Unseen sketches by Satyajit Ray on display at IIT

Updated on Jan 23, 2023 12:08 PM IST

A two-day Comic Conclave at Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, showcased rare sketches drawn by Satyajit Ray for his shot documentary project, Ravi Shankar — A Recital

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By, Ahmedabad

A two-day Comic Conclave at Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, showcased rare sketches drawn by Satyajit Ray for his shot documentary project, Ravi Shankar — A Recital.

The project, which did never saw the light of day, was a tribute to sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who famously composed music for Ray’s Pather Panchali.

Talking about the first of its kind exhibit, An Exhibition of Low Art, Pinaki De, a comics scholar and an associate professor at the Raja Peary Mohan College, University of Calcutta, said, “The curated images from the original sketchbook of Satyajit Ray, exhibited for the first time, are with support from Sandip Ray, eminent filmmaker and son of Satyajit Ray. These images selected specifically for this event at IIT-Gandhinagar, reflect his approach to the sequential.”

De is closely associated with Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives (also called the Satyajit Ray Society). Sandip Ray is the member secretary of the organisation.

The exhibition was curated by professor Argha Manna, Artist-in-Residence, IIT-Gandhinagar.

“Alternative comics have become one of the favourite tools to express and narrate memories, socio-political issues, gender issues, environment, history, and many other subject matters that come under the umbrella of academic research. They have also emerged as a pedagogical tool for critical thinking as well. We believe that the Comics Conclave by IIT-Gandhinagar will be able to create a space in which academicians and comics artists/graphic novelists can exchange thoughts, engage in dialogues, and synthesise hybrid knowledge,” Manna said.

Ray, regarded as India’s most acclaimed filmmaker, was also a comics enthusiast. However, despite his interest in sequential graphic narratives recorded in several interviews over time, there is little to show for his active engagement with the form.

It is only evidenced in the form of four comic strips that he designed for the covers Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh.

“If we delve deeper into his notebooks and sketchbooks, we can see him playing around with ideas about this visual form. In fact, he presented ‘Pather Panchali’ and ‘Ravi Shankar – The Recital’ in the form of a sequential visual script in the 1950s. Somehow, the producers failed to understand his vision the project on the Ravi Shankar,” said De, who gave a talk on ‘The Sketchbook of Satyajit Ray and a missed encounter with comics’ at the IIT-Gandhinagar event.

The exhibition, that ended on Sunday, also showcased works from Ray’s sketchbook on Pather Panchali.

“It’s a wonderful piece of art. The way he uses the play of light and his knowledge of cinema in his sketches is something outstanding,” said Nikhil Gulati, an illustrator and a writer, whose most recent work ‘The People of the Indus’, a graphic novel on the history of the Indus Valley civilisation was published in May last year.

These sketches by Ray are only “the tip of the iceberg”, said De.

“The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives, also called the Satyajit Ray Society, has so far catalogued about 5,000 illustrations by him and there are many more,” said De, who is a part of the Ray Society, hailing Ray as the greatest book cover designer India has ever produced

Apart from Ray’s works, the exhibit also showcased comics by Orijit Sen, Sarnath Banerjee, Amruta Patil, Nikhil Gulati, Longform Collective, and artworks and artefacts on Indian Traditional storytelling by students of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.

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