The background and origins of the Society for the Preservation of the Satyajit Ray Films, popularly known as Satyajit Ray Society or just Ray Society, go back to December 1992 when the Grants Committee of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which had conferred the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement on Satyajit Ray, gave a modest grant which enabled David Shepard, a pioneer in film preservation, to come to India to examine the original Ray film negatives and file a technical report. Shepard examined eighteen of Ray's 36 films and ruefully commented in his report, “The work of no other world-class filmmaker hangs on such a thin thread as Satyajit Ray's.” (See Shepard’s report on this website).
The Shepard report drew the attention of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF). A meeting was convened at the RGF initiative in May 1993 where the idea of forming an organization to restore and preserve the luminous legacies of Satyajit Ray was born. The founding trustees of the organization were, among others, Ismail Merchant, Amitabh Bachchan, Siddhartha Shankar Roy and Somnath Chatterjee. RGF offered a “seed” grant with which the Satyajit Ray Society began its journey. On September 7, 1993 the first meeting of the Society was held at the RGF. Somnath Chatterjee (former Speaker of the Indian Lok Sabha) was elected founding President, Mrs. Bijoya Ray (Ray's widow) was named the first and till now the only Patron. Bhaskar Ghosh was nominated Member-Secretary. Sandip Ray (Ray's son and himself a noted filmmaker) took over as Member-Secretary soon thereafter.
On December 14, 1993, the Society was formally registered as The Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films in Kolkata under the Registration of Societies West Bengal Act XXVI of 1961 (No. S/75284 of 1993-94). Restoration of Ray films began at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Archives (AMPASA) in full earnest. Merchant Ivory Productions (MIP) came forward with their interest in and support for restoration and re-releasing Ray film classics in North America. Michael Friend, AMPASA's the then director, was in charge. The partnership between AMPASA and Satyajit Ray Society for the restoration and preservation of Ray films began with the conclusion of an agreement between the two organizations. It was the Society’s task to search for Ray film elements to the Academy Film Archive for restoration. During the first phase, the work of restoration received a severe jolt with the loss of six Ray original negatives at the Henderson Laboratory in London in 1994 in a tragic film fire.
Restoration entered a second phase under the leadership of Michael Pogorzelski, the new director of AMPASA, and Josef Lindner, the preservation officer of Ray restorations at AMPASA. To date (October 2010), 19 Ray films have been restored. (See Lindner’s interview, Saving Ray Legacy, on this website).
Satyajit Ray not only left behind a legacy of 36 films which are regarded as great and near-great all-time classics; he left behind over 70,000 document strong paper archives, each page of which shows the mark of his multifaceted genius. These include his graphics, posters, illustrations, book covers, literary manuscripts, screenplays, film-related art works, music notations, books by him and on him. Bearing the telltale marks of Kolkata's heat and humidity, this massive paper archive has been in varying stages of deterioration and discoloration.
The Satyajit Ray Society received two major grants from the Ford Foundation. These two grants as well as another from India Arts Foundation have enormously helped the restoration of the Ray paper archives. With the expert advice from Mike Wheeler of the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, the work of paper restoration continues. The work is done at the Ray Family home by the Ray Society's highly skilled staff. (See Mike Wheeler’s article on Ray paper preservation on this website).
In 2006, the Society entered a new phase: Sri Somnath Chatterjee decided to step down due to the demands of his new responsibilities as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The Society is fortunate to have as Mr. Chatterjee's successorSri D.N. Ghosh. A former Union Government Secretary and Chairman of the State Bank of India, Sri Ghosh is currently associated with a number of leading business houses. Sri Deepak Mukerjee, former Managing Director of the IDBI bank, is now the new Treasurer. Sri Sandip Ray continues as the Member-Secretary of the Society.
Under Sri Ghosh’s leadership, the Society took up dissemination of Ray works as one of their prime objectives and plans to set up a Ray Heritage Centre in or around Kolkata, the city where the master director was born and raised, and which he celebrated in several of his films.
> Governing Body
Sri D. N. Ghosh, President
Sri Sandip Ray, Member-Secretary
Sri Deepak Mukerjee, Treasurer
Sri Dhritiman Chaterji, Member
Sri Saroj Ghosh, Member
Smt Purnima Dutta, Member
Smt Lolita Ray, Member
Sri P. P. Ray, Member
Sri Sujit Poddar, Member
> Sri Arup K. Dey, CEO (Ex-officio)
Sri S. K. Roy
Sri Tinnu Anand
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