Wednesday, April 17, 2024



                 ( Ray and  Akira Kurosawa ) 
                      ( Ray and Marlon Brando )
     ,                ( Ray and Ravi Shankar )
  ( Ray with Ashok Kumar and Kishore Kumar )
                          ( Ray with Nehru )


"MANIK &  I" 
( My Life with Satyajit Ray)
Bijoya Ray …Translated by Indrani Majumdar 
Penguin Books
ISBN  13 9780 1434 16258
Pages  624
Price..Rs 699

This book is an  exquisite  and interesting  story on the  inner  life of a master by his  actress cum singer wife Bijoya Dass  Ray.  .A story that everyone wants to know. What was he like to live with?Was he a family man as well?Who were his friends?  What  could be the unknown or the  inner side of this towering genius?

And the book surely is the story   of a filmmaker known  the world over . The story of a  master who won the topmost awards everywhere, from the Bharat Ratna to the Oscar to the prestigious Legion of Honour in addition to top awards at the major film festivals of the world.Despite being closely related, Satyajit-‘Manik’ to his friends and family-and Bijoya fell in love and embarked on a life together years before Ray’s groundbreaking film Pather Panchali was made, and their long, happy married life lasted right until Ray’s death in 1992.

Bijoya Ray was born as Bijoya Das in Patna to Charu Chandra Das, a barrister and Madhuri Devi, younger sister of nationalist leader  Deshbandhu CR Das 's wife Basanti Devi. She was the youngest of four daughters

Bijoya , who pawned her expensive jewellery   to finance Ray's  Pather Pancheli ,  was always the first person to read his scripts and make suggestions . Her comments were ruthless but pertinent  and quite often duly incorporated by the master.The book talks about  Satyajit Ray the man, the husband, the father and, for one short year before his death, the grandfather.She worked in a few films without success or satisfaction. In 1949 she married Satyajit Ray. Their only son Sandip was born in 1953.Despite both of them being in the same profession, Satyajit Ray and Bijoya Ray hardly made public appearances together in front of the media, as they were a classic couple, who preferred to be in each other's company away from the flashes of shutterbugs.
Clearly Bijoya was the intellectual companion that Ray needed, one who shared his love for Western classical music and Hollywood films. Once he started making films she joined him and helped with all the little details which needed a woman’s attention. She not only ran his home but went with him to shop for costumes and accessories. She was a colleague who was always in the background.

Even before becoming a writer, Ray would make Bijoya read all his scripts. He would give her a pencil to make changes if there were any and she would give suggestions. He would either take them or discuss them at great length. In fact, 90% of her suggestions were taken by her husband.

Manik ( Manik Da ) as he was known in intimate and family circles,  comes up as a total family man. Reading ,  drawing sketches ,writing  and listening music . No liking for liquor . And never did he serve liquor to any guest or friend in his house . He loved  good food and Bengali  sweets especially Sandesh .Bijoya also informs us that  her Manik also loved  gambling at Kathmandu’s casinos .

Only two women appear to have influenced Ray  – his mother and his wife. His mother, a remarkable woman who was widowed early in life, played a key role in Ray’s growth. Bijoya, his wife, took over the role so far as Ray’s artistic development was concerned.

Bijoya was his childhood friend .She had a musical bent of mind and   a flair for acting  . She also happened to be his   cousin and accordingly  their  families were initially  reluctant to accept this  marriage proposal. Faced with family frowns, Manik wrote to Bijoya: “You know, I’ll marry no one but you. If that means never getting married, so be it.” 
 Ray  had to go to Mumbai and get  clandestinely  married  .Prithvi Raj Kapoor joined  by  his wife came  to bless the couple. After their secret wedding and intimate reception, Satyajit Ray and Bijoya Ray were married in the eyes of the law. Still, they weren't living together because their family and relatives were unaware of their marriage.
About Manik, Bijoya informs this :-

“What I admire about Manik  is his  simplicity, his honesty, his generosity, his kindness, and above all, his ability to mix with people from all walks of life. He could be at home with everybody.  He did not like being called an intellectual. He was comfortable once you called him  a creative man. He was deeply knowledgeable about Western Classical  Music which he loved, particularly Mozart, and once even thought of making a film on him. Manik  spent long hours listening to opera and classical music on records. “

We also come to know that Ray  could whistle any tune after hearing it once. The master liked to wear embroidered Kurtas and had a special liking for Kashmiri shawls  more particularly Jaamwaar variety.  He hated big parties   and was  scared to change light bulbs or turn on the air-conditioner.He never did any shopping other than buying books and music discs..

Even in his leading ladies, Ray never looked for dolled-up glamour, but for intelligent beauty. Madhabi  Mukherjee, Sharmila Tagore, and in his last three films, Mamata Shankar, best fitted this description.

Bijoya’s accounts of Ray’s long struggles with his health and the situations surrounding his triple by-pass heart surgery in the US are particularly moving .

Bijoya is silent about Ray’s infatuation and finally an  intense affair with  actress Madhabi Mukherjee. Bijoya's  silence about this episode  in the book  is intriguing as once ,she herself had gone to press to speak about it. Confronted by wife,Ray had admitted this affair and finally decided to forget all. .  Revealing would have made  the master more human, and the story is, after all, known.Inspite of this omission , the book makes a great reading .The  English translation from original  Bangla appears to be racy at times but  leaves you spellbound in its overall impact in presenting the story of two sensitive souls .I strongly recommend the book  to every one who wants to know about the great master’s art and personal life.

The book is a treasure trove for ardent Ray fans . They  are sure to  get inside stories, trivias and confirmation of their doubts they  have about Ray and his life. Like why did Rabindranath get Satyajit to attend art classes at Shantiniketan, and many other  untold yet very interesting anecdotes.I end this brief review  with a quote  from Satyajit Ray:-

“ The only solutions  that are ever worth anything are the solutions that people find themselves   ”

( Avtar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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