Anecdotes

He likes it hot

 

As a child, Satyajit Ray had a weakness for ice cream. One day his uncle and aunt took him to see the port in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The child was excited to see vessels of different colours and sizes anchored at the shipyard. On their way back, they stopped at a restaurant to have a bite. Ice cream was served, but it was too cold for consumption. The child suddenly left his seat, ran to the waiter who had served them ice cream, and spoke to him in whispers. That put the waiter in stitches. He then came to the table and said that the child had requested him to heat up the ice cream.

 

 

 

Kiss in Venice

 

Satyajit Ray and some of the people attached to his unit went to Venice in 1957 to attend the International Film Festival where Aparajito (The Unvanquished), his second film, was screened in the competitive section. One day Ray was sipping coffee at a Venice café along with a friend, Shanti Choudhury. Suddenly a journalist sitting near them remarked aloud, “The lion roars.” Neither Ray nor Choudhury could make anything of it. Then a female journalist came on and began asking Ray about his background and works. Surprised, Ray asked why she was asking all that. She then informed him that Aparajito was going to pick up the ‘Golden Lion of St Mark’, an award, at the festival. Choudhury was so excited that he rose to his feet and planted a kiss on the lips of the journalist as soon as she broke the news. Back home, Ray remarked to a friend that Shanti Choudhury had learnt to kiss girls the way he kissed the journalist in Venice during his long stay abroad, but “we shall never be able to do so as we were raised in this country (India).”

Back to front

Smt. Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, met the filmmakers, artists, litterateurs and intellectuals of Bengal at the Raj Bhavan (the Governor's House) in Kolkata during her visit to West Bengal in 1971. Satyajit Ray was one of the invitees. He spoke to Smt. Gandhi about some problems facing the Bengal film industry and requested her to keep the matter at the back of her mind. “Not at the back of my mind, I shall keep it at the front of my mind”, replied the Prime Minister with a smile.

God calls him God

Actress Sharmila Tagore was a Ray discovery. She appeared first in Ray's Apur Sansar (The World of Apu). Later, she went to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and became a busy actress there. However, she remained a favourite with Ray and got cast as a lead actress in four other Ray films. She married Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, former skipper of the Indian cricket team. Pataudi was well aware of the great respect his wife had for Ray, so much so that he once remarked in a lighter vein, “He (Ray) is a God whom God calls God.”

Ghare By Ray

 

Satyajit Ray spent Sunday mornings in a leisurely manner at his own home in Kolkata's Bishop Lefroy Road with friends and other visitors. Kamu Mukherjee who acted in a number of Ray films, was a common and popular face in the holiday crowd. Ray had a special liking for Mukherjee because the latter often gave free rein to his wit and sense of humour. One day Mukherjee said to Ray, “Manikda, your name is hidden in the title of one of your films.” Ray felt curious. Mukherjee then declared the name of the film: Ghare By Ray (Ghare Baire -The Home and the World ).

 

 

 

Fobbing them off

 

Ray disliked attending public ceremonies, especially where he was invited to be present as president or chief guest. One morning, as he was working in his study, the doorbell rang. Partha Basu, a close companion of Ray's, answered the bell. He had instructions not to admit unknown visitors when Ray was at work. The callers were a group of young people who said they had come to invite Ray to inaugurate a swimming pool. Basu said Ray would be away in Mumbai the day the swimming pool was to be inaugurated. The callers asked for another date. Basu replied Ray was supposed to leave for a trip abroad from Mumbai. Though disappointed, the callers pressed the matter no more. When Ray inquired who had come to see him, Basu told him how he had cleverly fobbed the callers off. “They wanted you to inaugurate a swimming pool,” he said. “Did they want me to dive into the swimming pool in trunks?” asked Ray.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

Ray developed a deep interest in western music early in his life. As a young man, he went to see the author of an introspective article on western music, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, who later established himself as one of the best Indian non-fiction writers writing in English. “Chaudhuri played some music on his gramophone, using bamboo needles,” Ray wrote in his memoir. Everything in his house spoke of a comfortable existence, though later Ray came to know from Chaudhuri's Autobiography of an Unknown Indian that he was then struggling hard to eke out an existence. Ray writes tongue-in-cheek, “When I met him though, neither the look of his room, the bookshelves spilling over with rare volumes, the records stacked neatly by the gramophone, nor his affability, or his plethora of offspring revealed this.”

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