Sandip Ray discusses his father’s awesome legacy, no questions barred.. posed by Roshmila Bhattacharya
Does a film on the exploits of Feluda — the detective created by your father — have any takers outside Bengal?
You’d be surprised. The book is still on the best selling list. DVDs of Sonar Kella, Joi Baba Felunath and Bombaiyer Bombyte are selling well. The demand for baba’s films is huge, specially among the NRIs, with Pather Panchali continuing on the top 10 list.
Reliance Big Entertainment will soon release a signature collection of Satyajit Ray’s films, with improved picture and sound quality. They’ve got hold of a lot of films but some of the prints are in pretty bad shape.
Hasn’t the Academy of Motion Pictures restored several Ray classics?
Yes, they started in the early 1990s, soon after baba received the Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Several black-and-white and a few colour films have been restored.
You had strong objections to the colourisation of Pather Panchali.
Yes, absolutely. The new-look Mughal-e-Azam is like a chocolate box. But I wouldn’t mind Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne being colourised if it’s done well.
Aren’t you planning a Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne sequel?
I have a producer but not a story. Also, it’ll be expensive with costumes, elaborate sets and SFX. Meanwhile, I’m working on Hitlist which should start in February-March.
Is Reliance backing this film?
They were but corporations are backing out now. Reliance too isn’t keen on a Bengali film at the moment.
The recession has hit the Hindi film industry hard but Bengal is holding up. I’m going ahead with Hitlist with an independent
Would you allow a Hindi remake of Charulata?
Well, the copyright has gone but would anyone risk a remake? Baba himself had said it was his film with the least flaws. Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t want to remake any of baba’s films.
Aranyer Din Ratri had a sequel, Abar Aranya.
Yeah, and I missed Rabi Ghosh. Had Goutam (Ghose) got all the four original actors together, it would have been marvellous!
What’s the status on your father’s banned documentary on Sikkim?
When Sikkim became a part of India, the documentary was banned because it depicted the monarchy. Absurd! The queen who’s still alive, in New York, was a big fan of baba and had personally invited him to make the film. The documentary was re-censored in 2002. It was supposed to be screened at the Kolkata Film Festival but wasn’t. I don’t know what happened, I was busy with the post-production of Tintorettor Jishu in Chennai then.
Tintorettor Jishu will be your second Feluda film in less than two years.
With only the climax remaining, it was stalled for two years. In the book, the villain is unmasked in Hong Kong but for financial reasons, the original producer wanted to shoot in Singapore or Bangkok. I refused to compromise, so the project was shelved.
Then Arijit Gupta expressed interest in another Feluda story.. Kaileshker Kelankari. The film released last year, it was very successful.
He then bought the rights of Tintorettor Jishu which we finally completed. Now no more Feluda films till 2010.
This is the first Feluda film to be shot abroad.
Hong Kong is stunning. We shot at Kowloon, Hong Kong island and even the Gold Coast. Also, Kolkata, Jhargram and Chattisgarh.
Sabyasachi Chakraborty is aging, aren’t you looking for a new Feluda?
I can’t see one around, we’ll take a public poll when the time comes. The original Feluda, Soumitra Chatterjee, was honoured this year with the National Award for Best Actor for Padakhep.
He made 14 movies with baba, they were among his best performances, yet he didn’t win any awards for them. Absurd! He was very good as Feluda too.. more Bengali, more of a thinker though.
Another Satyajit Ray protégée, Sharmila Tagore, will be completing 50 years in cinema next year.
Hey, how time has flown! It seems only yesterday when we saw her in Apur Sansar. She’s still so beautiful and dignified.. she has aged so beautifully.
Ever wanted to make a documentary on your father.. or a bio-pic?
Goutam Ghose and Shyam Benegal have already made wonderful documentaries on baba. To make a bio-pic, you need to put some distance between your subject and yourself or it can get mushy. Maybe later.
There was talk about Rituparno Ghosh making a fictional feature on your father with Amitabh Bachchan playing Ray?
I’m sure Mr Bachchan would never agree to do a film modelled on my father. Immediate denials were issued as soon as the news made the rounds.
Satyajit Ray had written the script for The Aliens, which was never made. We’re told he later found several similarities between his story and Steven Spielberg’s ET.
Yes, there was an uncanny resemblance. ET incidentally was also produced by Columbia which was collaborating on The Aliens. Baba’s script was based on the short story, Bankubabur Bondhu.
He wrote it in the magazine, Sandesh, in 1962, the story was also about a friendship with an alien. After seeing ET, baba said that he could never make The Aliens because everyone would think he had copied ET.