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Ray Reflected

Oh-in how many ways can you say it? Around this monosyllable,filmmaker-writer Satyajit Ray wrote a short story about lost dreams,broken ambitions and a final epiphany.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
May 2, 2010 10:21:22 pm

On his 89th birth anniversary,Satyajit Ray is remembered in a play and a documentary

Dipanita Nath
Oh — in how many ways can you say it? Around this monosyllable,filmmaker-writer Satyajit Ray wrote a short story about lost dreams,broken ambitions and a final epiphany. Called Patol Babu,Filmstar,the story has now been adapted by Delhi-based theatre group Tadpole Repertory into a play titled Taramandal. The production,which has already won an award for original script,opened at Akshara Theatre on Friday and will be staged till today,Ray’s 89th birth anniversary.

“The story made an instant impact when I read it while researching Ray’s films at Warwick University,UK,seven years ago,” says director Neel Chaudhuri,29. Ray’s story is about a middle-aged,middle-class man called Patol Babu,whose acting aspirations have given way to practical livelihood concerns. And then,amid the rut of daily life,he gets a surprising offer— to act in a film. What nobody tells him initially is that his blink-and-miss role has just one dialogue — Oh.

Chaudhuri — drawing inspiration from Todd Haynes’ film I’m Not There in which singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s life is fragmented into six stories — creates five other stories to cut through the main narrative of Patol Babu. “Dylan signifies success and fame,while Patol Babu is about disillusionment and unfulfilled ambitions,” says Chaudhuri,about the two-hour play.

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The non-linear play barrels through time and space and people pass through with their personal stories. An adept cast of Kriti Pant,Bikram “Momo” Ghosh,Neel Devdutt Paul,Mallika Taneja and Tarun Sharma,with Andrew Hoffland in the lead,holds the audience’s attention throughout,even when the main narrative threatens to get lost in the multiple stories. “I set out to show how the failed ambitions of the characters highlight the missed opportunities in all our lives,” says Chaudhuri. Point made.

The play will be staged at Akshara Theatre at Baba Kharak Singh Marg today. Tickets for Rs 200 available at venue. Contact: 9873134028

Debesh Banerjee
If you want to see how Ray affected everyone from Santiniketan to Santa Fe,download The Song of the Little Road,a 70-minute documentary by US-based Priyanka Kumar. It is a student’s tribute to a maestro.

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“I was studying film direction at the University of Southern California where not many students were aware of his works. The only way to raise awareness was through a documentary,” says Kumar,36,over telephone from Santa Fe,New Mexico .

The documentary,made in 2003,will finally be premiered at the Tribeca Cinemas,New York,on May 27. “It was screened at a festival in Los Angeles in 2004 but since we were not able to find a distributor,the prints were lying dormant,” says Kumar,who signed on NEHST Studios USA as distributors in 2009. The dates for an India release will be decided soon,says Kumar.

The documentary makes Ray come alive through Kumar’s conversations with Martin Scorsese,Ismail Merchant and Ravi Shankar. “Shankar had composed music for the Apu Trilogy and Ray’s work had a profound impact on Scorsese. Merchant too had worked with him briefly,” says Kumar. The film also talks about the deterioration of the negatives of the Apu Trilogy. During her programme at USC,Kumar had approached film preservationist David Sheppard to look at them. “He was appalled by the condition of the negatives,” she says.

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Kumar can rest easy. The prints have since been restored,Ray’s son Sandip Ray told The Indian Express. “They were restored a few years after Sheppard had come down,” says Sandip. “It was restored by the Academy itself.” So watch the documentary without fretting about Apu’s state.

You can download it at store.nehst.com

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First published on: 02-05-2010 at 10:21:22 pm

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