection.
Ghosh had first met Antonioni and his wife Enrica in 1994 during their stay at the Taj Bengal in then Calcutta.
The assemblage includes glimpses of Antonioni’s tour of the city as well some rare pictures of him busy painting in Rome, all frozen in photographs by Ghosh in 2006, when he was invited to Italy the legend himself.
Additionally, some of Antonioni’s paintings have also been put on display.
“Kolkata has not forgotten the masters who influenced filmmakers from Bengal. The exhibition is a tribute to their legacy,” said KIFF director Yadab Mandal.