A film maestro whose life remains rife with questions of continuing relevance, has once again convinced us to revisit his works on his birth centenary as we battle our way through a pandemic.
“Has the pandemic and the resulting unemployment made it easier for today’s youth to relate to the character ‘Siddharta’ in Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi?” questioned Riddhi Sen, a national award-winning actor who participated in the virtual panel discussion titled ‘Ajker Ray: Ei projonmo aar Satyajit er cinema’ hosted by Daakbangla.com-an online magazine that presents content on literature, cinema, and the arts.
Sen questioned, “Would Siddhartha find greater resonance today, especially after Covid has unsettled this generation from its sureties?” The veteran actor, Dhritiman Chatterjee, who played the protagonist in Pratidwandi, referred to poet Bishnu Dey and replied, “Every generation has its own unique challenges and can feel this conflict, and this indecision, anger”.
He questioned, “Whose responsibility is it to familiarise everyone with Ray’s works?” Poet Prithvi Bose deliberated on what film practitioners can learn from Ray. Dhritiman responded, “Ray’s continuing contribution to cinema was how he demonstrated adaptation of literary texts to the screenplay. He fearlessly made changes that the cinematic medium demanded. It is in this brave and nuanced adaptation his continuing relevance, significance, and importance lie. Aranyer Din Ratriis an outstanding example of that.”
He felt, “Today’s screenplay writers do not have the luxury of time to conceptualize and flesh out their characters, adding a trait one day and a quirk another. How will such detailing happen? This affects the actors’ delivery as well.”
On a question of drawing comparisons between Ray’s work and that of his contemporaries like Mrinal Sen or Ritwik Ghatak, Chatterjee wondered, “What if Pather Panchalihad not been a success? Would Ray have continued to make films? He could have been a successful illustrator, advertising professional, or even music composer. For Ghatak and Sen, this question does not have many clear answers. This by extension means that Ray’s films benefit from this rare multiplicity of talent.”
He also remarked that plans to construct Ray’s statue are well underway in some government office or the other, but if his work is to be truly celebrated, sessions like these would serve the purpose better than a statue.